Action 9 of 11 – On Being an Artist

Find your accent. Listen to it for 10 minutes.

13 artists create work in response to 11 actions that have been interpreted loosely, purposefully misread or taken as instruction. Collectively, they show us what it means to be an artist – from conceptualisation to the finished work.

The seeming mismatch, in Australia, of my accent and skin sometimes baffles people. It’s as though my unmistakably English accent is coloured, and usually prompts the question ‘where are you really from?’ because of course brown skinned people don’t come from England! At times I self deprecatingly put on a comic Indian accent. This is a throwback to the stereotypes I grew up with. It’s also an unhelpful (possibly harmful) defence mechanism in preempting and deflecting potential racist encounters that in effect might license further racism, and I’m complicit. There’s an awareness of seeing the frames through which I might be seen and heard. My accent, my name, my skin seem to sometimes cast the things that really matter, my values and interests, in shadow.

The notion of ‘Coconut’ is caught up with essentialist cultural positions and a problematic obsession with origin and authenticity rather than sincere ethical positions. It can amplify similarities within, and differences between cultural positions that might impede how we negotiate difference. Action 9 of 11 is a series of paintings that contemplates modernism, the spiritual dimensions of Islamic geometry, my name, melanin, and my English ‘Coconut Syrup’ accent.

Photography by Sam Roberts