Our Collection: Voice in Action with Miranda Hine
I’ve had the pleasure of curating Museum of Brisbane’s new focus exhibition, Our Collection: Voice in Action. It looks at Indigenous artists working in Brisbane from the 1980s until now, who have used their artworks as a platform for political activism in varying ways.
It’s tough to pick favourite works from this show – they’re all significant and tell such diverse stories.
Vernon Ah Kee’s Profile 1 (2006), is a stunning example of Vernon’s largescale charcoal drawings. This work features his Great Grandfather, George Sibley, and is based on a photograph taken by anthropologist Norman B Tindale in the 1800s. The power in this work is Vernon’s choice to blow up the size of George’s face, and the time and care he’s put into each charcoal mark. For me, the result is Vernon saying ‘This is George. He’s an important man and not an anthropological subject. I’m going to remember him and you should too’. The draftmanship and skill in the work makes it even more commanding. I could stare at it for hours. In fact, I have!
Megan Cope’s Floodlands I (2013) takes a decolonising approach to mapping out Brisbane by overlaying Aboriginal place names onto a 1950s map of the city. It looks at toponomy and cartography – subjects we might think of as neutral and probably even a bit boring – as power systems that actually assist in colonising and quietly declaring which histories are ‘important’ and ‘true’. This work is a powerful reminder of dual histories, and a way to reclaim Aboriginal land. On a simpler level, I also love the educational quality of it. You can look at the familiar map of the city and learn which Aboriginal names belong to which regions. These are things many of us unfortunately never learnt at school. Hopefully some of these names will remain in viewers’ minds the next time they see a map of Brisbane.
Christopher Bassi is the youngest artist in Our Collection: Voice in Action. Having graduated from the Queensland College of Art last year he represents an emerging wave of Indigenous artists in Brisbane. His work is so exciting because he’s still experimenting, and he’s had the benefit of learning from the incredible practices of more senior artists, many of whom are included in this show. I connect with Christopher’s works because they are very personal, but also vulnerable. He attempts to reconnect with the Torres Strait Islander tradition in Orange Weaving (2017) and Untitled (Weaver) (2017), but without having inherited the complete knowledge of the process he falls short of replicating it fully. You can feel Christopher actively trying to navigate his own identity in the works, and it’s pretty special that he has let us, as viewers, into that process.