Fiona Foley:
In the Company of Strangers

Dr Fiona Foley channels the personal with the political in
a new film to be launched as part of a major retrospective exhibition at Ballarat International Foto Biennale.

FEATURE by Louise Martin-Chew AUG 2019

Throughout a celebrated career, Dr Fiona Foley has put herself in the photographic frame, at the same time drawing attention to little-known narratives of Australian history and the importance of identity. Badtjala Woman (1994) saw Foley adopt, for the camera, the traditional dress and accoutrements from an image of a young woman (dated circa 1899) she had found in the State Library of Queensland – photographed without a name, tagged simply “Fraser Island Woman”. As both subject and photographer, Foley returned the gaze.

Foley’s selection as a feature artist for the Ballarat International Foto Biennale (see page 16 for our interview with the curator) recognises her commitment to photography during her 30-year practice. It is also pertinent during the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages. As a cultural artefact, language – and naming – identifies individuals within their group. Language, culture and family also sit at the heart of her new film, to be launched in Ballarat. This mid-career retrospective exhibition includes many of Foley’s photographic series from the last 30 years, extended with sculpture and installation. Curator Djon Mundine OAM writes that in this exhibition,

“The sets of Foley’s images and installations engage the viewer directly and forcefully but never casually … A set of a series of stories, untold or unheard, are told and retold – chanted, by Fiona Foley – the Australian history which has been conveniently unacknowledged.”

Her new film, Out of the Sea like Cloud (2019), draws on the oldest known Aboriginal song. It is a remarkable record of the Badtjala sighting of Captain Cook as .. Subscribe to read this article in full

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