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We Call Them Pirates Out Here: Selected works from the MCA Collection

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


17 Feb 2010 to 21 Nov 2010


Daniel Boyd, Stephen Bush, Mitch Cairns, Aleks Danko, Juan Davila, Eugenio Dittborn, Newell Harry, Mathew Hopkins, Miles Howard-Wilks, Tim Johnson, Maria Kozic, Richard Lewer, Colin McCahon, The Museum of Jurassic Technology, Arnulf Rainer, Gareth Sansom, Vivienne Shark LeWitt, Cindy Sherman, Rosemarie Trockel, Utopia Community Artists, Jenny Watson

Guest Curator: David Elliot

MCA Curatorial Liaison: Glenn Barkley

about the exhibition

Shown concurrently with the 17th Biennale of Sydney thhis exhibition was selected from the MCA Collection by Artistic Director of the Biennale David Elliot.

We Call Them Pirates Out Here took its title from a painting by Australian Aboriginal artist Daniel Boyd, one of the most iconic works in the MCA Collection. The style of Boyd’s painting is mock-historical, the pictorial language of the occupier. It appears to commemorate a great event, yet the Union Jack has a skull and crossbones on it and the Captain is wearing a black patch over one eye. The artist implies that the perception of colonisation changes according to the perspective of the viewer. An ‘uneducated native’ to the settlers was a respected leader or Elder to those who already lived there. We Call Them Pirates Out Here engaged with such multiple perspectives.

Except for those who are Indigenous, as is the case with all colonial cultures, everyone living in Australia originates from somewhere else. This means that memories and traditions of mother cultures are overlaid with the experiences of surviving in a new land, something that was expressed in the selected works.

The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age was David Elliott’s title for the 17th Biennale of Sydney. This presentation from the MCA Collection introduced key themes that ran through the Biennale with a focus on the ability of artists to see themselves and others in a critical, ironical or absurd light. The idea of aesthetic distance, working within the space between art and life, was another strand explored in the exhibition. According to Elliott, the skill of the artist is in creating different forms of beauty, quite different from reality, which can be captivating, funny, horrifying, or all of these at the same time.

Lastly, within the newly recast, non-hierarchical world of this exhibition there was an acknowledgment of the capacity for wonder, a form of enlightenment rather than knowledge, based on the realisation that reason is no more than an illusion when faced with the immense, uncontrollable beauty of life.

Exhibition Guide - We Call Them Pirates Out Here


Featuring Works from the MCA Collection

  • Sedge grass collecting bag
  • Sedge grass hunting bag
Beryl Birnama
  • Sedge grass collecting bag
Mitchell David Cairns
  • We are strong, so strong
Tracey Cooper
  • (pandanus palm ochred dilly bag)
Aleks Danko
  • Heavy Aesthetic Quality: Mantelpiece Edition
  • Poster for 'HA'
Eugenio Dittborn
  • (Untitled envelope)
  • V History of the human face (The London Camino) ((The London way))
Lena Djamarrayku
  • Sedge grass collecting bag
  • Sedge grass hunting bag
Elizabeth Gamalanga
  • Sedge grass collecting bag
Nellie Gayalun
  • Sedge grass collecting bag
Newell Harry
Matthew Hopkins
  • 10 Corporate Portraits of IT
Miles Howard-Wilks
  • Chocolate Land DVD
Mary Jin-guwaraba
  • Sedge grass hunting bag
Tim Johnson
  • Little Big Horn
  • Making love underwater
Katie Kemarre
  • Untitled
  • Untitled
  • Untitled
Lucky Kngwarreye
  • Untitled
  • Untitled
Audrey Kngwarreye
  • Untitled
Hazel Kngwarreye
  • Untitled
  • Untitled
  • Untitled
Janice Kngwarreye
  • Untitled
  • Untitled
Lilly Kngwarreye
  • Untitled
  • Untitled
  • Untitled
Maria Kozic
  • Manster (the picture of Dorian Grey)
  • Manster (Wolf man)
Margaret Lanbupu
  • Pandanus palm collecting bag
  • (pandanus palm ochred dilly bag)
  • (pandanus palm ochred dilly bag)
Richard Lewer
  • In between
Shirley Minyingarla
  • (pandanus palm dilly bag)
  • Sedge grass collecting bag
Elizabeth Mipilanggurr
  • Worra (pandanus palm honey collecting bag)
Ruby Mordabiya
  • (pandanus palm dilly bag)
Wally Pwerle
  • Untitled
  • Untitled
Gareth Sansom
  • Looking for God in abstract art
Vivienne Shark LeWitt
  • Shall I bark for you master? Or shall I bite? ha, ha, ha, ha
Geoffrey Sonnabend
  • Obliscence: Theories of forgetting and the problem of matter
  • The Delani/Sonnabend Halls: Geoffrey Sonnabend A Biographical Narrative
The Museum of Jurassic Technology
  • A flayne Mouse...
  • Bernard Maston, Donald R Griffith and the Deprong Mori of the Tripiscum Plateau
  • Dispirited After a Dreary Day...
  • Eugene Dubois and the Pithecanthropus Affair - Carved Fruit Stone - Horn of Mary Davis of Saughall
  • Obliscence: Theories of forgetting and the problem of matter
  • Phantogram set
  • Tell the Bees... Belief, Knowledge & Hypersymbolic Cognition
  • The Delani/Sonnabend Halls: Geoffrey Sonnabend A Biographical Narrative
  • The Delani/Sonnabend Halls: Madelena Delani A Biographical Narrative
  • The Stink Ant - Purification by Sublimation - Voice of the American Grey Fox
  • The Thums Gardeners & Botanists
Rosemarie Trockel
  • Rose van Kasanlâk from the portfolio The readymade boomerang
  • Untitled
Utopia community artists
  • (Painted car door)
Jenny Watson
  • House painting: Blackburn
Dixie Wurrpamirra
  • Sedge grass collecting bag
  • Sedge grass hunting bag