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
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.