Swinging branches & rocks build up a visible residue


For Tracing inscriptions 2020/22, a purpose-built plotter printer is programmed by Robert Andrew to trace an undisclosed Yawuru text in Latin script, activating strings stretching over viewers’ heads that connect
to the branches and rocks opposite. Without ink, the traced letters and words are left invisible and undisclosed to the viewer. The artist seeks to upend the perceived hierarchy between written and oral languages – in this case, English and Australian Indigenous languages.

Over the course of the exhibition, swinging burnt branches and ochre-covered rocks — suspended by strings controlled by the plotter — slowly build up visible residue on the wall. The charcoal and ochre effectively write Country onto the walls, reminding viewers that they stand on Indigenous land. This undermines the trope that a gallery’s white walls create a space where artworks can be viewed without external reference points.

The 100 strings divide the central wall into one-metre squares resembling an environmental survey plan. The branches and rocks probe and subvert the grid’s limits by rubbing, jumping and crumbling over the demarcations – a reminder that nature cannot always be contained by human aspirations.

Robert Andrew ‘Tracing inscriptions’

Installing Tracing inscriptions 2020/22 / Photograph: L Wilkes © QAGOMA

Robert Andrew, Yawuru people, Australia b.1965 / Tracing inscriptions 2020/22 / Aluminium, electromechanical components, rocks, wood, ochre / Courtesy: Robert Andrew and Milani Gallery, Brisbane / Photographs: N Harth © QAGOMA

‘Embodied Knowledge: Queensland Contemporary Art’ is in Queensland Art Gallery’s Gallery 4, Gallery 5 (Henry and Amanda Bartlett Gallery) and the Watermall from 13 August 2022 to 22 January 2023.

Acknowledgment of Country
The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Gallery stands in Brisbane. We pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past and present and, in the spirit of reconciliation, acknowledge the immense creative contribution First Australians make to the art and culture of this country.

It is customary in many Indigenous communities not to mention the name or reproduce photographs of the deceased. All such mentions and photographs on the QAGOMA Blog are with permission, however, care and discretion should be exercised.

Reconciliation Action Plan
QAGOMA has launched its inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) to guide its contributions to reconciliation. View the 2022–24 RAP.