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Brook Andrew—rethinking Antipodes

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Read full article by Chloe Jones at:
http://www.artandaustralia.com/online/discursions/brook-andrew—rethinking-antipodes

Brook Andrew—rethinking Antipodes

Geelong Gallery, Geelong 14 April—September 2 2018
As we are reminded by Gordon Bennett in his seminal essay The Manifest Toe (1996) ‘images, as iconographical sites of reference, can have different meanings in different contexts.’ [1] While stated to describe his personal methodology of appropriation (or ‘quotation’) of images from within Euro-Australian art history, it additionally serves to emphasise the importance of maintaining a sense of criticality about the historical ‘truths’ and ‘common sense’ we have inherited. [2] Within the Australian context, our historical narratives and systems of representation have been largely constructed from a Eurocentric perspective, and are the result of a colonial history fraught with the mutually constitutive distinctions of coloniser and colonised, self and other, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. The collective archive of images and cultural material that has emerged from this historical perspective is a powerful tool that is utilised to sustain European legacies of colonialism and modernist histories. [3]

Noted for his iconic manipulation of archival material, Brook Andrew’s inquisitive, interdisciplinary practice primarily foregrounds a process of critical enquiry and disruption into the historical, systematic representations of Indigenous peoples. By re-contextualising images, or fragments of images, he makes visible the ways in which colonial histories are constructed, interpreting history from a contemporary Indigenous perspective.

Rethinking Antipodes is an exhibition, or re-presentation, of Andrew’s subversive Nation’s Party series (2016) in its entirety. [4] Produced as part of the Australian Print Workshop’s ANTIPODES project, Nation’s Party is the outcome of an intensive study into the Archaeological and Anthropological collections of the Cambridge Museums and the print collections of the British Museum. Andrew collages found imagery, text and reproductions of eighteenth-century British satirical prints from the archive, layering the original materials narratives and symbolic references. The appropriated imagery not only reflects on Australia’s colonial history, but, by extension, the cultural collecting practices of the British Empire and the ‘scientific’ classification systems assigned to the Indigenous materials collected by museums.

While Rethinking Antipodes is predominantly an exhibition of the recently acquired Nation’s Party series, it is also centred on the print medium itself, and its continued social and political currency and bite. Building upon the initial solo and group exhibitions of Andrew’s series, the works are presented alongside a selection of eighteenth-century British satirical prints by James Gillray, ‘The Father of the Political Cartoon’, and his contemporaries. Housed in a central display case, one can see their direct influence on the witty humour paralleled in Andrew’s series. The juxtaposition of the printed material with the surrounding contemporary works demonstrates a collective challenge to notions of authorship and power. The tension between the history, meaning and ownership of the colonial archive is made visible through the appropriation and re-contextualisation of disparate cultural materials, which sees a shift in authority between producer and subject. Through the assemblage of ‘readymade’ archival images, not produced by the artist’s hand, the colonial lens becomes the subject of scrutiny.

Featured within the series, Lately? (2016) is a playful re-working of Gillray’s etching Le Diable Boiteux or The Devil upon two sticks, conveying John Bull to the land of promise (1806). Emblematic of the selection of Gillray’s works appropriated by Andrew, it is loaded with references to British Imperialism, the political climate of the late eighteenth-century and the rivalry between Britain and France. [5] A collage of imagery and text over a hand-coloured reproduction of Le Diable Boiteux, other key elements include the figure of an Indigenous ‘warrior’, with the caption ‘…kampf gehend’, or ‘… going fighting’, and a series of busts of Indigenous peoples, which are repeated to form two vertical bordering columns. Appearing in a number of Andrew’s works, the portraits of Indigenous peoples are illustrations sourced from the German publication, Natives of Australia, c. 1815. The illustrations were based on drawings by Nicolas-Martin Petit for the 1801-1804 French ‘Voyage of Discovery’ to the Southern Lands, intended to discover, document and collect the natural sciences of the Southern continent. Through their inclusion, Andrew draws attention to the power of the image and its role in the construction of ‘Aboriginality’. The repetition of the portraits establishes a homogenous identity, or sameness, and draws attention to a specific Indigenous aesthetic projected by the colonial archive. The scientific classification of the pictured peoples erodes any sense of human individuality and evokes the perception of static pre-colonial culture. As subjects of the documentation of imperial exploration, their tokenistic ‘Aboriginality’ is thus identified as a problematic European projection formed in relation to its own historical representations or experiences. [6]

