Thursday, 12 July 2012

unDisclosed: 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial

"No photos, no photos" the guard yells at me as she runs across the gallery. Oops...the digi camera slips back into my pocket. I had only just entered the temporary exhibitions area of the National Gallery of Australia when confronted by this encounter. It struck me later that it was, in a way, a fitting metaphor for dealing with this exhibition. Even though I live in an area that has thousands of years of Aboriginal habitation, and at the foot of the sacred mother mountain Gulaga, relating to what it is like to be Aboriginal is beyond me. I can sympathise, say I am sorry, wish for solutions, crave for justice, but at the end of the day I cannot 'feel' the anger, resentment and frustration of being born black in Australia.

Lorraine Connelly-Northey, 2010, Three Rivers Country, Corrugated iron, tin, mesh and wire, Museum of Contemporary Art.

And, as a result, much of the work in this exhibition is political, or at least, a 'statement'. And where it isn't, one is faced with the issue of the more 'traditional' interpretations being seen, and bought, by whites as 'abstract expressionism'. Confused? I certainly am...

Michael Cook, Broken Dreams, 2010, Digital colour photographs, NGA Canberra.

However, the fact that Indigenous art can now be successfully contemporary, and shown in the hallowed halls of this institution, is a good thing. And while the political confrontation of Vernon Ah Kee's tall man (about the tragic death of a young man on Palm Island) or the 'in your face' shock value of  Tony Albert's Pay Attention Mother Fuckers leave me wondering whether this is in fact 'art', other works by Lorraine Connelly-Northey and Michael Cook still get the message across while amazing with their conceptual brilliance and execution. My final comment is that its a pity it is only to be held every three years...

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