One of the joys of Melbourne is that you never know what you’ll find down a hidden alley. Melbourne City Council knows that the alleyways are one of Melbourne’s attractions, so for the past seven years they have commissioned artists to produce site-specific works for laneways and other unusual urban spaces in the CBD.
This year’s Laneway Commissions include a large scale work by the the Canadian artist Cathy Busby. We Are Sorry is composed of two excerpts from the 2008 apologies to Aboriginal peoples – one from Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and one from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Simultaneously, We Are Sorry will also be displayed in large-scale format on the exterior of a building in Halifax, Canada.
While RM and Brett didn’t think the work was particularly creative (just words printed up on a wall), I really liked it beyond its form. An office-worker hurrying down to Southern Cross Station, intent on catching their train home, might look up and take a moment to contemplate the shameful histories of two British colonies that wrongly sought to assimilate Aboriginal peoples. The grief, suffering and social disintegration that were wrought in the times of the Stolen Generations and the ramifications of those decisions on Aboriginal communities today. Instead of advertising for Coca Cola or Horny Goatweed, it’s a billboard that provokes reflection and discussion. After reading The Tall Man (Chloe Hooper), I was profoundly moved by the humble words.
Coincidentally on the day we went to see it the sun was shining right in our eyes, so in the photos we look like we’re saluting the sentiments expressed in the apologies. Yes, we are sorry.