Andrew’s intelligent use of collage simultaneously masks and draws attention to individual signifiers within the reproduced prints. Nowhere is this more evident than in The Rallying (2016) and The Rallying the Rallying (2016). Both are photo-lithographs with collaged elements and feature an opaque overlay with rectangular cut-outs providing only glimpses of the print beneath. The intrusion of the overlay references the selective documentation of historical narratives, which emphasised and recorded particular events or representations, while masking others. Through the re-contextualisation of selected imagery—symbolic of the archive as a whole—Andrew performs a ‘historical audit’, [7] showing the constructed nature of history and identification as arbitrary, rather than fixed or natural.

Located in the central H. F. Richardson gallery, the tighter space is complementary to the scale of the works, and makes for a more intimate viewing experience. The Victorian architectural features of the exhibition space provide an additional layer to the collective presentation of Andrew’s series and the eighteenth century prints, as they are a product of the direct British colonial influence still ingrained into the social and cultural fabric of the contemporary Australian context. From within the space one can look out over the other galleries, which chart the ‘development’ of Australian arts from the mid nineteenth century to the present. Most ironic is the vista through to works of ‘national significance’ by Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin, celebrating the national legend of the pioneer and early white Australian settler.

Rethinking Antipodes presents a series of nuance and rich complexity. Through a re-examination of the colonial lens and the hegemonic logic that documented and fabricated the classification of ‘Aboriginality’, Brook Andrew reclaims and turns the static ethnographic archive on its head. Despite the serious subject matter and address of violent histories and narratives, Andrew’s series is darkly humorous. Its potency lies in the juxtaposition and distortion of the archives own material, drawing attention to the power that the creator of an image has over its subject, and how institutional museology significantly influences the presentation and interpretation of cultural materials. The re-presentation of Nation’s Party at the Geelong Gallery enhances the gallery’s contemporary relevance, introducing it as a player in significant discourse and debate about our current postcolonial social, cultural and political structures.

Continues at http://www.artandaustralia.com/online/discursions/brook-andrew—rethinking-antipodes

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July 19, 2018 at 5:27 PM

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Brook Andrew at the 2018 Sydney Biennale

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2018 Sydney Biennale
16 March to 11 June 2018
Sydney, Australia

The 2018 edition of the Sydney Biennale is on view from 16 March to 11 June 2018 across various venues around Sydney, Australia, including Cockatoo Island, Artspace, Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW), Museum of Contempory Art (MCA), Carriageworks, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and Sydney Opera House.

From artradarjournal.com:

Brook Andrew: a new archive

Brook Andrew‘s (b. 1970, Sydney, Australia) installation What’s Left Behind (2018) greets visitors on the upper level of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Biennale exhibition. Five sculptural vitrines are made from timber, glass, brass and lightboxes, each representing a component of Wuxing – earth, air, water, fire and metal. All are tottering on tapered legs of charred timber. One appears to be upside down, another has a hot air balloon attached, yet another a world globe.

Traditionally the vitrine is a vessel used in a museum setting to encapsulate and demonstrate mainstream historical narrative, however these striking objects literally overturn that. Brook Andrew began working with museum archives early in his career through researching his mother’s Wiradjuri heritage. His practice has engaged with Australia’s history wars, the ongoing debate about events connected with Britain’s colonisation of Australia and whether the process could be termed ‘invasion’ marked by acts of massacre of Indigenous people, or whether it was a more humane process. What’s Left Behind approaches the subject on a global basis.

