Helen Johnson

Bad Debt

2016

Not on display

Artist
Helen Johnson born 1979
Medium
Acrylic paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 3960 × 3250 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Tate and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, with support from the Qantas Foundation 2015, purchased 2018
Reference
T15516

Display caption

Bad Debt focuses on introduced animal species, diseases and ecological disturbance. Images of foxes and rabbits overlay drawings of circus performers dressed as a cat and a horse. These are species that have caused widespread damage to Australia’s unique biodiversity. Smallpox cells are too small to be visible, yet their introduction by the British from 1788 also had a devastating effect on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Bad Debt’s composition is based on the layout of Australia’s capital city, Canberra. When the city was built, the planners ignored the concerns of the Ngunnawal, Ngunawal and Ngambri peoples whose land it stands on. 

Gallery label, August 2021

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