All We Can’t See

Book designers Arielle Gamble and Daniel New collaborate on ‘All We Can’t See’, an exhibition and online gallery of artists’ responses to The Nauru Files.

Luke Storrier, All Stitched Up, 01 October 2014 (2018), Chair, plaster, bandages, 840 x 600 x 500mm
FILE DETAILS: 01 October 2014 | Risk rating: Minor | Type of incident: Complaint
[REDACTED] informed case worker that his son [REDACTED] was walking through Area 9, felt dizzy (he had sewn his lips together at the time) and sat on the chair near the guard station. Guard stated “Do not sit in front of me I don’t want to see you” and kicked the chair.

In August 2016 The Guardian published The Nauru Files, leaked incident reports written by staff in Australia’s detention centre on Nauru between 2013 and 2015.

These files detail 2116 separate incidents, including many cases of assault, sexual abuse, self-harm, child abuse and abhorrent living conditions endured by asylum seekers and refugees in the care of the Australian Government. Despite the harrowing nature of the files, the situation remains and the abuse is ongoing.

Adrienne Gaha, MALAISE (2018), Oil on linen, 950 x 650 mm
FILE DETAILS: 28 September 2014 | Risk rating: Major | Type of incident: Threatened self-harm
Client advised that ‘All the single females met to discuss mass suicide’.

After the files were published Richard Flanagan described the files as, ‘an extraordinary trove of anonymous short stories … Sometimes … writing can panic us in the same way we are sometimes panicked at the moment of waking: here is the day and here is the world and we can sleep no longer, we must rise and live within it.’

Book designers Arielle Gamble and Daniel New, with the support of Human Rights Watch, decided to approach leading Australian artists and ask them to respond to a file.

‘The concept of this exhibition came from simply being concerned citizens and wanting to do something to help expose the abuses and inhumane treatment the men, women and children who sought our protection have endured under Australia’s policies,’ says Arielle Gamble. ‘Art is a powerful, visual language. It can override prejudice and fear and speak to the heart. Not everybody connects with words, and we wanted to give people another way in. We want to illustrate these stories through creative expression and use art to shed light on All We Can’t See.’

Abdul Abdullah, View from Manus II (2016), Oil and tile on board, 60cm x 90cm
FILE DETAILS: 03 February 2015 | Risk rating: Minor | Type of incident: Threatened self-harm | Downgraded? Yes
On the 3rd of February during an informal engagement with [REDACTED] and his brother [REDACTED], [REDACTED] disclosed that he had thought about causing harm to himself. [REDACTED] stated that he has had feeling of self-harm over the past several months however, has been reluctant to disclose due to wanting to safe guard his other family members. [REDACTED] stated that last night he was unable to sleep. [REDACTED] stated that he stared at the ceiling of his living area and begun to have thoughts of ending his life. [REDACTED] stated that he has feeling of hopelessness. [REDACTED] stated that he left [REDACTED], his home country to flee from physical torture and by coming to Australia believed he would be safe. [REDACTED] stated he believes that Australia is utilising psychological means (i.e. Separating him from his immediate family) to cause harm to him and his family. [REDACTED] stated that there is no difference between him dying in [REDACTED] than in Australia or Nauru. Nb: Risk rating and incident type changed by Wilsons.

Thirty-three artists have participated in the show including Abdul Abdullah, Angela Brennan, Penny Byrne, Ben Quilty, Alex Seton, Joshua Yeldham.

A website has also been created where you can view other responses, read the files, select a file to illustrate and upload your own response.

The exhibition runs until Saturday 10 February, but everyone can contribute and view the work online at All We Can’t See. Daniel and Arielle welcome all contributions.

Tomislav Nikolic, For all we can’t see, I am sorry (2015–2017), Acrylic, marble dust, 24ct gold leaf, glass on linen and wood, 414 x 475 x 70 mm
Tomislav has chosen to respond to the files as a whole.

All We Can’t See – An Exhibition and website Illustrating the ‘Nauru Files’.
Yellow House Gallery, 2nd – 10th February, 57 — 59 Macleay Street, Potts Point, NSW