Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's Brook Andrew Baby!

In September last year UQ Art Museum played host to Brook Andrew's Jumping Castle War Memorial. As the title denotes, it is in fact a children's jumping castle (no jumping was allowed) covered in the black and white Wiradjuri pattern, native to memorial trees of the Wiradjuri people, of which Andrew himself is descended from. This pattern, so commonly featured in Andrew's work has become a signifier for pop culture through its repeated use.  A few months prior the work featured as apart of the 17th Biennale of Sydney and was stationed on Cockatoo Island. This time jumping was permitted although only to those over 16 years of age. Andrew questions the idea of a memorial in this work, what was once a stationary object, an of object of respect becomes a play thing and something which the artist actually wants you to jump on. Knowing this is a memorial, do you jump? It is at this moment in which Andrew interrupts our interpretation of assoiating meaning to what we are seeing- he wants you to jump on this memorial, the question is, should you?

 Then in October, the Insitute of Modern Art played host to his work The Cell, another interactive work where participants were required to done black and white Wiradjuri patterned jump suits and enter the giant inflatable cell, once more covered in the Wiradjuri pattern, only this time red and white. Viewers were challenged to enter The Cell and if they could or felt they should, jump. If you chose to do so not only were you jumping on part of the Wiradjuri pattern and thus the culture, but in donning the patterned suit you wore the skin of another culture.

Andrew has often been quoted saying  he rejects being labelled as an Indigenous artist and  that he attempts to disrupt his viewers perception in labelling his work as being based in the Aboriginal culture.If Andrew's work is percieved in this way, we tend to look at his work like The Cell in an art historical context. Post Modernism saw the begining of the end of the 'dont touch phase.' When once touching the art was forbidden, now as in Andrews work touching or jumping is encouraged. In this view Andrew is literally breaking the boundaries between the art and viewer, so much so that the viewer in jumping enables the art.

  Although despite Andrew's rejection of the Indigenous label (it is perhaps these claims that make the viewer hone into the Aboriginal aspects of his work) we cannot ignore the meaning of the Wiradjuri patterns. Now at the currently showing 21st century: Art in the First Decade exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art is Andrew's work, Ancestral Worship, 2010. The work is comprised  of numerous Wiradjuri patterned black and white deck chairs, some of which are printed with images of people Andrew has found on post cards used for tourism and exotic display.  Andrew, once more breaks the boundaries between the work and the spectator. Julie Ewington has said the intention of the art work is to give you the chance to sit beside these honoured people of the past who Andrew sees as 'ancestors' or 'gods.' But are we sitting beside them or sitting on them? Is this a non Aboriginal view or do we inherently read into Andrew's work and interpret the work based on his ancestory?  And if you do, are you willing to sit down?

Brook Andrew has a firm grounding in the sensational, although despite initionally seeming superficial,  his work is art historically sound in challenging established methods for memorial, and in doing so, converts the viewer into participant.

bisou bisou,


All images are by Art Collective

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