Reckoning with the imminent loss of my mother, set against violent events and imageries of colonial endeavours intent on destruction and domination, a crushing weight renders my soul paralysed, plunging it into the abyss of my psyche, where all is still, and I can hear the depths of my existence scream.”

— Hayley Millar Baker

In Life, In Death responds to the overwhelming collective unrest for Indigenous people as witnesses and targets of settler-colonial destruction, both locally and globally.

Recent events of colonial violence, such as the futile ‘Voice’ referendum, the impending loss of the artist’s Aboriginal mother, and the genocide engulfing Gaza, serve as singular threads interwoven into the broader fabric of historical and ongoing colonial-induced violence.  These seemingly disparate events of mortality and subjugation intricately illustrate the interconnectedness of past injustices and their enduring impact on our collective trajectory.

Indigenous collective consciousness and ancestral connections are focused on within the narrative of In Life, In Death.  Through deep listening, the conscious mind creates a sacred space within the depths of the psyche, calling upon intergenerational knowledge and spiritual insight to offer profound guidance and solace during triggered unrest.  Here, ancestors unite as support pillars, providing a haven for grief to transform anger into purifying flames of catharsis.

In these self-portraits, the artist ingeniously weaves lines from their poem, delicately substituting tears with barely discernible text trickling down the face.  Initially subtle, these poetic fragments evoke a poignant sense of emotional exhaustion, as if tears have been distilled into the essence of the artist’s inner turmoil.  Scattered across seven portraits, the poem’s culminating line, “I scream back,” symbolising the artist’s ultimate act of self-expression, is reserved not for an audience but as a profoundly personal declaration of defiance and resolution.

I hear the spirits scream in anger, despair, mourning, guilt, woe. All this screaming, and yet we are in utter silence.”

— Hayley Millar Baker

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