About the Artwork

Gordon Bennett’s work Untitled (dismay, displace, disperse, dispirit, display, dismiss) (1989) uses word and image to explore notions of language as a tool with which the colonisers of Australia subjugated the country’s original inhabitants. When this work is installed at the MCA, near the site of the landing of the First Fleet, the work has an added significance. It confronts colonial stereotypes of representation through language and deals with the way in which language is used to categorise and interpret Indigenous people from a Western perspective.

English words with a ‘dis-’ prefix mean to reverse, undo, or to subject to the reversal or undoing of, the meaning of the word to which it is prefixed. It can thus refer to negation, opposition, separation, or deprivation. A conceptual relationship is therefore established between the method and the intention. The play of the prefix 'dis’ could be seen as a kind of poetry and can be related to its contemporary use such as in disrespecting someone.

1) Nicholas Zurbrugg, Visual Poetics: Concrete Poetry and its Contexts, Museum of Contemporary Art, Brisbane, 1989

References

Glenn Barkley (curator), Avoiding Myth and Message: Australian Artists and the Literary World, (exhibition texts), Museum of Contemporary Art, 2009; Keith Munro (curator), Bangu Yilbara, works from the MCA Collection, (exhibition texts), Museum of Contemporary Art, 2006

I wish to reinstate a sense of Aboriginal people within the Cuturally dominant system of representation as human beings, rather than a visual representation that signifies the ‘primitive’, the ‘noble savage’, or some other European construct associated with black skin.

Gordon Bennett, quoted in ‘Aesthetics and Iconography: An Artist’s approach’, in Aratjara: Art of the first Australians, Cologne, 1993, p 87

Gordon Bennett

– About the artist

b.1955

Gordon Bennett has established himself as an artist equipped both intellectually and aesthetically to address issues relating to the role of language and systems of thought in forging identity.

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Related Exhibitions

Volume One: MCA Collection

– Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) 2012

avoiding myth & message: Australian artists and the literary world

– Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) 2009

Bangu Yilbara: Works from the MCA Collection

– Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) 2006

Conceptualist Art: Points of Origin 1950s-1980s

– Queens Museum of Art 1999
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Tyerabarrbowaryaou II: I shall never become a white man

– Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) 1994

Tyerabarrbowaryaou II

– Havana Biennial 1994

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