Worn Breastplates Series 1 #2011-0085
Series of nine etched and inscribed brass breastplates incorporating neck/hanging chains: ‘I might get paid this week,’ ‘The Cross,’ ‘The Web,’ ‘Heart,’ ‘Sista,’ ‘Brotha,’ Whichway,’ ‘Blood,’ ‘Home.’
Andrea Fisher is a young Brisbane-based Murri artist and member of the proppaNOW collective. Although specialising in jewellery, Fisher is primarily a visual 3D artist who describes her practice as one which applies ‘a sense of Aboriginal history to the materials and aesthetic of jewellery making, object and installation’. Her work references Aboriginal history and culture, seeking to reframe and reclaim the past. Fisher’s work is politically themed, offering an overt and often quite literal commentary on post-European settlement Indigenous history.
In a 2008 series of bracelets Fisher references the shackles used to restrain Aboriginal people on the Queensland frontier (and an associated series of photographs of the shackles being worn). These are etched with loaded words and phrases and evoke images of Aboriginal chain-gangs and the chaining of Aboriginal prisoners or workers on pastoral stations. The shackle bracelets are screwed onto the wearer; hence there is an experiential component reflective of its historical interpretation. The physicality of this work is similarly explored and represented in Fisher’s 2009 Worn Breastplate series.
Fisher developed Worn Breastplate - Series 1 after exploring the Queensland Museum’s collection of breastplates and their history. Fisher commented on the impact of this on her development of the series:
‘Upon viewing many breastplates kept in the Queensland Museum, I was shocked to see that there were some with bullet holes. I have heard many stories of the history of the breastplate, and that unfortunately in some cases, when breastplates were Worn, it meant that the person wearing it, could be shot at. This is exposed by the breastplate being broken, and woven back together.’ (Andrea Fisher, Artist Statement, 2010)
Through her work, Fisher aims to show that her inclusion of historically accurate Indigenous narratives and themes is about self-empowerment and claiming and re-claiming the spaces in the overall narrative of Australian history where Indigenous stories and perspectives have often been misrepresented or left out. ‘I think my generation want to connect with that culture and keep it alive. We want to celebrate the past and the future.’ (Andrea Fisher, Interview, The Sunday Mail (Qld), 27 June 2010)