History Pieces is an exhibition of new work that materially reimagines the possibilities of historical construction and how historians—both professional and amateur—engage with archival traces. Through layered strata, fragments, and networked information the exhibition follows an amateur historian’s account of the 1942 murder of Stoker John ‘Jack’ Joseph Riley aboard HMAS Australia [II]—the then Flagship of Australia’s naval squadron. Riley was brutally murdered by two fellow Stokers who worked alongside him in the vessel’s furnace. The homosexual-love-triangle-turned-murder resulted in decades of legal consequences, uncovering a tense battle between the disciplinary regimes of the British Crown and Australia’s Federal Government.
Relayed here as a cacophony of layered and complex data, History Pieces embraces the queer time of the amateur historian and welcomes all their mistakes and failures as a productive and generative means to engage with the past. Through a kind of self-generated obfuscation—an inordinate sum of compressed historical evidence—History Pieces complicates and critiques the power controlling the dissemination of historical information and data. History Pieces considers how queer histories are replicated, who they are for, and who has access to them.