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People's Choice Award Winner

The winner of the People's Choice Award of $5,000 is Michael Cook.
 

Michael Cook

Language: Bidjara

 



Michael Cook
Through My Eyes 2010
inkjet print on Hahnemuhle paper, ed. AP ½
suite of 27 works
50.0 x 40.0 cm each (image, irregular)
Artwork courtesy of the artist and Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane
Image © Michael Cook, courtesy of Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane



From the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards Publication.

We’re in her dream. Her gaze is entrancing, her body is covered. We see her response to the new arrivals as they clumsily negotiate a landscape she has always known. Her excitement is obvious – she sees herself in this new world, wearing the clothes of the arrivals, her hair styled in the same tight fashion. A native bird is released from her gloved hand. It’s a symbol of dreams and hope. Behind her is the ship that brought the arrivals to her home.

She dreams again, her body now unclothed, apart from an ornate white collar and a wooden crucifix that drapes between her breasts, embodying the values and ethos of a new, supposedly superior, European religion. The bird has returned, perched on the barrel of a rifle. It’s aimed directly at her, her finger plugging its end. Her hand covers her mouth, gasping in shock at the turn of events. She has seen bloodshed, she has seen the other face of the arrivals, a face of hatred showing complete disregard for her way of living. She has lost her interest in their ways, their dress, their food. She is concerned for her fate. She understands that initial niceties were simply that. She stands before us completely naked in a state she knows and occupies without shame. The bird is again present, this time suspending her from above with the only obvious European anomaly: the rope that connects them, like a snake wrapping around its prey. There is sadness in her face, as if her dark fate is already known to her. She can only wish to find a way to escape her reality, to escape her Broken Dreams.

Another dream. From the sea emerges an Indigenous man in British colonial military regalia. He’s armed with a rifle, ready to fire. He is approaching the shore of this Undiscovered land, approaching a creature deemed evilly prehistoric in colonial times. The Emu seems unaware of his presence, yet also displaced in this coastal setting. The only colour in this monochromatic seascape is the bright red of the man’s coat: the colour of spilt blood. With an all-conquering stance, he stands on the shore, head slightly tilted, hands proudly holding his lapel. His ship now has safe passage – there is no Emu in sight. He walks, feet submerged in the ocean, stripped to his trousers, carrying the British flag over his left shoulder. There is no pride is his stance. He looks into the distance, ponderous, unaware of – or maybe unconcerned about – the crocodile impeding safe journey to shore. On the shore of the beach, tattered and left to perish, lies the British flag. A Tasmanian tiger curiously looks on, also foreign in this seascape. This iconic fabric will not be taken as a memento. It will lie here or be swept away. What has happened to the man? What happened to the Emu? What fate lies ahead for the Tasmanian tiger?

Undiscovered 2010 and Broken Dreams 2010 by Bidjara artist Michael Cook investigate colonial narratives through the eyes of Indigenous Australians. Cook was born in 1968 in Brisbane and now lives on the Sunshine Coast. In his recent works he has been creating vividly immersive, imagined dreamscapes. They depict an Indigenous man and young woman curiously role-switching with their colonisers. As the narratives progress, their curiosity diminishes. Excitement and pride turn into sadness and defeat. Although connected in narrative and imagery, each single panel of both Undiscovered and Broken dreams offers shifting post-colonial critiques.

Cook’s series Through My Eyes 2010 also traverses time and history. An image of each of the nation’s prime ministers is overlaid with an Indigenous face. The PMs’ faces, from Barton to Gillard, look straight through us, each smugly looking as though they hold a precious secret. This satirical work interrogates ideologies of power and control, illusion and substance, the role of a foreign sovereign and its government in an occupied land of which possession was taken under our history’s grandest untruth, terra nullius (1).

Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, Curator of Indigenous Art, Art Gallery of Western Australia


The publication is available for purchase from the Gallery shop.


Michael Cook
Broken Dreams 3 2010
inkjet print on Hahnemuhle paper, ed. 3/8
124.0 x 100.0 cm (image)
Artwork courtesy of Michael and Kylie Rayner, Brisbane
Image © Michael Cook, courtesy of Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane

 


Michael Cook
Through My Eyes 2010
(detail: Bob Hawke, John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard)
inkjet print on Hahnemuhle paper, ed. AP ½
suite of 27 works
50.0 x 40.0 cm each (image, irregular)
Artwork courtesy of the artist and
Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane
Image © Michael Cook, courtesy of Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane

 
Michael Cook
Undiscovered 1 2010
inkjet print on Hahnemuhle paper, ed. 3/8
124.0 x 100.0 cm (image)
Artwork courtesy of University of Western Sydney Art Collection, New South Wales
Image © Michael Cook, courtesy of Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane
  Michael Cook
Undiscovered 4 2010
inkjet print on Hahnemuhle paper, ed. 3/8
124.0 x 100.0 cm (image)
Artwork courtesy of Ravinder Singh, Sydney
Image © Michael Cook, courtesy of Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane

 

 

 

(1) Terra Nullius is a Latin expression which is translated to land of no one. In Roman law terra nullius allowed for occupation of any land ‘belonging to no one’, which had not been held to the sovereignty of any state or whereby sovereignty has been relinquished.

 

 

 

Last reviewed 13 December 2011

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