Artist Richard Bell – ‘My Art is an Act of Protest’ | Tate

Artist Richard Bell – ‘My Art is an Act of Protest’ | Tate

My shows are an act of protest. They’re
activist. I’m the boss, ok? I found out that I could say whatever the f**k I wanted to in art and not get arrested! It says ‘Thou Shalt Have But One House’. You know, all those greedy f**kers with more
than one house? You can only live in one at a time, yeah?
Old Aboriginal saying. I don’t have a visual diary. Sometimes I’ll
wake up and maybe it’ll be just a name but I’ll know from that name. The beginning
is the idea and then I’ll come up with the text. Property is the most popular wealth creation scheme in this country. This is a suggestion
to this nation. Pay the rent. We’re the owners. We will
always be the owners of this place. This is a picture of a young woman from this
year’s ‘Invasion Day’ march. ‘Invasion Day’, for the state here, is actually ‘Australia
Day’ and it celebrates the arrival of the first fleet. Which is just an outrageous insult
to us. So we respond by calling that day ‘Invasion Day’ and we have marches every year. Brisbane has a history of protest even though it’s one of the most conservative cities
in the country. It’s certainly conducive to making art. I had a very different art education to most people. I found people that I thought knew
about art and I interrogated them, very often in league with beer and barbeques and that
sort of thing. From what I saw of it, all the discourses were
around white people and started by white men. I didn’t want to participate in that so
I wrote my own f**king discourse! I wrote an essay that I called ‘Bell’s
Theorem’. It essentially allowed me to position myself in contemporary art. How you going there? Where you at, you at home? I’m coming towards your place now. It’s such a big story, he’s way more famous than me. Talking to Richard in the 1980s you wouldn’t reckon he knew anything about f**king art. I was 21. I was curious, I wanted to know about the so-called Black Power Movement. They were activists, they didn’t sit back waiting around. They ended up giving me a job in the Aboriginal Legal Service. They taught us about Aboriginal history. They taught us about the law. Public speaking. Bail applications
for people. All those experiences within the Aboriginal Rights Movement, I learned so much.
Amazing. It’s formed the basis for my art practice. I’m speaking to well-known indigenous artist born here in Charleville. He’s on his way
through, it’s fantastic to see. It’s Richard Bell. G’day Richard, how are you? What got
you into art? It was an accident. My brother Marshall, he
wanted to get into art and craft and I started out in tourist art. I was making boomerangs
and spears and digeridoos and stuff like that. We went in different directions. I was
fortunate to get the Aboriginal side of that education. Marshall got that. I went more
to what had happened and transpired in my life and I’ve called on that, my life experience
to make art. You’re travelling around out here in the West,
most times you’re running into family. I’m going to Mitchell this afternoon to
have a look at where I lived and where my home got bulldozed. This town was really racist. I didn’t realise how racist until I moved away. I realised
that I had to reinvent myself and I couldn’t do that here. I had to go somewhere else. 16, New Year’s Eve, I left home to go to a party and just didn’t come back from that
party, I just kept going. I was thinking it might be a bit further this
way. We’d have to look through the trees to see
the school bus that went by that picked up the white kids along this road. But not us. We
weren’t entitled to get that bus. I didn’t think that much about it. I just
thought ‘f**k it, I don’t want to get on the bus with all them cheeky white kids
anyway.’ Maybe it’s over there, a bit further.
Ah here it is, this is where it was. So this is a long time ago, this is 1968. I was 14
at the time. The federal government gave all the councils
around the country with Aboriginal populations money to send infrastructure over to us. Running
water, we had no running water. I think somebody had the bright idea to remove
us so that they didn’t have to spend this money on us. And I assume that they spent
it elsewhere, looking after themselves. The lazy f**kers couldn’t even clean it
up properly. Goddammit, yeah. This is the bed that me and my brother shared.
F**k me. They couldn’t even take the f**ker away. They couldn’t do a job. Look at all this. The nature of what I do requires me also to
be positive. What looks like an impossible task, I don’t believe is impossible. I think
anything is possible. I make art for other Aboriginal people. That’s who I make it for, that’s my audience. And I want them to be empowering to them.


  • Vade Retro says:

    Another hateful activist who blames white people for everything and makes money out of it.

  • Misia Coghlan says:

    I love it

  • Tony Binda says:

    Yep it's always been there and it seems the stink of it is back.

  • chezceleste says:

    Mmmm…powerful stuff.

  • Ghassan al-harbi says:

    Jay Leno, cut out man!

  • Don Hill says:

    Good on you, Richie! Meantime: another Act of Enclosure that's taking us all for a ride >>

  • The PlzStimMeDoc says:

    Like all leftist extremists there is an absence of logic , reason and commonsense. The obvious , of course , is that he wouldn't have the car , the dog , the nice house , the peace , the running water , the comfort, the education , the designer clothes , the acclaim , the full belly if everything he irrationally hates and tries to destroy didnt exist or he was successful in destruction. He sees the people he hates as a monolith he judges the way he doesnt want his people judged. The idea that life can be a utopia is what drives this sort of insanity. Unable to view two sides with wisdom he replaces it with foolishness and hate.

  • Robert Spies says:

    Yes you were a victim. Is that your future as well?

  • Ms D Tinker says:

    Richard I Love your work. I'd love to show my students at school this video so much Richard. It is important for my Year11 ATAR ART class. Can you make another version the same without the swearing? or do a blipp over it for version 2..Thank You and I understand Ms Tinkerbell

  • j r says:

    Wonderful powerful work, an authentic voice in a world full of noise

  • Warren Stutely says:

    Mr bell. Why don't you stop talking about "art" and do voluntary work with real people . hypocrisy ???

  • Mahmood R Thomas says:

    Good stuff

  • dabzvapelord says:

    i love how the slightest, softly spoken criticism has all the white folks clutching their pearls.

  • tone burgess says:

    Australia will always belong to UK so pay the queen your rent.

  • Laz Arus says:


  • Nima Mirzaeian says:

    Powerful! I just learned so much from it. Richard is authentic and vulnerable as his activist cause.

  • Poo-Nah Nay says:

    A mixed race aboriginal who's art practice was funded by the state complaining about white man and invasion day—oh the irony.

  • maymaylingling says:

    love his art.

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