Q&A with Brook Andrew - Art Collector

Brook Andrew, In the mind of others, 2015. Victorian redgum, carbonised redgum, glass, brass, brass breastplate. Collection of the artist, Melbourne. Photo: Christian Capurro. Courtesy: the artist and The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Brook Andrew examines dominant Western narratives, specifically relating to colonialism, placing Australia at the centre of a global inquisition. He talks to Art Collector about his current exhibition Sanctuary: Tombs of the outcasts at The Ian Potter Museum of Art in Melbourne.

The exhibition explores hidden histories of the ANZAC legend, calling in to question how we both personally and collectively remember, as well as how we forget. What hidden histories are you seeking to reveal?
When I was first asked to create an exhibition specifically on Aboriginal service men and women, I thought there was a much broader subject on the 100th year anniversary of the 1st World War. Many other contested and often forgotten or misconstrued wars are not included as part of the Australian war memory, this includes the frontier wars. Revealing not only frontier wars but connecting Australian local histories on these themes with international relationships like asylum seekers is a much-needed inclusion. Hence you will find archives and objects that relate Australians from colonial times to the present with dealings in the slave trades of Africa to the pamphlets of new Australians fleeing wars of Europe to find sanctuary in Australia.

How do you think conflict has shaped Australian identity?
Australia has much guilt and avoidance around important issues of its national identity and ideas of ownership of land. Regardless if we confess this or not, there is still contested histories and indeed complex values around who owns the land and how it should be treated, sold, used and dispersed, which includes the mining industry. Conflict is how Australia as a nation was taken and this in itself is evidence to the fact that there is no memorial to colonisation or the frontier wars, let alone the ongoing conflict when i.e. Chinese or other immigrants came to Australia since not only the first fleet but right up till the current days where asylum seekers are treated like enemies.

Why is it important to challenge popular assumptions about the ANZAC legend?
I think it is more about presenting complimentary and parallel stories. I do not contest the ANZAC legend, though like many Australians, we understand there is more than one narrative and event, which has formed our complex but also extraordinary country.

You’ve referred to the movement of this work from the floor to the wall as appearing like repeated resurrections. The large-scale work currently installed at GAG PROJECTS too, seems almost angelic in form. Was this a conscious exploration of the spiritual and if so, what inspired it?
As the painting builds in reverse on the plastic, which is essentially a surrogate surface, the image sinks under the weight of its own layers and disappears into the black. It is not until the image is resurrected, lifted from floor to wall, that we can experience its transformation. It is in a way, seeing consciousness unfold, expand and come into being in a unpredictable way, if its something spiritual that’s being explored its the urge to follow an unknown path into transcendence.

Each day of the exhibition, you are providing an image selected from a current day conflict zone – a reminder of the misnomer originally applied to World War One, “The war to end all wars”. Can you tell us a bit about this aspect of the work?
There are postcards that are from c1914 up to the present day. Each image represents a protest, formation or portrait of a war zone or action. These can also be images of children playing with guns in Iran. This action is to allow for a diversity of conflict actions that represent not only an organised military mission, but also those that are often locally demonstrated. Some are from peace rallies from Western Papua; others are confronting or show celebrities in conflict zones.

Camilla Wagstaff

Sanctuary: Tombs of the outcasts exhibits at The Ian Potter Museum of Art until 9 August 2015.

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