Andrew invited four other artists – Rushdi Anwar (Kurdistan/Australia), Shiraz Bayjoo (Mauritius, England/Indian Ocean region), Mayun Kiki (Japan) and Vered Snear (Israel USA) – to select objects for display. They were asked to research the extensive collection of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, and consider memory embedded in the objects and alternative narratives they could convey. The objects selected are placed alongside artworks and the story they tell releases the objects from their ideology and presents new contexts.

Belinda Piggott

Read more on website at: http://artradarjournal.com/2018/06/05/13-artist-highlights-from-the-21st-biennale-of-sydney/?from=feedblitz_403966_6123627

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June 13, 2018 at 9:38 AM

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Tracks and Traces: Contemporary Australian Art at the Negev Museum of Art

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The Negev Museum of Art, Be’er Sheva, Israel, together with Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF), Sydney cordially invite you to the opening of the exhibition Tracks and Traces: Contemporary Australian Art Curated by Emily Rolfe and Dalia Manor.

Monday 30 October 2017, 5 pm at The Negev Museum of Art.

Opening Address:
Mr Ruvik Danilovich, Mayor of Be’er Sheva
Dr Dalia Manor, Director and Chief Curator
Dr Gene Sherman, Director of SCAF

A tour of the exhibition guided by the curators will begin at 6 PM.

Artists: Vernon Ah Kee, Brook Andrew, Shaun Gladwell, Rosemary Laing, Danie Mellor, Shirley Purdie, Joan Ross, Hiromi Tango, Christian Thompson.

52 Portraits, 2013-17
Mixed media on Belgian linen
70 x 55 x 5 cm each
Gene & Brian Sherman Collection, Sydney

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Tracks and Traces
60 Ha’atzmaut Street, Be’er Sheva
Tel. 972-8-6993535
Mon, Tue, Thu: 10:00-16:00, Wed: 12:00-19:00 Fri, Sat: 10:00-14:00
http://www.ine-museum.org.il

 

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October 17, 2017 at 1:18 PM

Ahy-kon-uh-klas-tic, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2017

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Brook Andrew: AHY-KON-UH-KLAS-TIK
Until 31st December 2017
Part of research programme Deviant Practice
Curator: Nick Aikens
Van Abbemuseum, Bilderdijklaan 10
5611 NH Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Set within an immersive wall painting the installation, Ahy-kon-uh-klas-tik combines a trans-historical selection of works from the Van Abbemuseum’s collection, sculpture and assemblages by the artist, rarely seen documents and publications from the museum’s library as well as the artist’s own extensive archives that focus on popular and official documents relating to colonial and stereotyped agendas of the global south.

The title of the exhibition, the phonetic spelling of Iconocalsm, alludes to the manner in which Andrews project takes apart and upends methods of categorising, presenting and mythologizing cultural histories. It also challenges the use of the Greek classical term in the light of Western philosophical dominance; reflecting on the extreme linguicide of Aboriginal languages since the British invasion of Australia in 1788.

Brook Andrew’s multi-facted research practice centres on fundamental questions: What connects artefacts and pieces of information in an archive? How are art and cultural histories constructed and on whose terms? In the Van Abbemuseum, like many western modern art museums, this commonality was a worldview that marginalized and distorted stories and perspectives from outside its own, safeguarded perimeters. It has produced images, histories and personae that have long been accepted as uncontestable truths. Andrew’s work is driven by the need to challenge thes ‘truths’. In this sense he is suggesting a form of iconoclasm against the myths of art history and our inability to challenge dominant views.

Drawing on his mixed history of Australian Celtic and Wiradjuri (Aboriginal Australian), acknowledging the complexity of the erasure of Aboriginal histories due to the practices of settler colonization, Andrew’s approach demands that we orient our relationship to historical narratives and the images within them. To this end, for Ahy-kon-uh-klas-tik he has selected a number of key modernist works form the collection, including Pablo Picasso’s Buste de Femme (1946). Andrew has a particular relationship with the mythology of Picasso and his engagement with cultures from the colonies, which here he aims to undo by placing it on its side as Wilfredo Lam’s Le Marchand D’Oiseaux (1962) looks on in curious voyeurism.

