'Into the Everywhen' photographed by Brigitte Owers-Buccianti.

Into the Everywhen: catalogue essay

Words by Eden Fiske

'The Everywhen’ refers to the spirit manifested at any or all times, represented in the living land, culture and creativity of First Nations people. It was popularised by Dr Stephen Gilchrist, a Yamatji curator and theorist, as a means of describing Australian Aboriginal relations to time and is an expression of what has otherwise been labelled 'the Dreaming'. The Everywhen is a denial of the linear narrative inherent in settler time/histories.

This exhibition is held on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. Alchemy Orange and Craft Victoria acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we live, learn and work. We pay our respects to the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

‘Time’ deserves to be interrogated as the ‘given’ continuity in any non-Western European art history.

The temporal nature of Aboriginal art varies massively to the linear and canonical model put forth by colonial art histories. The reasoning for this alternate view is grounded in a myriad of cultural and material realities which are embedded in Aboriginal art practice, finding their origin in the very nature of the relationships to time and art making in the nuance of Aboriginal cultures. So too are the Western hierarchies of craft versus fine art subverted by the creative and cultural depth of contemporary Aboriginal art, as the expression of the longest thriving culture on earth takes form in works that serve historical, political, aesthetic, utilitarian, personal and ceremonial purposes.

At the heart of the exhibition ‘Into the Everywhen’ is the desire of the curators and artists alike to express these powerful assertions. It is not only our pleasure as curators and artists to share our various creative languages and the mediums they take, but also to assert a collective sovereignty within ourselves. The works in this exhibition span personal histories, languages, cultures and terrain, tackling the multifaceted experiences of the artists and the traditions which shift between bush and city environments.

In representing the Everywhen, which holds what Western colonial culture would describe as the past, present and future - along with spiritual realities that are interwoven throughout – this exhibition does not seek to frame contemporary Aboriginal art as something that has the bleak markers of progress or development, but rather, displays the unique qualities of each artist and how they relate back to this way of knowing. These histories exist without the need for a patriarchal colonial art history, and the simplistic ideas of time and material or craft and fine art existing within a binary of primal and modern.

Walking through the exhibition it is important to remind ourselves that these works do not exist on a linear track where traditional practice and materials graduate to contemporary visual languages, but instead form a somewhat cyclical path, having no distinct end or beginning. Through this quality we can read the underlying value in each work as a singular form, but also as something more deeply interconnected to its surroundings.

It is with deep sincerity that we thank Craft Victoria for their openness in allowing us to exercise our vision, and with warm hearts that we acknowledge and pay respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here and everywhere. This one is for the Mob. These works and these words are an attempt to capture the essence of the Everywhen and what Always Was and Always Will Be.

Reference: D Brown, N Ellis & J Mane-Wheoki, Does Maori Art History Matter?, Gordon H. Brown Lecture Series: part 12, Wellington, 2014.

Learn more about the exhibition