Q&A Richard Bell: Art and activism 30 years on

On the eve of his survey exhibition at the MCA – opening on Mabo Day – ArtsHub speaks with agitator and activist artist Richard Bell, on facing the truth, the future, and a wave of art that defines his past.

‘I don’t feel any younger,’ says Richard Bell, standing in his exhibition that charts over 30-years of making art. You can go now opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) this weekend, and has been curated by Clothilde Bullen, MCA Senior Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Collections and Exhibitions.

The title comes from a painting of the map of Australia with these words emblazoned across it, painted in 2017, and which Bell says is ‘a very polite saying’ to tell someone to bugger off. It is not lost on some, that this exhibition officially opens on Mabo Day – the anniversary of the 3 June 1992  High Court decision to overturn the legal concept of ‘terra nullius’, and acknowledge the traditional rights of Indigenous people to their land and waters, which paved the way for native title in Australia.

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Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina