Australian Indigenous people promote their culture and country in the context of tourism in a variety of ways but the specific impact of Indigenous fine art in tourism is seldom examined. Indigenous people in Australia run tourism businesses, act as cultural guides, and publish literature that help disseminate Indigenous perspectives of place, homeland, and cultural knowledge. Governments and public and private arts organisations support these perspectives through exposure of Indigenous fine art events and activities. This exposure simultaneously advances Australia’s international cultural diplomacy, trade, and tourism interests. The quantitative impact of Indigenous fine arts (or any art) on tourism is difficult to assess beyond exhibition attendance and arts sales figures. Tourism surveys on the impact of fine arts are rare and often necessarily limited in scope. It is nevertheless useful to consider how the quite pervasive visual presence of Australian Indigenous art provides a framework of ideas for visitors about relationships between Australian Indigenous people and place. This research adopts a theoretical model of ‘performing cultural landscapes’ to examine how Australian Indigenous art might condition tourists towards Indigenous perspectives of people and place. This is quite different to traditional art historical hermeneutics that considers the meaning of artwork. I argue instead that in the context of cultural tourism, Australian Indigenous art does not convey specific meaning so much as it presents a relational model of cultural landscape that helps condition tourists towards a public realm of understanding Indigenous peoples’ relationship to place. This relational mode of seeing involves a complex psychological and semiotic framework of inalienable signification, visual storytelling, and reconciliation politics that situates tourists as ‘invited guests’. Particular contexts of seeing under discussion include the visibility of reconciliation politics, the remote art centre network, and Australia’s urban galleries.
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