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Imagining the John Watts Necklace


Description of campaign/project

In this work I ask participants to draw what they imagine the historical artefact the John Watts Necklace (circa 1866) looks like. This work has been developed from my interest in how the objects that form our museum’s collections shape our understanding of the culture we live in and how we see ourselves with in that culture. This necklace value has been described in relation to the story of a man called John Watts, and is a story that celebrates the success of this settler. I want to see if how we imagine the object is shaped by the story that we associate with it. I have researched six historical accurate stories that this object could represent these are recorded spoken accounts and the same description of the necklace is weaved through each story, the participant is asked to choose a story to listen to and try to draw what the necklace looks like. I am hoping to see that the context the object is described within alters the way the object is imagined and drawn. The key idea in this work is the nature of communication and articulation, reception and response. I believe that it reflects the festivals theme how can we think and practice dialog today.

This work is reflecting my exploration of how to develop criticality. It draws on critical texts by Roland Barthes 'Death of the Author' and Umberto Eco's 'The open work', and Claire Bishops articulation of Jacques Rancière’s theory of the need for a mediating object to allow for a unpredictable participant whose actions are not shaped. I have a fixed situation that the participant can engage with a level of refection of their choosing, the can choose the story to listen too and choose how they want to respond to the story and situation.

I endeavour to show that there are historical facts to be known, but having multiple ways of understanding an object dose not dilute the concept of history but rather allows for a complex and enhanced understanding of historical accounts. Also this work asks people to reflecting on their own framework of interpretation and how they locate and utilise the knowledge that they encounter.

The value of the artist gesture as the works can be political without being didactic.


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Entry details


Imagining the John Watts Necklace


Do you hear what I hear?

Concept author(s)

Beau Allen

Concept author year(s) of birth


Concept author(s) contribution

authored concept and execution



Competition category


Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

Griffith University, Queensland Collage of Art, Doctorate of Visual Arts.