The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red Line, 2021

Machine embroidered vintage 1944 WWII Army Wool Blanket. 84 x 55 inches.

The Thin Red Line reflects upon contemporary concerns with disease and explores the use of biowarfare by colonial settlers spreading smallpox through blankets given to Indigenous peoples in America and Australia. It comprises found text embroidered onto a vintage Australian army wool blanket. Written in grey are excerpts from a letter from Sir Jeffrey Amherst to Colonel Henry Bouquet in which he instructs the use of smallpox infected blankets against Native Americans in Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania, in 1763. Written in red is an Eora oral history account documented by Denis Foley that describes the taking of blankets inscribed with red markings (consistent with insignia of the Crown) by Aboriginal people in Balmoral in 1789. The blankets’ colorings were perceived as a sign of prestige by Aboriginal people but lead to a ‘horrible death of fire under [the] skin and the puss of a thousand festering sores.’