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Jesse Adams

Jesse Adams


Artist biography

A colour portrait photograph of a young white woman. She is visible from the neck up. She has dark hair, which hangs above her face in a straight fringe. She wears a white shirt, which is just visible in the bottom of the photo. She wears red lipstick and looks at the camera. The light in the photo comes from beyond the right side of the image, causing the left side of her face to be in shadow.

Jessie Adams is originally from Darwin in the Northern Territory. She is a second year student studying a Bachelor of Arts/Visual Arts at the Australian National University.

Exploring issues of gender, culture, identity and memory in her practice, Jessie prefers to work with analogue photography and uses darkroom printing techniques to produce her images.

Artist statement

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

- Walt Whitman, 'Song of Myself'

These works are rooted in a particular kind of violence, the echoes of the 'wild time' of early Australian history, a place where a man could nail 40 pairs of human ears to a wall and display them as trophies. A time when human beings became symbols used to 'prove' Western superiority over 'primitive' Aboriginal groups. These confrontations between white settlers and the Indigenous population resulted in cruelty that is hard to make sense of in our modern time, but we as the current generation have inherited regardless, and have a responsibility to investigate in the name of moving forward. How do we live in history now?

Truth is a narrow path through dark thickets. I have investigated my own personal history against the backdrop of Australian colonialism in the hope of unravelling, interrogating and possibly re-imagining historical truth through my own eyes. I am not trying to regurgitate history, rather deconstruct it. A photographer and her subjects are protagonists in a critical cultural discussion. It is not only a struggle for power, for control over representation, it has become for me a questioning of how reality is recorded and passes into history.

Artist works

Title: Do Not Yield To Despair

Medium: Black and white photographs
Dimension: 39.1cm x 26.8cm
Date: April 2009

A compilation of black and white photographs showing Indigenous men and women, arranged in four conjoined cross formations. Photographs of a small jug, pendant, pan and circular metallic object are at the centre of each cross. The men and women are all visible from the shoulders up in each photo. They all have bare shoulders. At the far left of the compilation, under one of the photos, the text 'EAR IS TO WALL AS YOU ARE TO ME' appears.

Title: To The Wall

Medium: Photographic installation
Dimension: 13cm x 13cm
Date: May 2009

Four black and white photographs arranged in a line. The far left photo shows a young Indigenous woman seen from about the chest height up, in semi-profile. She has a light-toned sheet wrapped around her right arm and her left hand is on the back of her head. Her right hand covers part of her face. She has her eyes closed. The middle left photo shows a young Indigenous woman facing the camera. She is visible from about chest height up. She has her right arm raised. She holds a piece of light-toned material in her right hand. It hangs down and obscures the upper part of her face. In the middle right photo a young Indigenous woman is seen in profile, facing to the right of the image. A piece of light-toned material obscures her face. She has her left arm up behind her head; her left hand comes around to the right side of her head. The far right photo shows a young Indigenous woman wearing whart appears to be a large piece of silk material over her head and upper body. Her face is visible; her gaze is directed up and over the camera.

Artist inspiration

This piece was created in response to the artist's perceived lack of Indigenous content in the Australian Journeys gallery.