These paintings, as with works by El Lissitzky, Anna Boghiguian, Yael Bartana, Gabriel Orozco, Nilbar Gures, Keith Piper, Mike Kelley or Gilbert and George will be hung in constellations over an expansive wall painting and large inflatable sculpture. The painting and sculpture use a recurring motif for Andrew that is inspired by ancient Wiradjuri carving practices found on trees (dendroglyphs) and shields. It serves both to disrupt the walls and space of the museum’s white cube as well as playfully and surreptitiously disorienting the visitor, optically and physically.

Ahy-kon-uh-klas-tic was produced as part of the research programme, Deviant Practice. More details in e-flux here.

Brook Andrew presented as part of the Deviant Practice Research Symposium on September 21st.

Exhibition supported by: Michael Schwarz and David Clouston. 

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September 26, 2017 at 10:12 AM

A Working Model of the World at Parsons School of Design / The New School, New York

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NY invitation

A Working Model of the World opens on Thursday 28 September 6-8pm (with curator’s walk-through from 5.30pmat the Sheila C Johnson Design Centre, Parsons School of Design / The New School, 66 Fifth Ave at 13th St, New York. 
Exhibition continues to 13 December 2017

A Working Model of the World explores the practical, philosophical and symbolic work that models do for us, and asks how we use models to contemplate, experiment, invent and teach. It explores the losses and gains that flow from the way models isolate one part of the complexity of the world. The artists in the exhibition interrogate the role of models in human experience, including work by Brook Andrew, Corinne May Botz, Ian Burns, Maria Fernanda Cardoso, Kate Dunn, David Eastwood, Caraballo-farman, Emily Floyd, Andrea Fraser & Jeff Preiss, Glen Hayward, Jo Law, Palle Nielsen, Kenzee Patterson, Sascha Pohflepp & Chris Woebken, Karolina Sobecka and Jackie Sumell.  With loans from the CSIRO, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York. 
 

Developed and Presented in partnership with UNSW Galleries, Sydney, the Sheila C. Johnson Design Centre, Parsons/The New School, New York and The Curators’ Department, Sydney. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding, and advisory body.

 

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Image: Tombs of Thought: Water, 2017. Installation view: A Working Model of The World, UNSW Gallery, Sydney, 2017. Photo Credit: Silversalt Photography

 

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September 26, 2017 at 9:58 AM

THE PUBLIC BODY .02, Artspace, Sydney

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Please join us for the opening of THE PUBLIC BODY .02
Thursday 27th July, 6 – 8 pm
Artspace, Sydney

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1_Brook Andrew_2009_Even a failing mind feels the tug of historyEven a failing mind feels the tug of history, 2009
from the Danger of Authority series 2009
woodblock print on handmade Japanese paper
76.0 x 61.0 cm (block), 97.0 x 67.0 cm (sheet)
2_Brook Andrew_2011_FlowChart
Flow chart, 
2011
neon, offset-photo lithographs, sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum)
283.0 x 449.5 x 8.5 cm
Installation view, Brook Andrew: The Right to Offend is Sacred, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
Photo: Dianna Snape

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Artspace
43 – 51 Cowper Wharf Road
Woolloomooloo NSW, 2011
Gallery Hours: 11am – 5pm, Mon – Fri. And 11am – 6pm Sat & Sun

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July 17, 2017 at 1:21 PM

Ian McLean on ‘The Right to Offend is Sacred’

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Brook Andrew: The Right to Offend is Sacred

Ian McLean
Published in Artlink: 28 April 2017
Accessible online here.

