Brook Andrew’s APT8 installation, ‘Intervening Time’, is a comment on the historical and contemporary narratives that shape our understanding of the Australian landscape, people and culture — it is also a prime example of the dynamic relationship between artists and museums.
Over the past several decades, the relationship between the museum and the peoples and cultures it represents has been researched and critiqued locally and internationally, especially by artists, curators, theorists and communities, from inside and outside the museum profession. Through processes of institutional critique and postcolonial reassertion of indigenous identities, traditions and continually evolving cultures, the museum is being fundamentally altered, and artists’ historical research and projects are central to this inclusive, multi-perspective museology.
In a productive melding of creation and curation, artists working locally1 and internationally since the 1970s have been intervening in museum collections in order to rethink the processes of exhibition-making, to question existing narratives and historical positions, and to unsettle or subvert conventional displays by revealing some of the less predictable intersections between works of art and the visual and material culture of different places.
Brook Andrew’s project for APT8, ‘Intervening Time’, realised in collaboration with QAGOMA curatorial staff, represents the intervention of art practice into the conventions of museum display through physical transformation. It proposes a layered, complex consideration of the encounters between indigenous and other cultures.
Several of Andrew’s recent major installations and graphic works are inspired by patterns found on dendroglyphs (carved trees) and shields specific to his mother’s Wiradjuri nation (in New South Wales). He has applied his contemporary hypnotic pattern in black over the existing wall colours of the Australian collection galleries, and suspended his six-part 2012 installation, TIME, in between the works that currently hang there. One image makes a direct Australian reference: a detail from an earlytwentieth- century group photograph of an Aboriginal man with a Union Jack — the mark of empire — painted on his chest. Others include a British Raj Indian postal worker; people among the rubble of a collapsed European building during World War One; an image of a clock counting backwards to a zero hour (a reference to British atomic bomb tests in the Monte Bello Islands and Maralinga in 1952–63); and the façade of the Australian Museum in Sydney. Each work is speculatively connected to the other through signs of time and historical situations. Their enlargement to monumental dimensions also radically alters their original status as archival documents, while a surface treatment emphasises the historical patina of the original source imagery, creating a tone of remembrance. Andrew has juxtaposed these disparate pictures with works by Rupert Bunny, E Phillips Fox and Vida Lahey, among many others, to construct an open-ended narrative that provokes questions about the fragile and volatile political, social and environmental systems of our contemporary world. The existing historical display in the galleries was changed only slightly, through the inclusion of international works of historical Nepalese and Indian art, in addition to images by Goya, Warhol and Hirschfeld Mack representing states of conflict.
Installations such as ‘Intervening Time’ are intended to destabilise, not only to rethink the authority of the museum and the exclusivity of its systems but also the authority of history and the systems of the modern world. By working with museum colleagues, artists declare museums open entities and critically revise the potential meaning of their objects.
1 Among them, Domenico
Watch a fascinating time-lapse of the installation of ‘Intervening Time’
Brook Andrew ‘Intervening Time’ extended to Sunday 22 May 2016
Exhibition Founding Sponsor: Queensland Government
Exhibition Principal Sponsor: Audi Australia
Principal Partner: Australia Council for the Arts