Christian Thompson Invaded Dreams 2012 C-type photograph. UTS ART Collection on loan from the Corrigan Collection. Image courtesy of Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi.

Christian Thompson

Born 1978, Gawler, South Australia

Invaded Dreams 2012


Invaded Dreams is one in a series of works titled We Bury Our Own that Thompson made in response to the photographic collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, England. The museum holds a collection of ethnographic photographs of Indigenous Australians made during Australia’s early colonial period.

Thompson’s research coincided with a project initiated by the Australian Research Council to research and return (repatriate) historical photographs from specific European collections including the Pitt Rivers Collection.

Thompson has chosen to take the history of photographic representation of Aboriginal people as a starting point for the spiritual repatriation of the archive through the redemptive process of self portraiture.

—Christopher Morton, Curator, Pitt Rivers Museum

In the series Thompson has used votive objects such as candles, butterflies, flowers, crystals and in the case of Invaded Dreams a miniature tall ship named ‘Mary Rose’. In each image the objects cover the artist’s eyes, which firstly removes the viewer’s chance to gaze upon the subject, a traditional use of ethnographic photographs as they were transported around the world. Secondly, it references death and burial rituals, a time when the individual is believed to be between the physical and spiritual world.

Perhaps this is what art is able to do, perform a spiritual repatriation rather than a physical one, fragment the historical narrative and traverse time and place to establish a new realm in the cosmos, set something free, allow it to embody the past and be intrinsically connected to the present?

—Christian Thompson

The act of taking my own photograph is the ceremony, it’s a contemporary kind of ceremony. That’s why I wanted to create an aura in this space a performative kind of aura that’s why I’ve used votive objects, things like candles and flowers and butterflies and crystals. The exhibition is a meditative space and it’s a space that can transport ideas and it can transport this content of the archive into something, somewhere else.

—Christian Thompson (transcript from video)

Thompson was one of the first two Aboriginal Australians to be accepted to Oxford University as part of the Charlie Perkins scholarship. He is undertaking a Phd in Fine Art.

Have a look at more of the images from We Bury Our Own and listen to Christian Thompson and Pitt Rivers curator Christopher Morton talk about the project 

Read about more of Christian Thompson’s work Australian Graffiti and Heat