Cast in cast out: recasting fragments of memory

Dennis Golding’s Cast in cast out (2020) is inspired by the artist’s experiences and childhood memories of growing up in ‘The Block’, an Aboriginal community in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern. Now part of the collection of Museums of History NSW, the work is on show at the Museum of Sydney from 16 March.

Born and raised on Gadigal land, Golding is a Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay artist from the north-west of NSW. Through his mother’s lineage, he has ancestral ties to Biripi Country on the NSW Mid North Coast. Golding works in a range of media, including painting, video, photography and installation, to critique social, political and cultural representations of race and identity (Golding, 2023).

In Cast in cast out, Golding uses Victorian-era ironwork panels – a distinctive feature of Redfern’s streetscape and the houses he has lived in and visited – as a motif to explore the practices and processes of colonial occupation and land ownership. Comprising multiple pieces, the work is made up of three elements: reproductions of original panels once used as fencing or balustrades on verandahs and balconies, cast in epoxy resin and iron oxides; smaller fragments cast in concrete; and a photographic self-portrait in which the artist presents a large fragment reimagined as a shield. Each of these elements acts as powerful representations that recognise Aboriginal people’s connections to community and land.

Dispossession and removal

Whether displayed as a series or a single element, Cast in cast out has complex, multifaceted meanings. The title echoes the process of making the sculptural pieces by casting them in and then out of a mould. For Golding, performing these actions acknowledges stories of dispossession and removal shared by many Aboriginal people. They embody the experiences of families (such as his own) who over the generations made their home in Redfern after being displaced from their former homes, and established themselves in a new locale and community only to be cast out of the neighbourhood with the recent gentrification of the area.

Aboriginal families, when they were evicted from their homes, part of them were broken … [yet] a fragment of their memories stays there in that space, and the fragment stays with them in their memory.

Dennis Golding, 2021

Several of the panels Golding has produced appear to be rough, incomplete or broken. These ‘faults’ and the smaller fragments in the display emulate the physical erosion of and damage to the once attractive ironwork structures as the neighbourhood diminished in desirability and many houses fell into disrepair. In spite of their deterioration, Golding recalls the houses with affection: ‘These homes housed us, they looked after us, yet parts of [them] were also broken’. He remembers, with great fondness and pride, how his grandmother painted – in a bright sky blue – the ironwork fencing on the front verandah of the house she lived in on Eveleigh Street. Despite its dilapidation and missing parts, she was claiming the house as her own, putting her mark on it.

Memory and experience

Golding considers the ironworks’ original function as fencing in the context of colonialism, as a device to ‘set barriers between land and to set barriers between people; [one] that keeps people in, and also keeps people out’. By removing the original context and purpose of the panels, he recasts them as powerful contemporary expressions, of memories accumulated and fragmented through time. Dismantled, reimagined and recast in the form of a shield – an object of resistance, resilience and empowerment in Aboriginal culture – the reproduced ironwork becomes an object of memory and experience in the photographic self-portrait. Standing on the northern headland of Kamay (Botany Bay) with his back to the ocean, Golding looks directly at the camera, palpable defiance in his stance. Golding shields himself from – but also challenges – the notion of terra nullius (land belonging to no-one) and the sense of colonial confidence and certainty asserted by the British since 1770, when Lieutenant James Cook laid claim to eastern Australia, ignoring First Nations sovereignty.

In the display at the Museum of Sydney, Golding himself is given central prominence with his photographic self-portrait as the focal point, his arresting gaze directed at visitors as they enter the gallery. Ten sculptural panels are suspended at varying heights, echoing the ways in which ironwork balustrades might be encountered in an urban street. Each one casts a shadow onto the rich, vivid blue wall behind. Fragments appear to ‘float’ from the panels onto the ground, representing Golding’s dismantling of colonial symbols of division and control, the broken shards a means of reclaiming, transforming and breaking away from colonial constructs.

The display is accompanied by a 3D-printed replica of one of the panels, to give visitors an opportunity to feel its shapes and textures, as well as a filmed interview in which Golding discusses Cast in cast out and its genesis as he sought to transform these ‘colonial objects … into something of my own’.

Cast in cast out is on display at the Museum of Sydney 16 March – 4 August, 2024.

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Dr Jacqui Newling

Dr Jacqui Newling


Jacqui is a passionate public historian, her curatorial practice shaped by a hungry mind. Jacqui has a PhD in History and a Le Cordon Bleu Master’s Degree in Gastronomy. Interrogating and interpreting history, place, and social culture through a gastronomic lens, she is a leading voice in Australian food culture and identity in settler-colonial contexts, past and present. Her doctoral thesis examines the role of food and food insecurity in the founding of colonial NSW. Jacqui is author of the award-winning book Eat Your History: stories and recipes from Australian kitchens, 1788-1950. She co-curated the Eat Your History: A Shared Table exhibition at the Museum of Sydney, and is the ‘Cook’ in the blog, The Cook and the Curator. Jacqui curated a series of ‘hands-on’ gastronomy programs in our house museums and in the Villages of the Heart partnership in regional NSW. Jacqui’s curatorial expertise also extends beyond the kitchen – she curated the End of Transportation digital exhibit at the Hyde Park Barracks, the Collected exhibition and Enchanted valley digital interactive at Museum of Sydney and was a co-curator in the Unrealised Sydney and History Reflected exhibitions

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