Ink slows the burn

Carol McGregor
Ink slows the burn, 2021
1823 English Mortgage Indenture on vellum (calf skin), Giant Centipede (Scolopendromorpha) blue triangle butterfly (Graphium sarpedon),63.5 x 91cm. Book: flora (native and weeds) resists on cotton rag paper, kangaroo tail sinew, beeswax and entomology pins, 22.5cm x 21cm.


Carol McGregor’s Ink Slows the Burn (2020) is scarifying in its description of the ongoing disruption caused by Australia’s colonisation. Specifically, she displays on the wall an English Mortgage Indenture from 1823 that she found at a London market. At that time, explorer/surveyor John Oxley, entered and sailed up Maiwar (Brisbane River) ‘naming’ it the Brisbane River after Governor Brisbane, who had sent him in search of a site for an alternative penal settlement: it was the beginning of a land management system foreign to Australia’s First Nations peoples. The giant centipede fixed to the document signifies its toxic qualities. McGregor writes, “As I burnt designs into the [vellum, calf] skin, the ink on the Indenture slowed the pyrography process—I considered how inked imposed laws have halted caring for Country and contemplated how we move forward.” The organic materials imprinted in her accompanying book are “taken from my mortgaged lands” and dyed with natural materials; in this pivot, McGregor notes the cultural dissonance between the Indigenous and European world views as well as the damage to Australia’s fragile environment caused by colonial practices.