Dr. Destiny Deacon

Born 1956 in Maryborough, Australia
Lives and works in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia
KuKu Yalanji and Erub/Mer peoples of Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands

White Bay Power Station

Blak Bay, 2023–2024
photographs and lightboxes with timer
Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from a grant from the Open Society Foundations and generous assistance from the Australian Government through Creative Australia, its principal arts investment and advisory body
Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

White Bay, named for John White, a surgeon aboard the First Fleet, symbolises Australia’s colonial foundation in 1788. Its history, rooted in 19th-century transport and industry, reflects the commercial and colonial ventures that displaced and marginalised Indigenous communities. Dr Destiny Deacon’s Blak Bay commission is a powerful counternarrative. The title uses Blak, a term coined by Deacon in 1991 which is now a seminal part of the vernacular of resistance, in defiance of the colonial implications of ‘white’.

Deacon’s photographs at White Bay Power Station introduces an Indigenous story into a colonial-named location by challenging its legacy. On the exterior windowpanes, Deacon inserts gloomy photographic images of dolls pressed against flywire, hazy nocturnal views from Deacon’s home in Brunswick, Melbourne, as well as black and white found images of a watchful doll belonging to the daughter of the Russian Czar from the 1917 revolution. Inside Blak Bay is a suite of vibrant lightboxes dynamically sequenced to turn on and off. Together, Deacon’s installation urges viewers to reconsider names, histories, and spaces through an Indigenous perspective. In essence, Deacon’s work is a beacon of reclamation, confronting and re-envisioning Australia’s colonial past.

Dr. Destiny Deacon was from the KuKu and Erub/Mer peoples of the Torres Strait Islands and lived in Melbourne most of her life. Her multi-disciplinary practice – across photography, film, sculpture, performance and installation – was forged from personal family and community stories that enveloped her urban playground. As well as being an artist, she was also a respected activist, performer, writer and broadcaster. 

Deacon’s intriguing works continually provoke, challenge and reimagine the Aboriginal narrative through the photographic lens. She intuitively engages her audience through an exchange of ideas, stories and approaches to thinking with works that often have a subtle political guise. Using satirical black/blak humour she interrogates and explores the tales, events and imagined lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  

Read more about the 24th Biennale of Sydney, Ten Thousand Suns, by purchasing the catalogue here.