Jarra Karalinar Steel
Stories & Ideas

Fri 17 Feb 2023

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Your museum of screen culture

Learn more about this work, showing as part of the How I See It: Blak Art and Film exhibition at ACMI.


Where in history is there a game where we are represented and we are just contemporary humans doing what we do? We need to be the narrators of our own story.

My name is Jarra Karalinar Steel. I am an artist. My mob is Boon Wurrung, Wemba Wemba and Trawlwoolway. The work that I have at the How I See It exhibition is a large installation piece called More Than Just a Game that draws on my memories and nostalgia of the nineties when I used to go to the arcade with my twin brother.

So you have the LED work at the back 'For Them It Was Just a Game But For Us It Was Life'.

Apart from, you know, people not really taking our gameplay seriously, that was also referencing the way the government uses and treats our community and people. For them, it's just, you know, politics and they don't want to give up anything.

For us it's culture and it's life and it's things we've been practicing for thousands of years but their policies disrupt that and cause harm.

And then we have this beautiful arcade machine. The cabinet is made out of Blackwood Wattle. I've done the diamond motifs that are common in Kulin and south-east design.

Then there's also the floor element, which is a pattern design that is sort of what I think I remember what arcade floors look like and sort of taking that and playing with that, adding my kind of visual iconography.

The videogame within the machine is a special collaboration with Charlotte Allingham and our programmer Peter Adams called 'The Adventures of Dolly'.

Dolly herself is Koorie and Torres Strait Islander. After you have your chat with your Nan, you end up on a tram. When you get off the tram, you go down to Uncle Eeli, who sells the illk. Then when you go down past Fed Square to St Paul's you find Auntie Nola running the community garden, picking Murnongs. She's trying to get you to come down and work for her.

Just having those little elements in the city, but also taking away some of those things too like the statue of Flinders.

Fed Square is Tanderrum Square. I called the tram line Birrarung trams instead of Yarra trams.

If there were more games like that when we were kids, would we feel more than just the other in our own country?

There's a lot of people that probably don't understand why this girl just existing in within a world in an urban environment, running errands and meeting a friend at the arcade is so important.

You know, it's not a kick and punch game, but it's such a beautiful piece to just exist in the world where we have always been.

Our history is your history, and we should be celebrating our culture together and our stories should be just as elevated as any others.

Learn more about the work

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