Creative Frictions in the Neoliberal University: Courting Blakness at The University of Queensland

  • Fiona Foley
  • Fiona NicollEmail author
  • Zala Volcic
  • Dominic O’Donnell
Part of the Palgrave Critical University Studies book series (PCU)


In 2014 Fiona Foley, one of Australia’s most influential contemporary artists, curated a public art installation with eight of her contemporaries in an iconic heritage site: The Great Court at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. While there is a long tradition of Indigenous artists speaking to power in public places and Foley is one of its most incisive practitioners, Courting Blakness was unique. This temporary exhibition spoke directly to the Great Court’s commissioned public art though it was not, itself, commissioned by the University. Instead, for the weeks it was on site, the selected artworks both complemented and contested official representations of the university, the state of Queensland and Indigenous people within the broader story of the nation carved into the university’s stone buildings.


Public art Indigeneity University Politics Whiteness Anti-racism 



In addition to Fiona Foley and the eight participating artists, hundreds of other people including staff members, volunteers and students contributed to the success of Courting Blakness. Their work is acknowledged in the Outcomes Report cited in this chapter. Fiona Nicoll would like to give special acknowledgement here for the thoughtful and compassionate labors of Dr. Catherine Lawrence; as assistant project manager, she ran the volunteer program and was active across the university in securing support for the project throughout its life and beyond.


  1. Adorno, Theodor. Critical Models. The Meaning of Working Through the Past. New York: Columbia University Press, 1959.Google Scholar
  2. Ahmed, Sara. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aird, Michael. Captured: Early Brisbane photographers and their Aboriginal Subjects. (Brisbane: Museum of Brisbane, 2014).Google Scholar
  4. Altman, Jon, and Melinda Hinkson. Coercive Reconciliation: Stabilise, Normalise, Exit Aboriginal Australia. Melbourne: Arena Publications, 2007.Google Scholar
  5. Barney, Katelyn. Teaching, Learning and Enacting the Education Principles on Indigenous Australian matters (EPIAM) at The University of Queensland. St Lucia: The University of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit, 2012.Google Scholar
  6. Coulthard Glen Sean. Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dhillon, Jaskiran. Indigenous Youth, Decolonization, and the Politics of Intervention. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017.Google Scholar
  8. East, John. “Jack F Hennessy, Architect of the Great Court at The University of Queensland.” Fryer Folios, 91 (2014): 15–19.Google Scholar
  9. Foley, Fiona. The Art of Politics/the Politics of Art: The Place of Indigenous Contemporary Art. Southport, Qld: Keeaira Press, 2006.Google Scholar
  10. Foley, Fiona, Louise Martin-Chew, and Fiona Nicoll eds. Courting Blakness: Recalibrating Knowledge in the Sandstone University. St Lucia: The University of Queensland, 2015.Google Scholar
  11. Foley, Gary, Andrew Schaap, and Edwina Howell eds. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy: Sovereignty, Black Power, Land Rights and the State. New York/London: Routledge, 2014.Google Scholar
  12. Fredericks, Bronwyn. “Of Old and New: Messages Conveyed by Australian Universities.” In Courting Blakness: Recalibrating Knowledge in the Sandstone University edited by Foley Fiona, Louise Martin-Chew and Fiona Nicoll, 78-87. St Lucia: The University of Queensland Press, 2014.Google Scholar
  13. Gilmour, David. Racism in Education: Coincidence or Conspiracy. New York/London: Routledge, 2008.Google Scholar
  14. Helmrich, Michele ed. Fiona Foley: Forbidden. Sydney and St Lucia: Museum of Contemporary Art and University of Queensland Art Museum, 2010.Google Scholar
  15. Hooper, Chloe. The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island. Camberwell, Vic: Penguin, 2009.Google Scholar
  16. Kuokkanen, Rauna. Reshaping the University: Responsibility, Indigenous Epistemes, and the Logic of the Gift. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  17. Lydon, Jane ed. Calling the Shots: Aboriginal Photographies. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2014.Google Scholar
  18. McCoun, Alissa. “Aboriginality and the Northern Territory Intervention.” Journal of Political Science, 46 (2011): 517–532.Google Scholar
  19. Moreton-Robinson, Aileen. The White Possessive: Property, Power and Indigenous Sovereignty. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Nicoll, Fiona. From Diggers to Drag Queens: Configurations of Australian National Identity. Sydney: Pluto Press, 2001.Google Scholar
  21. Shlunke, Katrina. “A blak woman walks through a blakened landscape.” In Courting Blakness: Recalibrating Knowledge in the Sandstone University edited by Foley Fiona, Louise Martin-Chew and Fiona Nicoll, 50–59. St Lucia: The University of Queensland Press, 2015.Google Scholar
  22. Smith, Malinda. “Gender, Whiteness and “other Others” in the Academy.” In States of Race: Critical Race Feminism for the 21st Century edited by Sherene Razack, Sunera Thobani and Malinda Smith, 37–58. Toronto: Between the Lines, 2010.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fiona Foley
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fiona Nicoll
    • 2
    Email author
  • Zala Volcic
    • 3
  • Dominic O’Donnell
    • 4
  1. 1.The University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.University of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Monash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  4. 4.University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations