Image: Richard Bell's Embassy at Sydney Biennale, 2016, photo courtesy of Milani Gallery.

An award-winning Aboriginal artist says it’s ‘surreal’ to be opening an exhibition which pays homage to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in the ‘heart of the empire’. 

‘Embassy’ by Richard Bell will open at the Tate Modern in London this afternoon (U.K. time) – making Bell the first Australia artist to exhibit in the Turbine Hall of the gallery. 

The large canvas tent installation is inspired by the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and features protest signs out the front. 

The work has already travelled to various parts of Australia and the world and Bell says the work will also feature speakers that visitors can sit and listen to. 

“I’ve had to think about how to choose the guests. I’ll be speaking with the descendants of the slave trade, people who are more recent migrants and directly, as a result of the wars that this country (the U.K.) has been involved in, the victims of those wars, have found their way to this country. A lot of countries in the world are having trouble adjusting to this influx of people with different cultures, different appearances. They’re dealing with it in much the same way that Australia has in the past. They’re now using the terminology that was used in Australia, they’re saying stop the boats. It’s really weird to be here. To hear this nonsense”. 

The exhibition also includes ‘Pay the Rent II’ – a digital ticker which shows the total rent owed to Aboriginal people by the Australian Government since Federation in 1901.

Bell hopes the exhibition will leave U.K. audiences wanting to learn more about the history of colonisation in Australia. 

“This is the beauty of art, that we can have these really difficult conversations, we can raise these issues, because it is the nature of art to be accepting of these differences, these different points of view, approaches and perspectives. I’m hoping that as many people as possible will come through and perhaps be enlightened or at the very least, be informed of things that are going on that they were previously unaware of”.

Embassy will be showing at Tate Modern until the 18th of June.