In­fan­ti­cide ex­plo­ration

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Art - Sara Fitz­patrick

DR Amanda Gar­diner is giv­ing a voice to a for­got­ten – and un­likely – group of women of WA his­tory.

Through sculp­ture, paint­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy and sound, the ECU Post Doc­toral Re­search Fel­low spot­lights the taboo and har­row­ing sto­ries of moth­ers who killed their chil­dren in colo­nial WA.

“As part of my re­search, I’ve seen how badly these women were treated and the so­cial con­text they found them­selves in,” Gar­diner said.

“This ex­hi­bi­tion takes some­thing pretty scary for peo­ple and through con­text makes it less scary.”

Gar­diner found 55 cases linked to the crime of in­fan­ti­cide that oc­curred be­tween 1829 and 1901.

The link be­tween all of them was that the chil­dren were il­le­git­i­mate.

“I’ve read a lot of court doc­u­ments and the feel­ing I got over and over again was that these women were des­per­ately scared: they didn’t know what to do,” Gar­diner said.

“We don’t re­alise in the present how in­cred­i­bly scan­dalous it was and what a hor­ri­ble woman you were if you had sex out­side of mar­riage.

“These women knew there was no so­cial se­cu­rity, no way they would be able to sup­port the child and they them­selves would be so­cially os­tracised.”

To draw out the emo­tional com­plex­i­ties of her sub­ject, Gar­diner sought six WA artists to present their works in the ex­hi­bi­tion The Spa­ces Be­tween Us.

“I knew I was ask­ing a lot of the artists – to en­gage with this heavy ma­te­rial – so I chose artists I knew would be able to do that,” she said.

“They are also artists who are re­ally en­gaged with WA sto­ries.

“I took them to colo­nial lo­ca­tions and we looked at colo­nial art­work, cos­tumes, court doc­u­men­ta­tion, pho­to­graphs and ceme­ter­ies.”

One of the art­works is a col­lec­tion of 55 bon­nets, one for each baby.

Dr Amanda Gar­diner

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