Brook Andrew | Joel Birnie | Maree Clarke | Peter Waples-Crowe | Robyne Latham | Anna Liebzeit | Tobias Reef
Curated by: Kimba Thompson
2 May – 8 June at The Substation
Opening: Thursday 1 May, 6-8pm
Exhibition Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 11am-5pm
The works in this landmark exhibition—featuring seven contemporary Melbourne-based artists—are refreshing, challenging and touch on ideas of the ‘other’. The curator provokes with the question, ‘Have the boxes been ticked?’ The box, that is, of being an Artist and that of being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. As a result, the artists in this exhibition do not align with the ‘western construct’ of what constitutes the ‘Aboriginal Artist’.
The video work Interviews, 2006 by Brook Andrew was initiated during a residency at the Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania. It explores local engagements with notions of cultural difference and perceptions of identity through language and stereotypes. The result—revealing views on politics, shifting identities, morality and stereotypes—is at the same time humourous and serious.
Raw (traces), 2010 by Joel Birnie is a video work that explores recurrent questions of ‘mixed-race’ identity. Raw (traces), visualises a dilemma faced by mixed-race Indigenous peoples to adjust themselves—either psychologically, physically or culturally—to conform to non-Indigenous idealisations of Indigenous peoples. This is expressed through the task of the bathroom routine, a place of daily ritual transformation.
In Robyne Latham’s The Aborigine is Present, 2014, the viewer becomes part of the art work. The piece is a reference to the famous performance The Artist Is Present, 2010, by Marina Abramović, where spectators are invited to take turns sitting opposite the artist. In Latham’s adaptation, the subject is a changing cast of artists in the exhibition, in an attempt to blur the viewers’ conception of a single creative identity.
The multi-media installation and performance RITUAL & CEREMONY, 2014 by Maree Clarke addresses ideas of ritual & ceremony. Maree’s work often revives traditional practices of the artist’s Ancestors. This vivid and haunting work focuses on the mourning practices of people from the Murray/Darling/Murrumbidge river. Processes of recovery, which enable people to reconnect with their cultural heritage, are central to Maree’s philosophy. The artist believes in the potential of art to heal and inspire people to positively identify with their Aboriginality—a process that for some continues to be difficult given the ongoing effects of colonisation.
Peter Waples-Crowe’s interactive installation Frog Corroboree: Love, extinction and magic, 2014 is made of symbolic elements including origami frogs inspired by the Southern Corroboree Frog. The species, endemic to the southern tablelands of New South Wales, is on the verge of extinction due to an introduced fungus that has decimated its population. The artist invites the viewer to contemplate the parallels between the frog and the Ngarigo people, who were also endemic to the region before the introduction of their own kind of ‘fungus’: colonisation.
Tobais Reef‘s work is an eclectic blend of stenciled images, screen prints, and contemporary mixed media painting, combined with multi-layering and textures. His multimedia installation, NO BOUNDARIES, 2014, is a mixture of rhythmic sound-scapes, paint and print-media.
Anne Liebzeit uses photography and drawing in this new work Singing Shearwater 1-5 song series, 2014. The images are a response to a composition and performance, played on headphones in the space, which reveals a sense of ‘becoming bird and singing Shearwater’ in Boonwurrung Country, where the artist lives. The artist paints using sung water from Frank Ansell, a Nangkari healer and song man from Alice Springs.
Kimba Thompson’s artwork draws on her experience as a documentary film maker. Her large-scale video projection DOT DOT.., 2014 is a celebration of Aboriginal performance. The projected triptychs of circles contain performances of the dancers, rich in colour and accompanied by a rhythmic beat. This work explores the importance of performance being a confluence of art, dance and music.
Cover image: Maree Clarke