The Com­mute

Art Almanac - - Art In Australia - Soo-Min Shim

Western no­tions of jour­neys are usu­ally per­ceived as uni­di­rec­tional and lin­ear, mov­ing from one fixed point to an­other. These jour­neys have too-oft been pi­loted and ca­reened by colo­nialset­tler voices. ‘The Com­mute’ at the In­sti­tute of Modern Art brings the work of eight artists lo­cated around the Great Ocean, also known as the Pa­cific Rim, to re­veal that move­ment is in fact, multidirectional, transna­tional, and het­eroge­nous. Through their di­verse con­tem­po­rary Indige­nous ex­pe­ri­ences, the ex­hi­bi­tion led by vis­it­ing cu­ra­tors Freja Carmichael (Quan­damooka), Sarah Bis­carra Dil­ley (yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini North­ern Chu­mash, Chi­cana), Léuli Eshrāghi (Sā­moa, Irān­za­min, Guang­dong), Tarah Hogue (Métis, Dutch) and Lana Lopesi (Sā­moa), de­cen­tres colo­nial modes of per­cep­tion of ge­og­ra­phy, spa­tial­ity, and tem­po­ral­ity and re­con­fig­ures Western par­a­digms of muse­ol­ogy.

‘The Com­mute’ cel­e­brates the shared re­sis­tance, agency, in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity of the artists, seen in T’uy’tanat Cease Wyss’ Sa­cred Teach­ing se­ries (2018) which in­cludes an apothe­cary of salves and tinc­tures made from plant medicines gath­ered in Kā­naka Maoli, Coast Sal­ish and the Greater Bris­bane Abo­rig­i­nal ter­ri­to­ries, high­light­ing the con­nec­tions be­tween these dis­parate land­scapes. Wyss’ use of the ol­fac­tory in her eth­nob­otany dis­putes un­der­stand­ing of art as ma­te­rial, tan­gi­ble ob­ject. Carol McGre­gor’s pos­sum-skins of Skin Coun­try (2018) and Bracken Hanuse Cor­lett’s Qvu’tix (2018) (the W’uik’ala word for ‘dance blan­ket’) also draw upon liv­ing tra­di­tions and em­bod­ied skills. On the other side of Cor­lett’s Qvu’tix is an an­i­ma­tion which en­vis­ages the blan­ket when adorned, sig­nalling a cul­tural ‘ac­ti­va­tion.’

The con­fla­tion of past, present and fu­ture is ex­em­pli­fied in the em­bod­i­ments of Indige­nous fu­turisms and Afro­fu­turisms in the works by Ahi­la­palapa Rands and Han­nah Bronte re­spec­tively. In her an­i­ma­tion Lift Off (2018) Rands spec­u­lates on the fu­ture of Mauna Kea, Hawai’i. In the work, tele­scopes on the sum­mit of Mauna Kea lift off from the ground de­pict­ing worlds and fu­tures where Indige­nous peo­ples have sovereignty over their lands. Bronte also por­trays an al­ter­nate uni­verse that is un­touched by coloni­sa­tion. In­spired by the women around her, Bronte’s FUTCHA AN­CIENT (2018) de­picts First Na­tions women, com­ple­ment­ing Lisa Hilli’s in­stal­la­tion Sis­ter­hood Life­line (2018) which also cel­e­brates the com­mu­nity and mu­tual sup­port of bla(c)k women.

This in­ter­ven­tion dis­rupts the rar­i­fied ‘White Cube’ which com­pro­mises the phe­nomenol­ogy of the art ex­pe­ri­ence and the on­tol­ogy of Indige­nous art it­self. ‘White Cube’ gallery spa­ces are yet to be rad­i­cally and sus­tain­ably de­colonised. They re­main bas­tions of colo­nial

pres­ence with an art mar­ket that is in­fat­u­ated with sig­ni­fiers of iden­tity and dif­fer­ence, vis­cer­ally ex­em­pli­fied by Na­talie Ball and Chan­tal Fraser’s works.

In par­tic­u­lar, Fraser’s work, The Way (2018) in­ves­ti­gates the San Gor­gonio Pass Wind Farm on un­ceded Cahuilla land. For Fraser, the wind tur­bine is a sym­bol of the ex­ploita­tion of Indige­nous land. Fraser has in­stalled a work­ing hu­man-scale wind tur­bine that is cov­ered in rhine­stones that stands out of con­text in the gallery space, ref­er­enc­ing the to­kenism and spec­ta­cle that Indige­nous art is sub­ject to. The only way the tur­bine can be pow­ered is through wind-force from the au­di­ence, ref­er­enc­ing the one-sided trans­ac­tion of labour and ef­fort from Indige­nous prac­ti­tion­ers due to the ex­pec­ta­tion from the art world for Indige­nous artists and art­work­ers to im­part Indige­nous knowl­edge and in­sight.

I en­cour­age you to visit and en­gage with this thought­ful ex­hi­bi­tion. While I am not my­self Indige­nous, these artists are – and their work speaks for it­self.

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