Thursday, October 21, 2021

New artwork celebrates William Lanney’s “extraordinary” life

The second of four temporary artworks created in response to the controversial William Crowther statue in Hobart’s Franklin Square has been unveiled today.

The work, The Lanney Pillar, is a collaboration between internationally-recognised Tasmanian filmmaker, Roger Scholes and Tasmanian Aboriginal writer and curator, Professor Greg Lehman.

The new artwork is a three metre high, temporary free-standing mixed and multi-media sculpture, which will stand alongside the statue of William Crowther.

The Pillar replaces the first artwork in the series by Tasmanian Aboriginal artist Allan Mansell, which temporarily transformed William Crowther into William Lanney. 

Roger Scholes says the life of William Lanney has been tragically overshadowed by what happened to him after his death.

“Lanney was a remarkable survivor and was a great advocate for his people,” he said.

“In 1867 he sailed to meet Queen Victoria and met the Duke of Edinburgh in Hobart in 1868. The Pillar seeks to reclaim and celebrate his powerful and inspiring story.”

Hobart’s controversial William Crowther statue.

Professor Lehman points out the importance of exposing the function of colonial statues in Tasmania’s history.

“Memorials to people like Crowther, who are usually male, wealthy and entitled, celebrate how they served the interests of colonial empires. But they say nothing about the people who were pushed aside or abused in the process,” Prof Lehman said.

“This installation pushes back to acknowledge Lanney’s extraordinary life.”

Hobart Lord Mayor, Anna Reynolds said the new artwork was a compelling contribution to a remarkable arts project designed to encourage public conversation about the future of the William Crowther statue.

“The arts project is part of the City of Hobart’s Aboriginal Commitment and Action Plan and a broader commitment to exploring the history of our city with respect and empathy,” Mayor Reynolds said.

The Pillar presents a series of stacked wooden blocks showing archival images and artefacts of early Tasmanian history, film stills and text. 

The sculpture includes a solar-powered LED screen showing a film footage and archival material with a musical soundscape that presents a portrait of the life of William Lanney.

A QR code in the film and on the base of the sculpture allows viewers to access a full 12-minute film online called The Whaler’s Tale.

Dutch-born William Crowther was a 19th century naturalist and surgeon and briefly Premier of Tasmania but is also known for mutilating the remains of Tasmanian Aboriginal man William Lanney in the 1860s.

Lanney was well regarded as an advocate for his community. The partner of ‘Queen’ Truganini, he became known as King Billy and the native plant the ‘King Billy Pine’ is named after him. He died in 1869, aged 34.

The Crowther Reinterpreted project will deliver four temporary artworks, from solo arts practitioners or small teams of artists, with priority given to Tasmanian Aboriginal artists. The final two successful artworks have been produced by Hobart-based artist and writer Julie Gough and Hobart journalist and photographer Jillian Mundy. Each of the four artworks will be in place for up to two months.

Mayor Reynolds said the artworks, along with the community feedback and discussion they provoke, will help to inform a permanent response to the statue.

To contribute to the discussion or provide feedback on the artwork, visit yoursay.hobartcity.com.au.

The full version of the film The Whaler’s Tale can also be viewed on the City of Hobart’s website at www.hobartcity.com.au/Community/Arts-and-culture/Public-art/City-of-Hobart-public-art-projects/Crowther-Reinterpretation-project/The-Whalers-Tale

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