Undercurrent was created during a year-long residency with the Koorie Heritage Trust, where Bangerang artist Peta Clancy, researched Dja Dja Wurrung massacre sites. Working in close consultation with Dja Dja Wurrung traditional custodians and the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, Clancy’s aim was to expose hidden histories of colonisation. Her research focused on an underwater massacre site on Dja Dja Wurrung Country. The research, supported by the Koorie Heritage Trust’s Artist Residency Program, funded by the Australian Government’s Indigenous Languages and Art program, drew on cultural memory as a means of healing and truth telling.
Undercurrent explores the emotional and cultural scars left in the landscape by frontier violence. Consisting of eight photographic works, a 35-metre wallpaper installation and soundscape recordings with Dja Dja Wurrung community members, Undercurrent explores massacre sites that have never been cleansed; sites where there has never been acknowledgement of the Dja Dja Wurrung people who were murdered there. Australian art has often been enlisted to construct a national identity and present an idealistic view of peaceful settlement. Clancy’s work gives survivors of the frontier wars, and Country itself, a voice with which to speak back. The visual response to frontier violence presents a powerful form of truth-telling and creates new artistic traditions with which to acknowledge colonial horrors.
Images from Undercurrent have been exhibited throughout Australia and overseas contributing to current public discourse on the rights and autonomy of Country, frontier wars and the impacts of colonisation. Works from Undercurrent have been included in multiple exhibitions including: ‘The National 2019: New Australian Art’, Art Gallery of NSW; the 2021 exhibitions ‘Sydney Contemporary’, Dominik Mersch Gallery; ‘PHOTO2021’, Bendigo Art Gallery; ‘Surreal Landscapes’, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery; and the 2022 exhibitions ‘AMPLIFY: Sydney Contemporary’, Carriageworks; ‘Beating About the Bush’, Art Gallery of Ballarat; and ‘HOLDING SPACE’, Collingwood Yards. An image from the series was a finalist in the 2019 Bowness Photography Prize. Internationally, images were shown in the 2020 UK exhibitions ‘Women in Photography – Lay of the Land’ and the USA show ‘From all points of the southern sky’. The work received substantial media attention including interviews with the artist for ABC Radio National, Triple RRR, Art Guide Australia, and reviews in The Conversation and the National Indigenous Times. Undercurrent received funding from the City of Melbourne and the Australia Council for the Arts.