Unlearning Cook, Part Three [4.00pm 19 October - 9.30am 1 November 2016] was recently announced as the winner of the Best Work by a CCP Member at the 2016 Centre for Contemporary Photography's Salon. This work is part of a long-term project and my MFA research. Thank you to the CCP for your support of photographic artists and to Michaels Camera for sponsoring this prize. Thank you to the judges of the Salon this year - Janina Green, Dylan Rainforth and CCP's Michelle Mountain. The exhibition continues until 17 December 2016.
Victorian College of the Arts
This new photographic work, created this year as part of my MFA research, was selected as the winner of the 2016 Linden Postcard Show. Thank you to Linden New Art for their support of the arts. Thank you to the anonymous donor who generously funds the first prize and to this year's judges Michael Brennan (LUMA), Emma Buskowsky Cox (Castlemaine Art Museum), Adam Harding (Horsham Regional Art Gallery) and Pat Mackle (Avant Card). Congratulations to all the other winners and to all the exhibiting artists. The exhibition is open until 29 January 2017 at Linden New Art.
I was very excited to have some of my work included alongside a group of wonderful Australia-based photographers in the Belonging exhibition at the recent 2016 Obscura Festival of Photography in Penang, Malaysia. The show was curated by Melbourne-based artist, educator, writer and curator Daniel Boetker-Smith.
"This exhibition explores the complexity of contemporary Australian identity and belonging. The works bring together a diverse array of photographers who contemplate personal and public notions of belonging in the context of Australia as both the ‘lucky and unlucky country’. Australia is shown as the land of the fair-go, and of constant possibility, but also as a land of rivalries, prejudices and violent pathologies. Collectively this exhibition seeks out threads of a narrative of the mythic Australia. Myths jostle, and contradict one another; they are stories that a nation and its people tell themselves again and again, and they become reworked through the images a country produces. This collection of images, ‘probes the contradictions inherent in myth, seeing place and belonging as both life-giving and annihilating'."
Featured artists: Stacy Arezou Mehrfar, David-Ashley Kerr, Simone Rosenbauer, Dale van Iersel, Hoda Afshar, Kate Golding, Katrin Koenning, Kelvin Skewes, Michael Corridore, Phuong Ngo, Raphaela Rosella, Ricky Maynard, Robyn Daly and Sarah Pannell.
The two works selected by the curator were made on Gooreng Gooreng Country, Queensland. The landscape image below was made on my first visit to the area in mid-2014. The portrait photograph was created last year when I returned to the Town of Seventeen Seventy to attend the 1770 Festival which occurs in May each year and includes a play where Cook's landing is reenacted. In 2015, Shane Webster played the role of Lieutenant James Cook R.N.
Another two works from my research project were selected to be part of a curated group exhibition at Gaffa Gallery in Sydney, New South Wales in April this year. The exhibition was curated by the incredibly talented Melbourne-based artist/writer/curator, Christine McFetridge and featured the work of Victoria-based artists Ariel Cameron, Isabella Capezio, Coby Baker, Dianna Wells, Hoda Afshar, Jessie DiBlasi, Kate Robertson, Katrin Koenning, Linsey Gosper, Rebecca Nadjowski and Zoë Croggon.
Curator Christine McFetridge's essay:
"Symbols of strength, power and triumph are often feminine. In Greek mythology, the winged goddess, Nike, represented victory in times of peaceful competition and unrest. She is closely aligned with Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war. Among others; African, Baltic, Celtic, Egyptian and Hindu mythologies also contain figures of female victory, and indeed nothing typifies the Antipodean woman more than strength. She exists in a harsh climate; exposed to the weather and the reality of her isolation to the rest of the world.
However, traditionally, the Western ideal of success for a woman is measured by her beauty and in her ability to raise children, keep a happy husband, and a tidy home. Women who veered from this trajectory were at risk of being scorned. Increasingly, from the nineteenth century, women began to be celebrated for their successes - though often acquiring the habits of successful men to be assimilated into positions of social power. Arguably, women still struggle for recognition of their achievements if the achievements themselves are outside the superficial.
