Upon their first landing in 1788, British colonists declared the Australian continent to be Terra Nullius- "land belonging to no-one"- despite the sovereign occupation of more than 260 Indigenous Nations. This declaration remained constitutional until 1992.
Corpus Nullius (2011) is a work in which the artist pierces the two words that comprise the Latin phrase Terra Nullius, firstly into the uncured hide of a freshly slaughtered lamb and secondly into their own flesh, using small, pearl-headed needles.
In a performative action which is both delicate and viscerally powerful, Norman inscribes the word NULLIUS onto the skin of their chest, in a ritual gesture of complex reclamation, in which they declare their own body as belonging to no-one. A layered and haunting reflection on the question of disposession, agency, and the relationship between body, ancestry and land.
The mistress of this mansion enters silently but with full force, takes her time/ Takes time then rearranges it, twists it inside out, upside down / inner sanctum hypnotizes with its familiar scent / pearl-headed pins pierce the flesh above the breast / one by one, never flinching as she pinches and slides each one in her skin resisting at first, then giving in to the prick of silver / no accidental bruising here, each movement heavy with intent / a silent, yet at the same moment, howling lament / though the only sound is the shifting from one foot to / the other by the viewer / a force to be reckoned with, she stays focused on the task at hand, never wavering /...Binding, sewing, containing, stitching, pushing / red knotted silk, tangled, she moves with serenity, a coldness, some frustration / Breaks the blood-red thread apart, crumples up and / Sets it aside, stands up, re-take her place in front of the mirror / Eyes cast in shadow / Her skin golden under the waxing light, droplets of fat, glistening, drip onto the floor / beneath the slightly swaying skins, the stiffened petticoats / undergarments / slip of a thing, a slip of the tongue, bags of skin and salt, as if she has just stepped out of them /And hung them up to dry /...The powder brush applied lightly, flicking a softly falling shimmer of dust over the pins, sticks to the tiny pinprick droplets of blood/ Scarification marks, self-made, her body a living, pulsating glyph Brenda L Croft