Archie Moore's 65,000-Year Family Tree Wins Prestigious Art Prize

Archie Moore's 65,000-Year Family Tree Wins Prestigious Art Prize

Indigenous Australian artist, Archie Moore, has made history by becoming the first Australian to win the prestigious Golden Lion award for the best national presentation at the Venice Biennale, one of the world's most significant contemporary art events. His installation, titled "kith and kin," adorned the Australian pavilion and showcased his ancestral lineage going back an impressive 65,000 years.

Moore's creative process involved covering the dark walls and ceiling of the pavilion with chalk, a meticulous endeavour that took several months to complete. The title "kith and kin" is inspired by the Old English word "kith," which originally referred to one's countrymen or homeland. Moore deliberately chose this term, recognising its deep colonial connotations, and sought to reclaim and reframe its meaning. By using "kith" in the context of his installation, Moore aims to emphasise the profound connection Indigenous Australians have with their land, subverting the word's historical associations and imbuing it with a new, powerful resonance that celebrates the enduring bond between Aboriginal people and their ancestral territories.

To create this powerful installation, Moore delved deep into his own genealogy, utilising resources such as and state archives. The artwork also featured a poignant floating display of over 500 coroner's reports detailing Aboriginal deaths in custody, suspended above a reflective pool of water. This striking element not only symbolised Moore's family tree but also echoed the characteristics of shrines and memorials.

Moore's choice to use white chalk for the artwork serves as a commentary on the educational narratives that dominated his schooling, which largely neglected Indigenous history in favour of colonial and agricultural topics. This artistic decision highlights the historical oversight and exclusion of Aboriginal perspectives from mainstream Australian education.

The installation has garnered praise from prominent figures, including Federal Arts Minister Tony Burke, who commended Moore's work for its profound narrative power and contribution to Australian art and storytelling. Even the Prime Minister acknowledged Moore's achievement on social media, emphasising the significance of honouring the world's oldest continuing culture at the longest-running art exhibition.

The 2024 Venice Biennale, with its theme "Foreigners Everywhere," provided a platform for artists from over 80 nations to explore concepts of foreignness, migration, and exile. Moore's installation not only stood out among the works of 330 international artists but also solidified its place as a cornerstone of the global contemporary art scene.

"Archie traced his family tree back 65,000 years. It won him the world's oldest art prize." SBS NITV. 22nd April, 2024. 

Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic. "kith and kin" Australia Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2024.