Return to sender — the weather is here, wish you were nice
Colonial Post Service delivers
some have a numbered mailbox out front
checking for letters, bills, or a postcard
others live under a tarp, tin, or a tree
the Queen’s stamp postmarked
Wish you were here
some wish they weren’t
just a quick note to say hi
genocide greetings with catchy captions
the mailer is now the jailer
Postman with history haunting mailbags
carrying Australian snapshot souvenirs
senseless messages from the Smiths to the Joneses
when picture postcards don’t need for a word
conjuring loving hate mail
There’ll be no cheques in the mail
waiting on snail mail to deliver unseen sorries
are they as deaf as the post — I listen
I hear — metal chainmail from new poison pens
now sent via email
Return to sender
Words by Karla Dickens
In a show of pride and defiance, Return to Sender reworks a collection of found postcards picturing First Nations people from the turn of last century. Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens confronts these racist greetings with messages of strength and survival. Calling out the persistence of racial violence in contemporary life, Return to Sender is a call for resistance.
Curated by Aarna Fitzgerald Hanley
Artist Statement Regarding Sydney Festival
On 29 December 2021 Karla Dickens released the following statement with regard to the inclusion of her work Return to Sender within the 2022 Sydney Festival Program.
As a First Nations artist of Australia I withdraw my work ‘Return to Sender’ from the 2022 Sydney Festival program in protest at the negligence and complete disregard of cultural safety and duty of care on the part of the Festival with regard to participating artists, including myself. ‘Return to Sender’ was installed before I was made aware of any of the Festival’s funding partnerships. Karla Dickens
Return to Sender was commissioned by Carriageworks in early 2021 for presentation during Sydney Festival 2022. It is an important work confronting the persistence of racial violence in contemporary Australian life. We respect the artist’s decision to withdraw the work from the Sydney Festival program. Carriageworks will maintain its commitment to the artist and their work by continuing with the planned exhibition of ‘Return to Sender’, 6-30 January 2022.
Images: Karla Dickens, Return to Sender (detail), 2021, Carriageworks. Image Zan Wimberley.
This is a free exhibition.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are advised that Return to Sender contains images of deceased persons.
Return to Sender includes images and themes that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples may find sensitive and distressing.
The installation contains nudity.
Karla Dickens (b. 1967, Sydney) is a Wiradjuri woman, mother and artist who lives and works in Lismore, New South Wales. Using collage and assemblage her practice is both personal and political. Reflecting on Australian history and culture, Dickens’ work confronts issues of race, religion and sexuality.
The artist is represented by Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney and Singapore.
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Presented by Carriageworks with Carriageworks Major Partner Bloomberg Philanthropies.