My artwork, 'Reckoning', is showing at Australian Parliament House at part of the Napier Waller Art Prize until November. If you are in Canberra, please go check out the show! All the veteran artists featured are an inspiration and I'm proud to be featured with them.
'Reckoning' asks Australians to confront the gravity of the Brereton Report (which talks to the alleged war crimes by the Special Forces in Afghanistan). The report was released in November 2020. When I’ve spoken to people about this work, I’ve been surprised by those who have wanted to minimise its findings. They’ve hastened to tell me that it was just a few bad eggs or that atrocities have always been a part of war.
In response I’ve recommended that people find the published, albeit heavily redacted, report online and spend just half an hour reading. In that time, they will glimpse only the tip of the iceberg, but they will have to contend with the seriousness of the alleged crimes, the associated widespread failings and their far-reaching implications. Australians should grapple with our painful and uncomfortable military history because if we resist the truth, we will never reconcile the full spectrum of our war experience nor make good decisions in the future.
I am so grateful that my work can be hung at APH. In this important place, so much still needs to be done to publicly address the Brereton report on behalf of this nation. Since its release there has been no parliamentary discussion or public transparency about the six oversight reports that have stemmed from its findings. Afghan compensation payments are yet to be decided upon by the Government.
As both a veteran and widow to the Afghan War, I care immensely that the cost of our last war is resolved and that we as a nation make good on the damage it caused. We shouldn’t contemplate going to war again until we have.
Please check out the online show if you can't make it in person!
My artist statement for the work is:
Australians were provided a reckoning when the Brereton Report was released in November 2020. My artwork centres the stories of the Afghans allegedly murdered by war crimes, and what it takes for a culture to be ‘collectively blind’.
I meshed images of the heavily redacted Brereton Report and the Australian War Memorial. This image was exposed onto a copper plate using photographic film, developed, and etched in ferric acid.
I printed and re-etched the plate 39 times. Throughout the process, new images emerged. I saw a ribcage and spine; the redacted statements looked like quasi ribs formed over the hollow of the Australian War Memorial. Was that an abstracted curve of a woman in a burka or a grainy aerial photograph of an unknowable warzone? The acid-burnt holes grew like a cancer or bullet holes.
The added women in burkas represent war’s collateral damage. As both an Australian Afghanistan War veteran and widow, I reflect on how my experience differs to those grieving in Afghanistan.
The Brereton Report finds us ‘all diminished’. Despite the sickening gravity of what has happened, my artwork shows that there is beauty found when we have the courage to reckon with the unvarnished truth.