Thuistezien 307 — 17.01.2022

Jack Segbars
Rachel O’Reilly

‘The history of private property in Australia is the history of legal techniques of colonization,’ explains Rachel O’Reilly in an interview with Jack Segbars. The interview is dense but illuminating, providing a detailed insight into the complex and intertwined practice of the artist, curator, writer, poet, lecturer, and researcher; Rachel O’Reilly. Over an hour and ten minutes, she addresses themes of private property, land registration, extractivism, the marriage between the arts and the neoliberal consensus, the institutional violence of settler colonialism, and the relationship of her artistic practice to these issues. She draws striking epistemological links between settler colonialism and institutions of private property. Her words unveil a history of erasure where systems of land registration had been implemented to delete all previous historical records of the land. She describes the institution of private property in Australia ‘ a racist and racializing weapon’, a weapon using the language of the law to deny sovereignty to indigenous populations.

In Rachel O’Reilly´s long-term project ‘The Gas Imaginary’, she deconstructs the history of private property in Australia to find connections to contemporary forms of resource extraction. ‘Mining imaginaries and the everyday private property imaginaries are built on the same extractive fantasies of wealth accumulation’, she states in the interview. She discusses how the language around private property and extractivism arise from the same epistemological frame that treats nature as a commodity to be bought and sold. She witnessed this type of language firsthand when she attended community meetings about the harbour ecologies in the region she grew up in. She was shocked by the language in these meetings used by consultants who framed ecology in largely financial terms.

Rachel O’Reilly´s in-depth research into extractivism resulted in two films entitled ‘Infractions’ (2019) and ‘Drawing Rights’ (2018). Both films deal with the issue of resource extraction but use two different approaches. ‘Infractions’ uses a more documentary approach to unveil the history of fracking in Australia. ‘Drawing Rights’ on the other hand, employs the language of abstraction using data renderings and animation to deal with the topic. Yet, despite their different aesthetical strategies, they are intimately connected. The similarities and differences between the two films are discussed in more detail in the interview.

The interview with Rachel O’Reilly was part of the exhibition ‘Author, Platform and Spectator’ by artist, writer, and researcher Jack Segbars shown at West Den Haag in 2020.

Text: Xaver Könneker