An exhibition of the collaborative work of artists Adam Geczy and Adam Hill of video, photography, sculpture and performance at the world’s only museum devoted solely to Aboriginal Art, the Aboriginal Art Museum Utrecht (AAMU), in Holland. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue with 2000 word essays by Dr Fiona Foley, Prof. Ian Maclean, Maurice O’Riordan, Dr Georges Petitjean, and the artists. These writers have been assembled because of the complexity of the nature of the subject matter: the disparity between recognition of Indigenous art and the living conditions of many Indigenous peoples, cultural tokenism, and certain aspects of Australian culture that forbid the possibility of reconciliation and recognition (such as the national day being on the day Indigenous peoples were ‘invaded’).
Two essays will concentrate on these broader themes, while the others will deal with specific works in the exhibition. The centrepiece for the exhibition is the Bomb, a gutted car shell on wooden supports. The car will be painted on the outside and blackened on the inside. This is a critical pastiche of the famous BMW painted by Michael Nelson Tjakamara in 1989. This work is the ‘other’ car that is a symbol not only of the abandoned cars in the outback but also of the difference between corporatized slickness of Aboriginal art vs. a starker reality.
Other works by the artists in this exhibition will include a large video suite of 7 works across the museum. These will include re-workings from the collaborative film Australia The Trailer (2009), which contains the voices and presences of several pre-eminent Indigenous Australians such as the hip-hop rapper Wire MC, the actress Katie Beckett and the elder Richard Green.
A presiding theme of this work and the exhibition Bomb as a whole are the false perceptions that still prevail about Aboriginal culture, and the uneven efforts at reconciliation. (How do Indigenous people cope with the national day being that on which they were colonized?) There will be a work that deals with figures who have perpetrated unpunished crimes against Indigenous people; while also engaging, with humour, the ways in which Indigenous art, music and culture is used generically and de-contextualised.
The catalogue brings together respected Indigenous and non-Indigenous commentators. They will address the work itself and deal with broader issues of concern in Indigenous culture, art and contemporary art.
How are you planning to do it?
The works will be produced between the artists through lengthy cross-communication. Dr Petitjean will come to Australia in late August and in January for further planning. Geczy will travel in November to the Museum to verify its physical layout for the installations, and to deposit work. November will also be the official commission time for the writers. Editing and design of the catalogue will begin in February. By this time all the works will be complete for reproduction in the catalogue. Two seeks before the exhibition in June, the artists will arrive to execute the in situ works (wall painting and the painting of the car shell). These preparations will also be filmed, There will also be preparation for the performance by Geczy and Hill.
Why do you want to do it?
This is an important and unusual collaborative venture between to well-known Australian artists known for the outspoken beliefs and their political courage. Brenda Croft for example is known for her own highly politicized work.
Fiona Foley recently spoke out (Art Monthly Australia Nov. 2011) against what she saw as Indigenous artist Brook Andrew’s irresponsible handling of the theme of Aboriginal remains.
When and where do you intend to do it?
The exhibition will coincide with a citywide festival, ‘Peace (Treaty) Utrecht’ (Holland) to commemorate the tri-centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713). These were in fact a series of treaties between major powers in Europe, quelling French expansionism and restoring the balance of power. Bomb has been specially selected for this event due to its political and combative nature. It is intended to complement the various other exhibitions and events across the city.
What artistic benefits will the project have?
This is a rare example of a dynamic artistic relationship between an indigenous and non-indigenous artist that has been ongoing since 2007. It has untold benefits first to their own practice since it enables them to present a large suite of their work in a museum context.
Further it will educate the public as to various voices and issues of dissent that persist with regard to Indigenous Australia, and views held by both blacks and whites. It will afford refreshing insights into the museum collection itself. The catalogue will also be an authoritative and insightful document by respected voices dealing with delicate but pressing issues.
The exhibition will also be an opportunity to dig into the writers’ experiences. Prof McLean is one of Australia’s non-Indigenous commentators, while Art Monthly editor Maurice O’Riordan has had first hand experience with Indigenous communities. The highly distinguished line-up of writers will also be a positive, substantial contribution to the field, both in the broader sense and for situating the works of the artists involved, imparting some highly sensitive ideas authoritatively to a non-Australian audience. The festival of which it is part will ensure a higher than normal visitation from Dutch people, tourists and visitors from neighbouring countries.
What are your strategies for reaching new audiences?
The AAMU has a commitment to all levels of audience involvement, from collectors and experts to student groups. Not only will there be explanatory documentation throughout the gallery, and tours by volunteers and the curator, but the catalogue will be an authoritative source that will have life and relevance well past the duration of the exhibition.
Who are the principal participants and what are their responsibilities?
Dr Adam Geczy and Adam Hill: artists
Dr Georges Petitjean: curator and writer
Dr Brenda Croft, Dr Fiona Foley, Prof. Ian Maclean and Maurice O’Riordan: writers