Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2008
single-channel digital video, colour, sound, 2min 47s
2 min 47s
The work of Richard Bell tackles the position of Aboriginal art and artists within the contemporary art world, directly criticising its appropriation by non-Aboriginal artists and its domination by white curators, critics, academics, dealers and collectors. Combining political bite and caustic humour, Bell’s works argue for greater Aboriginal control over Aboriginal art, and by extension, Aboriginal culture within Australian society.
The use of language and text is a regular strategy for artists addressing political ideas in their work, and one that Bell embraces. Bell’s four-panel work Worth Exploring? challenges the position of Aboriginal art and artists inside the art system, linking it to the historical legal status of European colonisation. With his trademark directness and humour, Bell uses a combination of painting and legal documents to raise complex questions of artistic authenticity, appropriation and reception, as part of a broad debate on Australian race relations.
Uz vs Them stages a highly stylised physical and verbal sparring match between two men—one of whom is portrayed by the artist. The men’s dialogue is based on their opposing intellectual positions and political declarations.
This artwork examines and challenges existing socio-political power structures. Depicting a cool, calm, collected Black man against an angry white villain, it presents no apparent winner.
Richard Bell, 2007