Drew Pettifer I Forget Me Not: a queer end to the bushrangers: Galleries

3 February - 11 March 2023
Overview

Drew Pettifer Forget Me Not: A queer end to the bushrangers is an exhibition of new work that unpacks the under-represented queer history of the bushranger Captain Moonlite and his lover James Nesbitt.

 

Dr Drew Pettifer is an artist and academic who currently leads the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) Hong Kong Program at RMIT University. Pettifer's art practice explores themes of intimacy, gender, sexuality and queer politics using photography, video, installation and performance. Like Pettifer’s other recent projects, including A Sorrowful Act: the Wreck of the Zeewijk, this exhibition employs archival art practices and collaborations with museums, libraries and archives to unearth this queer narrative.

 

Born Andrew George Scott in 1842, Captain Moonlite was an Irish-born New Zealand immigrant to the Colony of Victoria, where he became one of Australia's most infamous outlaws. Following a siege that ended in a shootout with police at Wantabadgery Station, near Wagga Wagga NSW, Moonlite was executed at Darlinghurst Gaol, Sydney in 1880. A prolific letter writer, he recorded his dying wish ‘… to be buried beside my beloved James Nesbitt, the man with whom I was united by every tie which could bind human friendship, we were one in hopes, in heart and soul and this unity lasted until he died in my arms.’ In 1995 Moonlite’s wish was granted when local activists had his remains exhumed from Sydney’s Rockwood Cemetery and reinterred at North Gundagai Cemetery in proximity to James Nesbitt’s unmarked grave.

 

In Forget Me Not: A queer end to the bushrangers Pettifer uses neon, sculpture, installation, photography, video and sound to trace Moonlite’s relationship with James Nesbitt. The artworks in the exhibition represent varied sites connected to this history, such as Pentridge Prison (where Moonlite and Nesbitt met), Darlinghurst Gaol (where Moonlite was executed), Wantabadgery Station (where Nesbitt died in a shoot-out with police), and North Gundagai Cemetery (where Moonlite and Nesbitt are buried), as well as objects and documents connected to these events. Forget Me Not: A queer end to the bushrangers engages fraught colonial histories and the politics of desire to (re)assess our current moment.

 

Forget Me Not: A queer end to the bushrangers is supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program.