The point is not that I am a collection of identities, but that I am already an assembly, even a general assembly, or an assemblage.[1]

Brook Andrew is a transdisciplinary rather than cross or inter-disciplinary artist. By this I mean his art is not a conversation between mediums or styles or disciplines, like some Socratic dialogue. Rather he moves between these things in ways that blur traditional disciplinary boundaries. Like Fred Astaire, Andrew seems to know all the moves but like a collective line of cabaret dancers, the various media and stylistic tactics combine into a coherent collaborative voice that is greater than any single one. This trans mode is on full display in the carnivalesque survey of his work at the NGV, The Right to Offend is Sacred. Its transaesthetic along with its transcuration is the most effective channeling of the contemporary trans zeitgeist you are likely to see for some time.

By trans I don’t mean its current derivation from transgender – though those looking for issues of gender will not be disappointed – but a more general trend apparent in nearly all fields in which the desire seems to be collapse traditional hierarchies and binary relations into what I have called elsewhere a trans Ideal – a perpetual openness without closure.

Brook Andrew, dhalaay yuulayn (passionate skin), 2004, enamel paint on anodised aluminium and wood, neon. Collection: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased with funds from the Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2005  © Brook Andrew, courtesy Tolarno Galleries,

Brook Andrew, dhalaay yuulayn (passionate skin), 2004, enamel paint on anodised aluminium and wood, neon. Collection: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased with funds from the Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2005  © Brook Andrew, courtesy Tolarno Galleries

If for some time Andrew has been a leading practitioner of the trans, in The Right to Offend is Sacred not everything melts into the airy realm of the trans Ideal. This is because its wild mixings are grounded in the legacy of colonial culture: the memories and traumas of colonialism hold the delirium of imagery in various orbits. Further, these memories read like dreamscapes, as if the exhibition is a projection of their mixing in Andrew’s unconscious. In this respect The Right to Offend is Sacred is a Dantesque journey through the centre of Andrew’s unconscious world except he doesn’t emerge at the antipodes to find paradise and rejoin his beloved Beatrice. Staying in the underworld, he inhabits what Gordon Bennett, whose legacy Andrew can here surely claim, called a “psychodrama”.

Like Bennett, Andrew has a sharp sense of design and movement, and with recontsructed recontextualised appropriations moves between existing text and imagery as if they are the same thing – which they are in the media world. But the results of Andrew and Bennett’s transaesthetic could not be more different. Bennett’s work has an existential weight – even its humor is black – whereas Andrew’s work has a lightness of being even in its darkest themes. In this respect, Andrew seems to draw as much if not more from the transaesthetic psychodramas of Tracy Moffatt and Destiny Deacon – and one might add Juan Davila and Rea. Echoes of their different practices resonate in The Right to Offend is Sacred, as if they comprise of a hidden personal archive of spirit dancers that Andrew choreographs.

More than almost any artist I can think of today, Andrew takes the transaesthetic to a new level of intensity. As with Bennett and these other artists, the transaesthetic is a cure for an original loss or expulsion. Rather than seek to regain paradise or innocence, Andrews embraces the freedom of the trans as a gift:

There’s a thing about being mixed blood. I think we are special in this full-on black against white hardline dispute. I just woke up one day and thought to engage in a world as I do as an artist; it is important to acknowledge that we come from mixed ancestries.[2]

While ostensibly a survey of his work, it is much more. The success of this exhibition rests less with the presence of individual works – which nevertheless is fabulous – and more in its curation. For someone who doesn’t know his work it would be easy to mistake the exhibition for an installation. Indeed, it would not be a mistake, as curation propels all his work – even that made 25 years ago – into the singular present moment and scene of the exhibition, as if it is some vast transfiguration machine that breathes its own life into things, including his previous work.

In The Right to Offend is Sacred Andrew’s transaesthetic becomes a curatorial imperative in the Enwezor manner.[3] Quoting Judith Butler (see the beginning of this essay) Anthony Gardner aptly called Andrew’s works “assemblages”. Many are in a quite literal sense in that they assemble all manner of documents and objects in vitrines and on walls. But Gardner means more than this. As if caught in some fractal geometry, these assemblages transmutate across the galleries like cells continuously dividing and multiplying into a larger assemblage.

