some questions about Rabbit Proof Fence and re-enactment of historical events…

Rabbit Proof Fence


The whole movie is a re-enactment of events which happened in the 1930s.


The stealing of "half-caste" Aboriginal children from their mothers,


to be taken to "homes" and brought up institutionally.


These particular children escaped the institution and walked all the way home,


several hundred miles north.


How might this filmic re-enactment relate to the re-enactment of key performance pieces from the 1960s?


How important is the re-enactment of a "performance"


(eg Carolee Schneeman's Meat Joy) when we might re-enact “real life events” instead?


Such as Jeremy Deller’s Battle of Orgreave from 1984, re-enacted in 2001.


Deller staged a full scale re-enactment of a historical union-police battle –


Other things to consider here – what is actually involved in the re-enactment, and for what purpose?


Is it an "experience" for the people involved?


Is it a pantomime performance to “bring to life” a piece of history?


In Rabbit Proof Fence, consider the real weeping of the women re-enacting the stealing of their children by white police.


(The DVD edition has a documentary which shows the development of these scenes).


They (the actors) were all devastated, channelling the grief of that history through their own bodies.


And: the general preparations of actors for a performance


(loosening exercises, character building games), how similar are these to fluxus activities/participations?


Play and body play. Allan Kaprow’s classes at Como for the Fondazione Ratti.-


The doco about the making of Rabbit Proof Fence makes the activities of film actors seem fascinating.


The preparations they go through.


Their lives must be very interesting lived processes.




2 thoughts on “some questions about Rabbit Proof Fence and re-enactment of historical events…

  1. CCC Post author

    hey there Lucas
    I saw Rabbit Proof Fence a while ago when it came out on the screens. It was a re-enactment in another kind of way for me – it reminded me (no, that’s not quite right – it stimulated my memory ie: i was an active participant because iwas doing the re-membering)…what was i saying? oh yes, it reminded (sic) me of our school days in Port Hedland, and It suddenly shook me just how poorly our aboriginal classmates treated. Not explicitly, nothing particularly solid that i can remember (or perhaps i’m not working hard enough at remembering), but an implicit aura of domination, and yeah, i guess of conquest. And somehow, I felt an enormous amount of guilt, as if i was a perpetrator… but perhaps a perpectuator. i cried so hard i had to leave the theatre to compose myself. oops. i gotta be somewhere. would love to trail this off into a sermon on the reinforcing effects of stress/trauma on memory at the neural level, but gotta go. just been reading an epic non-fiction account of research into the mechanisms of memory – fits snugly into my current thoughts about the work i’m doing… but yep, likes i says, gotta go.

  2. Lucas Post author

    [I found the following email from Chris Cruickshank to myself from some time ago (26 Feb 2002) where he wrote to me about the film Rabbit Proof Fence. Chris and I went to school together between 1981 and 1986 in Port Hedland, in the North West of Western Australia:]-Lucas

    Hey Luco,

    saw Rabbit-Proof Fence with Mick on sunday night. Well made, but not without its faults. but whoa what an impact. never been so disturbed by a film.
    scenes of the missionary school reminded me so much St Cecelia’s (Port Hedland Catholic primary school). I can’t believe how badly our aboriginal school mates got treated (and how badly i treated them as well). regardless of how subtle it was, we pretended it was unintended but did we really treat the aboriginal kids like equals? didn’t
    we avoid the older aborigines at the shops and around town? i remember being(perhaps not explicitly) discouraged from associating with “them”. it’s coming back now, those memories and it feels like racism. i can feel it like
    a heavy, hot guilt in my stomach, a dull ache that won’t go away. god, lucas, our head of state is directly descended from the perpetrators, and
    current LEADER of the institution that fucked them over (maybe beyond retrieval – we’ll see in the next 20 years). isn’t that just obscene? how
    can we possibly be proud to be australian. fucking ashamed. but it’s got me thinking even further back (for me)… what am i? physically? anglo-indian: a mixed race, pre-meditated by the English, set up for commercial (read as
    ‘exploitative’) gain, to promote efficient communication as go-betweens for the yobbo poms sent to india by their families, who had become embarrassed by their drunken womanising leachery and sent them to the colonies to be reformed or at least out of view. these lazy poms (by order of his/her majesty) fucked a race into existence and got them to do their work and boss around (colonial-style) the full-indian shit-kicking labourers. and every cell in my body is tainted by that. it’s in my DNA and in my name, and
    I can’t get rid of it. i was always confused by my dad’s paradoxical dislike of England, while his attitudes and values mimicked the english aristocracy. and his parents were even more consumed by the english facade. But i am as
    well. I know that people sometimes think i am aboriginal when they see me walk down the street. or double-take and think , nah, those clothes are too nice, he must be a migrant. i often get stopped in northbridge (Perth) by young aboriginal kids calling me brother and asking for a cigarette or some money. i’ve been mistaken for one of them by plenty of them before, and every time i get a sharp pang of guilt to deny it, even though i’m telling the truth. it’s very confusing. but as it stands, i associate more with white australia than with indians, angLOINdians, or aborigines (of their various shades). white australia. white australia white australia white australia white australia. jesus, what an embarrassment.

    do you remember one of the St Cecelia sisters teaching us to say how now brown cow? they were on a mission to save the savages from themselves -and that’s the environment in which we grew up and were educated. was it really that bad?

    Chris Cruickshank


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