Marriage: Love and Law exhibition catalogue - Page 13

Abdul Abdullah’s Bride I (Victoria)
draws attention to how our
perception of a figure so
synonymous with innocence and
joy in western society changes once
a symbol associated with Islamic
culture—the covered female face—
and de-identification, is added.
The work is part of the artist’s 2015
Coming to terms series, which
responds to the suspicion that is
held towards Muslims in Australia.
Existing creative works by Joan Ross, Barbara Hanrahan, Jan McKay,
Jeffrey Samuels and the Redback Graphix and Anarchist Feminist Poster
Collectives provide further nuance to the story of love and law. The figure
of the bride—a powerful symbol used by artists to communicate concepts
of love, power, race, conflict, gender and reproduction—makes an appearance
in works by Fiona Hall, Abdul Abdullah, Mark Tweedie and Rosemary Laing.
Laden with meaning—whether intended by the artist or ‘read’ by the viewer—
these works are interspersed throughout this publication.
and How much affection? the State seeks to inculcate post-war ideologies into
the lives of young people. In Deborah Kingsland’s late-1970s George and Toula
and All in the same boat, the experiences of married women are at the fore.
Documentary photographs of wedding celebrations provide an insight
into how ordinary people get married. To marry in Australia requires
a ceremony—civil or religious—to validate the union of two people.
The marriage ceremony—or wedding—is an occasion for a couple to declare
their union and have this witnessed and celebrated by family and friends.
The places where couples wed range from city cathedral to suburban
backyard, country church to local mosque, town hall to favourite restaurant,
neighbourhood park to urban garden.
Writers have also made contributions to Marriage: Love and Law. Tara Moss
explores her personal story and broader narratives from the position of
a thrice-married, twice-divorced woman. Kiera Lindsey examines the mid-19th
Century crime of abduction, where young women were coerced into marriage
for the material gain of another party. Judith MacCallum’s reflection on her own
wedding in 1974 was triggered by a photograph of her ‘just married’ stepping
into a wedding car. Bonnie Wildie has written of her research journey as she
delved into the State Archives Collection to find evidence of love. Simon
Lobelson, an operatic baritone, has channelled the authority of Governor
Lachlan Macquarie in a recorded performance of his Proclamation promoting
marriage and deploring cohabitation, 24 February 1810.
Visual documentary works provide an important component of Marriage:
Love and Law. A selection of five films portrays a range of perspectives on the
meaning of marriage and its lived experience. Although documentary in nature,
the films are underpinned by particular agendas. In Gordon Conrad’s 1925 The
Resch–Lauzanne breach of promise case, the folly of the rich and famous is put
on public display. In the 1950s instructional films Are you ready for marriage?
While every marriage is celebrated, lived and sometimes dissolved in its own
unique way, there are some common themes at play in how this particular
institution has been promoted and understood by the State. At different times
and through the lens of various ideologies, marriage has been advanced on the
basis of stability, suitability, respectability, equality and unity.

6 Abdul Abdullah
Bride I (Victoria)
Type C photograph
Courtesy of artist
7 Therese Sweeney
Wedding ceremony,
West Hoxton
Colour slide transparency
While extensive in its coverage yet broad in its reach, Marriage: Love and Law
cannot tell the entire story. Rather, it invites audiences and readers to further
build the narrative through reflecting on their own insights and experiences
of marriage. For now, we can look into history to see how this particular
institution has evolved and shifted, and remained desirable for many, even
during times of immense upheaval and change. Perhaps the question is no
longer ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ but ‘How will we say “I do” in the future?’
Courtesy of Therese Sweeney


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