Jazz Money: With textual consent

A La Trobe Library and La Trobe Art Institute co-commission

Ongoing from April 2023

Questions of narrative and the construction of identity are driving considerations for Jazz Money, a poet and artist of Wiradjuri and Irish heritage. The memory of place, along with First Nations and colonial memory, are intermingling forces in Money’s practice. Here, she has created an artwork in response to La Trobe’s Sandhurst Collection, whose permanent home lies opposite the wall on which Money's work is installed. The history of this collection has its roots in the evolution of tertiary education in the European settlement of Bendigo, formerly Sandhurst, always and forever Djaara, Djandak (Country) of the Dja Dja Wurrung people.

The Sandhurst Collection originated in the mid-19th century as a community library of more than 2,500 books – novels, periodicals, biographies, histories and memoirs – housed in a temporary pavilion in the Bendigo goldfields under the custodianship of the Sandhurst Mechanics’ Institute. Emerging out of Scottish egalitarian movements, mechanics’ institutes provided education to the working classes and were popular throughout the colony of Victoria. Together with the establishment of churches, schools and ‘the existence of two daily papers’, the Sandhurst Mechanics’ Institute signified ‘progress’, as the Bendigo Advertiser reported in 1856. However, despite its radical origins, the collection speaks to the interests, tastes, privilege and power of settler colonialism, as Jazz Money has observed. Most books are English or American imports, and there is very little Australian literature. First Nations’ voices and perspectives are absent.

To create With textual consent, Money has selected three double-page spreads from books in the Sandhurst Collection that have been scanned at the new Bendigo Digitisation Lab. Through the application of pigments to erase words, she has transformed the existing 19th-century texts into poems. Money’s images have been screenprinted by hand onto calico, a layered printing technique that has preserved an image of the original document. Installing the suite of three works (each in two parts) directly on the wall, without framing or glazing, emphasises the tactility of pages in a book.

In these poems, formal constraints of rhyme and metre give way to the constraints of the page and the preselected words of an author, far removed. Money subverts meaning through this poetic rewriting – an act of reclamation. Her artwork tells an alternative version of history, proposing a different way of understanding narrative, ‘where truth can be found through an excavation of the layers of colonial myth-making, and where there always remains capacity for hope and a better way of honouring Country’.

Image: Jazz Money, 'Melbourne troubles home' from the series 'With textual consent' (detail), 2023. © Jazz Money. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Bill Conroy