The show presents scenarios, characters and themes from a visual eco-‘epic’ she is writing about environmental degradation, how it came about and continues to be enabled by an ongoing domino effect that started with Colonialism.
The story is set in a conceptual land called ‘The Swaglands’ which is, for reasons including the artist's own misguided idealism, very much based on the Australian Outback. This fictional but reality-inspired location makes use of some irony I am about to relate to you: The ‘red heart’ of Australia
includes a geographical area called Utopia – a concept we all learn about in literature at school, and definitely at art school. However nobody seems to know there is a real place called Utopia, where social and environmental conditions for Aboriginals are horrific. It is ironic then, that in education – particularly in the areas of creative problem solving and
awareness-raising that are art and literature – we are not even made aware of the plight that befalls indigeneity across the developed world (and undeveloped) when it is sitting right under our lucky noses and underpinning our most valued cultural and entertainment concepts.
Pop and cult cultural aesthetics and references are employed to
communicate what are essentially pop and cult culture (mainstream and of mass implication and appeal) issues of environmentalism and decolonialization. We all are implicated, in cause and effect.
Specific dynamics within the 'cultiness' or the 'popiness' of such cultural scenes or poducts have been identified. These dynamics themselves are also referenced as they provide a template for cooperative living.
In ‘Jacket lining for American Skeleton’s denim’ there are more references than in other artworks; postcards of Colonial era food and cotton production in the Southern USA, and tattoo text of certain phrases that touch upon the idea of ‘home’ and also ‘scenes’.
The postcards reference the global mass consumerism that was enabled at the expense of slavery in the Deep South, but this also bought about The Blues, then rock’n’roll, and various musical scenes, as well as the loaded history (and present) of cotton, and specifically denim production.
American Skeleton is a complex character who represents issues surrounding both Irish immigrants to the US due to the Irish potato famine, and blind idealism and subsequent failure, as well as punk rock as a reaction to the American Dream.
The key question here is what happens ‘after the scene dies’ and the demand for mass food production has ravaged ecosystems and there is a whole diaspora of displaced people? Then there are the native Americans who were displaced initially so that the settlers could steal the land and farm it and mine it, leaving the natives homeless in climate poverty as well as financial poverty. But then there is the positive aspect that is hinted at in the original song ‘After the scene dies’ which is by a rock band from the Deep South called Drive-By Truckers. The song talks about a music scene dying, but what I take from it is that concentrated efforts make a big impact on social change, and by default environmental change. Sadness about a music scene dying is representative of a small activist or other positive social scene dying, and representative of an ecosystem scene dying.
That’s why American Skeleton is just a big old denim-and-black-wearing punkrock activist forever!