2020 Wrapped: Five Works of Art that Resonated Deeply with the Year
By Reena Devi
December 23, 2020
After the challenging year we have just seen unfold, the future, for all intents and purposes, does seem rather dismal and bleak—almost to the point of dystopian. And yet, even now as we stand on the cusp of wholly unknown realities, there is a sense of hope that is neither fragile nor ephemeral but rather concrete.
This hope stems from at least a few sources but it is definitely inspired by the diverse communities and individuals across the globe, especially those vulnerable and marginalised, stepping forward, speaking up, staking their space and claiming their power all throughout this year.
It is a thing of beauty to live during a time in history when we can witness for ourselves how archaic, established spheres of power and privilege tremble beneath the onslaught of human dignity and truth. Art that encapsulates this kind of moral courage and authenticity tells us a lot about ourselves and the future we are creating on a daily basis. The best part, since it’s art, even with such lofty ambitions, the works can be purposeful or incendiary—or just downright weird and ridiculous. Here are five artworks that are exactly that and much more.
Shadow on the Land, an excavation and bush burial (2020)
No list of astounding, breathtaking art works for this year can be complete without mentioning Nicholas Galanin’s public art installation at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney in Australia. The Tlingit/Unangax̂ artist, who was born in Sitka, in southeastern Alaska, and earned his BFA at London Guildhall University, may have produced the most seminal work of the year.
The site-specific artwork on Cocktaoo Island, Shadow on the Land, an excavation and bush burial (2020) comes across at first as a crime scene of sorts, with yellow barricades around a sizeable area of grass unearthed in the shape of a statue, specifically the statue of 18th century British Royal Navy captain James Cook, which stands at Hyde Park in central Sydney. The statue of Cook, a controversial national symbol in Australia with an equally contentious 250th anniversary this year, stands on “the Aboriginal lands of the Gadigal”. It is inscribed with the giant slogan “Discovered this territory” and has been the site of many protests and counter-inscriptions, even a spray-painted “No pride in genocide”.
Best described as a “powerfully disquieting gesture”, Galanin’s public artwork promises to stay on people’s minds long after they have seen it, raising necessary and lasting questions about exigent issues regarding power, land and indigenous societies.