“many lies have been told about me.”
For a few seconds, those words floated alone at the top of a blank white wall. It was the first segment of the first work to be installed as part of the exhibition Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia. The words were soon joined by a cascade of others, forming a diagonal slash of stream-of-consciousness-style verse by contemporary Indigenous Australian artist Vernon Ah Kee.
In about an hour, more than 170 black vinyl words were affixed to the gallery wall, bringing to life the full extent of many lies and highlighting painful falsehoods that circulate about Indigenous people. Jonathan Scott, a graphics installer from the local firm Advanced Imaging, made the physical act of installation look effortless; in reality, the project was the culmination of more than a year of planning by museums staff and guest experts, including Australian Studies Visiting Curator Stephen Gilchrist, exhibition designer Justin Lee, and the artists’ representatives at Milani Gallery, Brisbane.
The work was originally created in 2004, and though the words remain the same wherever it is shown, the background changes with the venue. Because the Harvard Art Museums’ wall is smaller than that of past iterations of many lies, Ah Kee agreed to customize the work by slightly condensing the overall layout.