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Michael Riley’s Bible and the Touch of the Text (with reference to the Gospel of Luke)

Elvey, Anne (2017) Michael Riley’s Bible and the Touch of the Text (with reference to the Gospel of Luke). In: The Bible and Art, Perspectives from Oceania. Scriptural Traces: Critical Perspectives on the Reception and Influence of the Bible(11), eds. Blyth, Carolyn and Vaka'uta, Nasili. Bloomsbury T and T Clark, London, pp. 163-186. ISBN 978-0-5676-7329-9

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Abstract

Australian Indigenous photographer and filmmaker, Michael Riley, a Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi man, died at the height of his artistic career in 2004 at the age of forty-four. Among many things, Riley explored the colonial impact of Christianity with reference to the Bible as a material artefact of colonization. Colonial contact in Australia is a complex, often violent, ‘touch’ where colonial violence and ecological destruction intersect. Riley’s series Sacrifice (1992) draws on Christian imagery to comment on the cultural impact of Christianity on Indigenous peoples in Australia, but without explicit reference to the Bible. The Bible appears in his flyblown (1998) and cloud (2000/2005) series expressly in relation to the land and ecological impacts of colonization. With reference to Riley’s images of the Bible, this essay explores the theme of touch in the Gospel of Luke in conversation with the ongoing event of colonial contact in Australia. I argue that a pattern of compassionate touch can be read in the Gospel of Luke unsettling patterns of violent relatedness. But in the dual context of colonization and ecological destruction in Australia, the materiality of the text intersects with my interpretation in multiple, complex ways such that my potentially counter-colonial reading of the text is not free of the impacts (for good or ill) of the text as a material artefact of colonization. Riley’s imagery suggests that the tragic ambiguity of the Bible as a cultural artefact of the colonizers may open to hope through kinds of Indigenous resistance to, and enculturations of, the Bible.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Repository Version: Author's Final Manuscript
Keywords: Gospel of Luke, Michael Riley, touch, Australian Indigenous artists
Fields of Research: 19 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing > 1901 Art Theory and Criticism > 190104 Visual Cultures
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
Type of Activity: Pure Basic Research
Subjects: A - Humanities, general
B - New Testament
College/Association with University of Divinity: Trinity College Theological School
Depositing User: Mr Mark Carey
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2017 03:38
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2017 04:17
URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/2906

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