Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
26 Nov 2004 to 30 Jan 2005
Destiny Deacon: Walk & don’t look blak was the first museum survey exhibition of the work of the Aboriginal Australian artist Destiny Deacon. Spanning 15 years, this exhibition demonstrated Deacon’s versatile and innovative practice including photographs, installations and videos produced using relatively straightforward, low-tech methods: what the artist herself calls ‘el cheapo’.
Deacon makes her work in her suburban Melbourne home, replicated in the opening installation My living room, Brunswick 3056 (1996/2004). Deacon creates uncanny, beautiful, frightening and funny vignettes of contemporary life from her domestic surrounds, utilising predominantly Aboriginal friends and family as collaborators and subjects, as well as her large collection of ‘Aboriginalia’ and black ‘dollies’. Dolls are given personality and life within a melodramatic arrangement of props and Deacon’s trademark ‘blak’ humour. The original function of such objects is overturned by the artist, who questions historical representations of Aboriginal people through the kitsch artefacts of popular culture; their playful appearance is often shadowed by more sinister forces of racism, incarceration and violence.
This exhibition drew out recurrent themes within Deacon’s prolific practice: landscape, portraiture, narrative and phantasmagoria. These themes intersected through repeated use of dolls and found objects, as well as Deacon’s revisiting of key images over time. The major photographic series Postcards from Mummy (1998) retraced Deacon’s journey to her mother’s country and Forced into images (2001) followed a child’s painful passage into adulthood. The artist’s poetic use of narrative explored memory, intimacy, cruelty and loss.
Destiny Deacon: Walk & don’t look blak also showcased Deacon’s long-standing work in video and television, often in collaboration with other artists, including Virginia Fraser and Michael Riley. Interspersing video amongst the photographs and installations, this exhibition revealed the relationship between still and moving image within Deacon’s practice, as well as to found objects. A new body of work united all three aspects through a camouflage motif comprising the photographic series D-coy (2004), the video work Crawl (2004) and the installation Camouflage cage (2004). Exploring ideas of concealment and the kitsch appropriation of military designs, this work was a humorous and timely reminder that seemingly harmless objects carry destructive potential.
This exhibition was made possible through the generous support of MCA Ambassadors.
Adam Art Gallery, University of Wellington, New Zealand: 25 February – 9 May 2005
Centre Culturel Tjibaou, Noumea, New Caledonia: 1 June – 28 August 2005