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Photo of a beach with a large rock formation in the background

James Tylor
The Darkness of Enlightenment

Creation date: 2021 Location: Gallery 12
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James Tylor, Kaurna people, The Darkness of Enlightenment, 2021, commissioned by the National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra for the 4th National Indigenous Art Triennial: Ceremony with the support of Ray Wilson OAM. Courtesy the artist.

Artist James Tylor on The Darkness of Enlightenment

I feel like I'm just one of the steps in an unbroken art movement that is 65,000 years. And I'm just one of a million grains of sand in that history, but it's really important to continue that practice.

I think as a Kaurna artist, talking about these things, I'm learning and understanding them, but I'm also feeling them emotionally. And those are sometimes really challenging.

I want people to take away from the work. Understanding the history, but I also want them to feel that. It's about revival, but it's also about loss, and I want people to feel that.

It's not a simple thing that you can just articulate. Sometimes you just have to feel things to understand them.

The work starts as an idea. So in this case, it’s the interaction between Kaurna and the colonists who had documented language on the frontier of South Australia. I’m predominantly a landscape photographer, so I use landscape to talk about that interaction, visiting places where that transaction of language happened and areas that were transmission points between the colonists and Kaurna. Twenty objects are selected to sit alongside the daguerreotypes in a salon hang. Those objects are signifiers of each of these stories that talk about the transmission or lack of transmission of language on the frontier. They’re cultural objects, they fill the gaps of what’s in the photographs. It isn’t easy to read, it’s deliberately a little ambiguous.

— James Tylor, 2021