This exhibition, Victory, seeks to highlight women photographers working in Victoria. Moving through landscape and man-made environments, the artists included accomplish great feats; holding their clenched fists high, charging forward. Sometimes cheeky, sometimes a little more serious; the work places women at the central point of focus. These artists are adventurers, conquering their surrounds and championing ideas. Gracefully this woman moves, dances, leaps; like Helen Garner, Ponch Hawkes, and Joan Kirner, these artists take ownership of their craft sounding a barbaric yawp."
Given the title of the exhibition, the curator and I decided to include the following two works from my research into the monumentalisation of Captain Cook in the Pacific. Both photographs were made in the Hawaiian Islands in 2012. The first, commemorates Cook’s landing on the island of Kaua‘i in January 1778. Over time, this monument, made from lava rock, has been moved off its axis by large surf and the bronze plaque vandalised and removed so that no trace of Cook remains at the site. The second, marks the spot where Captain Cook was killed on 14 February 1779. This particular memorial, in the island of Hawai‘i's Kealakekua Bay, is only visible at low tide and when I saw it in 2012 it had been moved off its base by the constant jostling of the ocean’s waves. This action of nature reclaiming and decolonising the landscape is a phenomenon I have observed at many of the monuments I have documented. It seems that the natural elements tend to slowly and victoriously degrade the man-made monuments over time.
In April, two works from my ongoing research that critiques the voyages of Captain Cook were featured in an exhibition at the Land Dialogues conference at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, Wiradjuri Country, New South Wales. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the conference and deliver a paper as originally intended. As I was born in Wagga, and grew up not far from there, I had been looking forward to returning and speaking about my research. I hope that another opportunity such as this will arise in the future.
In 1770, Lieutenant James Cook of the Royal Navy sailed HMB Endeavour northwards along the East Coast of the continent now known as Australia. Cook and his crew were on their way home to England, after what would be his first voyage to the Pacific. He had travelled through areas theretofore almost wholly unknown to his people. While charting the coastline of Eastern Australia he supplanted existing place names with names more palatable to English sensibilities. This voyage led to an influx of migration to the region that resulted in the systematic dispossession, exploitation and colonisation of the existing landowners and their nations.
I began work on this photographic and research project in 2012 after hiking to Kealakekua Bay in Hawai‘i, where Captain Cook was killed in 1779. I photographed monuments and locations relating to Cook’s voyages while on the islands of Hawai‘i and Kaua‘i. In 2013 in Aotearoa New Zealand, I photographed monuments to Cook on the South Island. In 2014 I travelled on land along the East Coast of Australia, retracing Cook’s 1770 voyage along this coast and documenting the places photographically. I made use of Cook’s journals and charts to approximate locations and again documented monuments. In 2015 I attended the re-enactment festivals that coincide with the anniversaries of Cook’s landings in Gooragan Country (Town of Seventeen Seventy) and Gan Gaar (Cooktown). I am currently continuing this research as a Master of Fine Arts candidate at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne.
This year and next I am undertaking a research degree at the Victorian College of the Arts, a faculty of the University of Melbourne. I was recently successful in completing a progress review of my research which means that my candidature is now confirmed and I can continue making art and conducting self-directed research with the University's support. My supervisor throughout the Master of Fine Arts degree is artist, Mark Shorter.
The research project I proposed for my MFA forms part of the my ongoing critique of Captain Cook and his three Pacific voyages, a project I began in Hawai‘i in 2012. The practice-led research conducted during the Masters programme will explore the application of decolonising methodologies to artistic practice and the possibilities that emerge as a result. It is my hope that this conceptual framework will provide a means to reinterpret historical events and signifiers of colonisation. The theoretical and practice-led research will result in a photographic outcome and written thesis with major concerns of the project being First Nation sovereignty, colonisation, decolonisation, whiteness and the myth of Terra Nullius.