INTRODUCTION
THE IMPERATIVE TO EXPERIMENT
It was an unseen thing and now it is a seen thing.
Wanta Jampijinpa Pawu- Kurlpurlurnu | Ngurra- kurlu:
A Way of Working with Warlpiri People
In this book I trace, with great excitement, an emergent body of aesthetics that
I call remote avant- garde: new and experimental art of the Central and Western
Desert of Australia, including the town camps of Alice Springs.1 Remote Avant-
Garde tracks trajectories of tradition taking shape today: from the stop- motion
animation and still- life sculpture of Yarrenyty Arltere to the digital landscape
portraiture of Tjala Arts artist Rhonda Unurupa Dick and the Desart Photogra-
phy Award, the grass and fiber artistry of Tjanpi Desert Weavers, the ochre experi-
mentations of Warnayaka Art, the biliterary poetics of Tangentyere Artists’ town
camp artists, and the acrylic witness paintings of June Walkutjukurr Richards.
These art forms and practices may not look like acrylic Jukurrpa (Dreaming)
paintings that have become representative of desert Aboriginal tradition. Yet they
are produced by the same communities (as well as by newer art communities)
and, in fact, by many of the same artists (as well as by their descendants). This
demonstrates a lived, intergenerational continuity between earlier art practices
and emergent aesthetics taking shape today that is vital, including the imperative
to experiment itself. The fact that Indigenous heritage requires “remembering
the future,” or what Hetti Perkins and Victoria Lynne (1993) called, over two de-
cades ago, “insurgent acts of cultural reiteration” that revivify as they reveal tra-
dition for the first time, needs itself to be re- remembered, as it were, in relation
to a new wave of contemporary desert practices taking shape today.2
The Western Desert art movement is now recognized as what Robert Hughes
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