I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...
The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...
The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...
Brook Andrew's newest exhibition is a blockbuster comprising 52 portraits, all mixed media and all measuring 70 x 55 x 5 cm. The portraits are of unknown people from Africa, Argentina, Ivory Coast, Syria, Sudan, Japan, Australia ... They are based on 19th century postcards which Brook Andrew has collected over many years. These postcards were originally made for an international market interested in travel.
'Colonial photographers made a trade in photographic images, which were on sold as postcards and souvenirs,’ writes Professor Ian Anderson in Re-assembling the trophies and curios of Colonialism & the Silent Terror. According to Brook Andrew, 'names were not recorded when Indigenous peoples were photographed for ethnographic and curio purposes. The history and identity of these people remain absent. In rare instances, some families might know an ancestor from a postcard.'
The exhibition takes it title from a book of drawings by Anatomist Richard Berry: TRANSACTIONS of the ROYAL SOCIETY OF VICTORIA. Published in 1909, Volume V of this rare book contains FIFTY-TWO TASMANIA CRANIA - tracings of 52 Tasmanian Aboriginal skulls that were at the time mainly in private collections.
‘These skulls,’ says Brook Andrew, ‘represented a pan-international practice of collecting Aboriginal skulls as trophies, a practice dependent on theories of Aboriginal people being part of the most primitive race of the world, hence a dying species. This theory activated many collections and grave robbing simultaneously.’
In 52 Portraits Brook Andrew delves into hidden histories such as the 'dark art of body-snatching' and continues his fascination with the meaning of appearances.
'He zooms in on the head and torso of young men and women,' says Nikos Papastergiadis. 'Brook Andrew's exhibition, takes us to another intersection where politics and aesthetics run in and over each other.'
The centre piece of the exhibition is a kind of Wunderkammer containing all manner of 'curiosities' including a skull, drawings of skulls, a partial skeleton, photographs, diaries, glass slides, a stone axe and Wiradjuri shield. Titled Vox: Beyond Tasmania, the Wunderkammer/Gramophone plays out stories of Indigenous peoples.
In the interplay between the 52 Portraits and Vox: Beyond Tasmania, Brook Andrew aims to stir and open our hearts with his powerful 21st century ‘memorial’.
Brook Andrew is of Wiradjuri and Scottish descent. In 2005 he curated blakatak , a series of talks and performances for the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Building on this, at the MCA's invitation, in 2012 he curated the major exhibition TABOO. Following its showing at the 2010 Biennale of Sydney, Brook Andrew's Jumping Castle War Memorial travelled to Europe where it is currently on display at Vienna Kunstlerhaus, stimulating much discussion in an exhibition devoted to graphic concepts in contemporary art today. Brook Andrew is a Sidney Myer Creative Fellow 2012 - 2013.
To coincide with Brook Andrew - 52 Portraits an online catalogue will be published with texts by Professor Ian Anderson: Re-Assembling the trophies and curios of Colonialism & the Silent Terror and Nikos Papastergiadis: Brook Andrew: Counterpoints and Harmonics.
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