Too Many Cocks: On the (im)possibility of graffiti re-writing colonial narratives

Graffiti observed on signs and monuments associated with Captain James Cook are used here as a departure point for considering the ways in which different narratives about Cook (e.g. authorised, monumental, vernacular, imaginary) are assigned value. Our particular focus here concerns the role that graffiti has played in producing counter-narratives to the hegemony of a particular national discourse that celebrates Cook—with a focus on a theme in Australian popular culture that strips Cook of his pants and his dignity. This leads to a consideration of how graffiti might be approached in some instances as a legitimate mode of reparative writing against colonialism and its effects. In the Australian context the intensification of activist graffiti on monuments may signal a growing community awareness of historic injustices, the surfacing of rituals of recognition and reparation, and a growing desire of the broader community to play a role in the (re)construction of public memory. Interventions of this kind could be construed as an unconventional channel through which the dialogue of democracy can take place.

Visible Stitches: Towards an aesthetics of repair

Using examples taken from my own text and textile-based poetry, this essay demonstrates how an aesthetics of repair may suggest both restoration and fragility. The essay starts with a discussion of Tenter (2020) in which the ‘darned’ and repaired panels of the Bayeux Tapestry suggest a poetics with which to engage with post-war commemoration. In these poems, collage features as a repair strategy although the text demonstrates not all wounds can be healed. In Little red mouth (2020), an extended, contemporary poem based on the ancient Homeric Hymn to Demeter, I preserve the damaged manuscript of the original within my own text, stabilising the edges of the torn text through my use of poetic form but also exploring the significance of what has been torn away. The essay pursues the complexities of a repair aesthetic into a discussion of one of my recent, textile-based visual poems, Persephone (2021), and discovers that torn fabric may pose different questions to a damaged text. In the context of this piece, and of visual work by other artists, I discuss the importance of an aesthetics of repair which keeps visible traces of the often systemic violence which caused the original damage and acknowledges the fragility as well as the resilience of what has been harmed.