The exhibition Hear no…see no…speak no… presents selected works from three of Michael Cook’s photographic series:
Undiscovered reflects upon the occupation of Australia by Great Britain. The moment of Cook’s sighting of Point Hicks has interminably been presented in history as the ‘discovery’ of Australia, despite the fact that Aboriginal people had been living on this continent for tens of thousands of years. Subsequent British settlers had no idea of the basis and meaning of Aboriginal culture prior to their arrival and Aborigines were seen as inferior people with no education or organisation; their knowledge and experience of the land was ignored.
Civilised depict Indigenous Australians in period attire of the four European powers that visited Australia around the time of colonisation: the Dutch, Spanish, French and English. Any one of these nations could have become the ruler of this farflung domain and Cook’s works invite the viewer to speculate what might have been had a colonial power other than England been the eventual conqueror. Upon the European discovery of Australia, Aborigines were seen as ‘natives’—part of the flora and fauna. European settlers were not interested in understanding new cultures, or how Aborigines lived in harmony with the land—only that their way of life was superior. Even today, Aboriginal people are still suffering because these beliefs still exist amongst some non-Indigenous Australians. Even today, in a so-called ‘modern’ society, racism is rife. This body of work dresses Aboriginal Australians in the fashions of four European countries that visited Australia before and in the early stages of colonialisation: Spain, The Netherlands, England and France. It asks ‘what makes a person civilised?’ and suggests how different history might have been if those Europeans had realised that the Aborigines were indeed civilised.
Broken Dreams illustrates a dream-like story of a journey from England to Australia seen through the mind of a young Aboriginal woman. With London’s distinctive skyline setting the scene of the first images, the girl’s imagination is at its most vivid after seeing European women for the first time. During the journey, the dream is slowly replaced with reality. At the beginning of the journey, the subject is dressed in a British manner, but becomes more ‘native’ as the work progresses, as does her growing awareness of her own culture and history.
Michael Cook is a rapidly emerging artist with immense talent and exceptional skills. From his first exhibition Through My Eyes, hosted by Andrew Baker Art Dealer in 2010, a complete suite of twenty-seven works was acquired by the National Gallery of Australia. Michael’s second solo exhibition saw the National Gallery acquire complete suites of the artist’s Undiscovered and Broken Dreams series; a further twenty works in all. Cook’s works have subsequently been collected by the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane and numerous regional and university collections. In 2008 and 2011, Michael won ‘Visual Artist of the Year’ at the annual Deadly Awards—the Deadlys are Aboriginal Australia’s equivalent to the Oscars. In 2011, Michael Cook was one of the most prominently featured artists in UnDisclosed: 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia. In 2012, the Sunshine Coast-based artist was one of the handful of Australian artists invited to show in The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT7) at Queensland Art Gallery/GoMA.
The exhibition is presented by Queensland Centre for Photography in partnership with PIMCO and with the help of Andrew Baker Art Dealer.
This exhibition is part of the PIMCO/QCP program, a series of exhibitions and projects in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. The program presents the work of Queensland photomedia artists to new audiences in Melbourne and Sydney, working closely with galleries and festivals in these cities. In Brisbane, the exhibitions showcase the best of Australian photomedia art from other states to engage local audiences and inspire Queensland artists.
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