Michael Goldberg
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GROUND ZERO
1996
Australian Perspecta: Between Art and Nature, curated by Victoria Lynn

The project was located in the Old Palm House. The structure was erected in the 1830s and was the first public greenhouse in the state of New South Wales.

The Palm House is part of the First Farm Display, presented by the Royal Botanic Gardens as a theme park dealing with the early tools, farming methods, and the efforts of the first European settlers to cultivate the land, circa 1788. The Gardens are the actual site of the first attempts by settlers to cultivate crops on Aboriginal territory.

Ground Zero was configured as a temporary museum and drew on standard museum display methodology such as the use of vitrines and text panels. However, in this museum there were no artefacts other than the display cabinets and associated museum material.

Without artefacts, the text panels alone conveyed the narratives, drawn from historical documents selected from the State Archives. Unlike the official information panels in the First Farm Display dealing with settler hardship and tenacity, the Ground Zero texts attempted to portray a more accurate picture of the First Landing.

These narratives exposed the true motives behind the British Empire's colonial projects and the violence exercised on indigenous populations, as well as the re-naming of their territory.

Ground Zero presented evidence that the most effective tools used to subjugate an alien environment were not the hoe, nor the plough-but the government-issue firearm.