Dr Luke Taylor, Director of Research, is continuing his work with bark painters in the Maningrida region of north-central Arnhem Land. Recently he examined the movement of these artists into the production of sculpture, now a key activity during the dry season when bark is hard to obtain. One particular artist, Crusoe Kuningbal, initiated this move, in the 1960s. In the 1990s it became a ubiquitous activity where artists strove for a personally recognisable style. While the art market is understood as a context where artists may emphasise their personal autonomy, they also share innovations with immediate family members; sons of Kuningbal lead in innovating in the medium. Dr Taylor is also interested in artists' interactions with the market. Artists' relationships with locally employed 'arts advisers' are key; distinctions between 'tourist' and 'fine' art, and strong market support for particular kinds of work are filtered through them, and they can have a critical role in encouraging particular forms of innovation. Dr Taylor has recently given papers on the division between tourist and fine art among Kuninjku artists and on the more specific development of the work of Lofty Bardayal Nadjamerrek and John Mawurndjul.
As Adjunct Professor with the Centre for Crosscultural Research at The Australian National University, Dr Taylor supervises four doctoral candidates researching Indigenous Australian art. He and Wally Caruana will run a Department of Fine Art honours course in Indigenous art in the second semester of 2003. He supports public programs of several Australian public-collecting institutions with lectures on Indigenous art in general and the work of particular artists.
Dr Richard Davis, Research Fellow in Social Organisation and Expressive Culture, is working on gender and cultural innovation, particularly in the northwestern region of Torres Strait and central Kimberley. His particular interests are to give voice and explanation to new Indigenous socialities and cultural expressions in Australia. His work with Torres Strait Islanders has included consideration of the importance of nostalgia to gender identity and gender relations; how television images are used to inform choreography and masculinity; the uses of language derived from sorcery and war to critique bureaucracies and other aspects of the state. His work with Kimberley Aborigines has included work on rodeos and Aboriginal-owned cattle stations. Aboriginal Studies Press has accepted two of Dr Davis' edited manuscripts for publication: a collection of papers discussing identity, culture, history and Torres Strait Islanders; and a co-edited volume with Dr Deborah Bird Rose on the intercultural aspects of frontiers in contemporary Australia. Dr Davis coconvened the first half of the 2002 seminar series, Cattle Business: Pastoralism and Land Resources. He also convened and talked about Torres Strait Islander artists at the AIATSIS workshop on Innovation and Repetition in Indigenous Australian Art. He is further developing this work to show how cultural innovations are responses to local social dynamics as well as broader political economies.
Scholars who take positions regarding the position of Aboriginal people and the state continue to inform Dr Geoffrey Gray's work. He argues that even the most well-intentioned of scholars can find themselves complicit to some degree in what they oppose. To this end he has recently published a paper on fieldwork in the Kimberley in the 1930s. Another interest is the wider discussion about complicity and genocide, following on from Colin Tatz's arguments. At a recent conference on war and terror in the modern world at Newcastle University he presented a paper on the cattle industry focusing on matters such as diet and the general indifference to the welfare of Aboriginal workers and their dependants. As a consequence of this paper he was invited to write a paper on the deliberate use of famine (diet, degradation of the land and the consequent food destruction) as a way of controlling the Indigenous populations on cattle stations in the northwest of the Northern Territory. …