Entering the gallery, audiences encounter an island of inflatable palm trees rendered in marble. This idyllic image simultaneously evokes the hopes and dreams of those attempting to reach our shores and the inevitable deflation of this optimism. It is both a paradise and a prison; rock solid and full of air. A deflated rubber lifeboat from the Zodiac Pool Toy series leans against the wall. For Australian audiences, these boats represent a toy designed to aid our pleasure in swimming and playing in the pool or ocean. For asylum seekers, larger boats of a similar kind serve a more desperate purpose – the carriage of families to a place of perceived safety..
Three marble life jackets in different sizes sit in silent memorial of these often-deadly journeys. These jackets stand in for the individuals risking their lives at sea to reach our shores, each with their own story. Those that may have occupied them are fathers, mothers and children like us all. The formal bust of the jackets prompts a bodily engagement as we imagine the weight of the stone on our shoulders.
Refoulement situates the issue of asylum seekers firmly on our shores. It asks us to consider the attempts of people to reach Australia at great personal risk and the safety and privilege in which we live our day-to-day lives. The works in Refoulement do not offer simple readings of the complex and problematic issue of asylum seekers. Ultimately Seton expresses his conviction that the one thing we should all agree on is that we can not send those that claim asylum back to persecution and abuse.
ALEX SETON’S REFOULEMENT WILL BE EXHIBITED AT:
Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney, 16 September – 11 October 2014
McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery, 16 November 2014 – 8 February 2015
Linden Centre for Contemporary Art, 19 December 2014 – 15 February 2015