Installation view of Brook Andrew: The Right to Offend is Sacred, Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, 2017

Installation view of Brook Andrew: The Right to Offend is Sacred, Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, 2017. Photo: Wayne Taylor

What grounds the reifying effects of this transfiguration is that this assembling never becomes an abstract movement in its own right. They are assemblages of archives, histories, ideologies, cultures, materials, designs, media, motifs, concepts, memories and forgettings. And, as Gardner points out, of viewers – sweeping them all up into some vast impossible translational exercise. Impossible because translation can never be true to the original but at the same time the original, which always abides in that foreign country called the past, can only speak to the present through translation.

This sense of an inevitable deferral or interruption is built into the structure of the assemblages. While they have an underlying sense of order, their potential hegemony is never quite complete or realised. “This isn’t always”, Gardner says, “a harmonious exercise”.[4] There is a failure, or more accurately refusal, to get to the essence. Something spills over, and there is invariably an excess, a clash, not to mention undertows and dangerous crosscurrents that pull us back to earth, in this case, to the archive and its reverberations of the past in the present.

Installation view of Brook Andrew: The Right to Offend is Sacred, Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, 2017

Installation view of Brook Andrew: The Right to Offend is Sacred, Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, 2017. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Andrew’s transits through the archives of colonialism are not aimed at setting things straight or establishing a new order, but at discovering a postcolonial ethic. The large number of archival portraits of people from across the world, all images of people now dead who lived in places and times that are foreign to us stare back from their place and time at us as if refusing to be buried – “as the dead surround the living, their stares can feel more like reproaches than attractions”. Their very number, lined up in rows across the centre of the central room demands says Gardner, quoting Butler, “a politics of alliance … an ethics of cohabitation”.[5]
But more, this very excess of colonial witnesses pulls us into an undertow of forgotten and repressed histories. This immersive transspace, which rides a thin line between spectacle and carnival, continuously pushes us against the cultural differences and historical traumas of colonial cultures, not in recrimination but like Walter Benjamin compelled by a duty to “wrest tradition away from the conformism that is about to overpower it.” To “have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past”, Benjamin wrote, requires you to be “convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins.”[6]

Installation view of Brook Andrew: The Right to Offend is Sacred, Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, 2017

Installation view of Brook Andrew: The Right to Offend is Sacred, Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, 2017. Photo: Wayne Taylor​

  1. ^ Judith Butler quoted in Brook Andrew: The Right to Offend is Sacred, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2017, p. 90. 
  2. ^ Quoted in Judith Ryan, ‘Aesthetics/Medium/Process’ in Brook Andrew: The Right to Offend is Sacred, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2017, p. 6. 
  3. ^ See Ian McLean’s review ‘Postwar: Art between the Pacific and the Atlantic 1945-65’, published 14 November 2016: https://www.artlink.com.au/articles/4547/postwar-art-between-the-pacific-and-the-atlantic-/.
  4. ^ Anthony Gardner,
  5. ^ Anthony Gardner,
  6. ^ Benjamin, Walter, ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ in Hannah Arendt (ed), Illuminations, Bungay, Suffolk: Fontana, 1982, p. 257. 

Ian McLean is Hugh Ramsay Chair of Australian Art History at the University of Melbourne and Senior Research Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Wollongong. He has published extensively on Australian art and particularly Indigenous art. His books include Indigenous Archives The making and Unmaking of Aboriginal Art (with Darren Jorgensen); Rattling Spears A History of Indigenous Australian Art; Double Desire: Transculturation and Indigenous art; How Aborigines Invented the Idea of Contemporary Art; White Aborigines Identity Politics in Australian Art; and The Art of Gordon Bennett (with a chapter by Gordon Bennett).

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May 9, 2017 at 10:13 AM