untitled (oysters and tea cups) was a site specific installation presented in the Docks Precinct of Cockatoo Island for the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012). Jonathan Jones’ midden installation of British-style teacups with a mass of Sydney rock oyster shells, a work that he calls his monument to discursive engagement, is a comment on the mixing and crashing together of Asian, European and Aboriginal cultures – a constant narrative in his work. This was one of two works presented by Jones in the 18th Biennale.
Jonathan Jones is best known for his site-specific installation pieces, often using light, shadows and the repetition of pattern, shape and material. He explores relationships between the community and the individual, the personal and public, the historical and the contemporary. Fusing elements of 1960s American minimalism with his traditional Aboriginal heritage, Jones’ signature fluorescent tubes in the mineshaft installation refers to his delightful and playful pet eels.
Warrane, or Sydney Harbour, is the site of one of the most important historical meetings – the collision between the British Empire and the Eora, representatives of the world’s oldest living culture. Some 220 years ago, this encounter marked the start of Australia’s ongoing colonisation, a process that attempts to raze Aboriginal culture. Yet within this reign of terror, intelligence, strength and flexibility all persevere, and these qualities have come to define many of our Aboriginal leaders: Woollarawarre Bennelong (c1764–1813), a Wongal man from the southern shores of Sydney Harbour, emerges from Sydney’s history as a brilliant leader, diplomat, and visionary. Bennelong was fi rst forcibly kidnapped in 1789 under the orders of Governor Arthur Phillip (1738–1814), then sought a new life within his rapidly changing world. He astutely assimilated the new power structure into his own, referring to Phillip as ‘father’ and developing a deep relationship that saw Bennelong and his family dine nightly with the governor. In 1790, Phillip constructed Bennelong a stone home on the point that today still bears his name. In 1792, he and his kinsman, Yemmerrawannie (c.1775–1794), became the first Aboriginal people to visit England. Bennelong shaped Aboriginal identity. His astute and charismatic nature found new ways of operating within a colonial paradigm and paved the way for future generations.