Islands of incarceration

Kate McMillan2010

Biennale of Sydney

Biennale of Sydney
Sydney, Australia

Kate McMillan’s photographs, videos and multimedia installations explore personal memory and the ability of landscape both to evoke and represent history and trauma.

Islands have long held a fascination for the artist. Islands of incarceration (2010), a site-specific work specially made for a disused timber drying shed on Cockatoo Island, draws on the artist’s engagement with Australian colonial history. McMillan links two sites: Cockatoo Island, and the Ludlow Tuart Forest in south-west Western Australia – the site of the 1841 Wonnerup Massacre in which up to 300 Wardandi Noongar people are said to have been massacred and buried over a period of five years. Positioned at the top of Cockatoo Island, the work, in its weather-exposed position, is a poetic evocation of place that simultaneously watches over and aunts the island, itself a former prison. Adding to the sense of unease, a soundtrack, composed of sounds almost below human hearing range, has been made in collaboration with sound artist Cat Hope.


  • Title: Islands of incarceration
  • Creator: Kate McMillan
  • Creator Lifespan: 1974
  • Creator Nationality: Australian
  • Creator Gender: Female
  • Creator Birth Place: Hampshire
  • Date: 2010
  • Location Created: Sydney, Australia
  • Provenance: Courtesy the artist This project was assisted by the Australia Council for the Arts, the State Government of Western Australia through the Department of Culture and Arts, Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, and Stitches Soft Furnishings, Sydney, the State Records Office, Perth, Wardan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, and Chris Malcolm, Tony Nathan and Cat Hope
  • Type: Audio/Installation, Textile
  • Rights: http://www.biennaleofsydney.com.au/legal-privacy/
  • External Link: Biennale of Sydney
  • Medium: solvent based inks on polysynthetic fabric, metal tracking, multi-channel sound by Cat Hope, amplification
  • Edition: 2010: 17th Biennale of Sydney: THE BEAUTY OF DISTANCE – Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age

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