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Real Fictions

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


01 Sep 1996 to 01 Dec 1996


Stan Douglas, Robert Houle, Ken Lum, Liz Magor


Linda Michael

about the exhibition

Real Fictions featured work by four artists from Canada that examined contemporary experiences of identity. In different ways, they explored the shifting relationships between personal and public identity, subjective and mass-mediated experience.

Works by Stan Douglas, Robert Houle, Ken Lum and Liz Magor did not so much depict the world, as articulate the complex social and historical forces that shaped contemporary life. While their works were fictional constructions, they were always documenting something real. This oscillation between fact and fiction characterised a contemporary version of realism, a socially engaged art which explored the contradictions of lived experience.

Using techniques of staging, doubling and juxtaposition, identity was presented as a changing set of roles, projections and masks, and the uncertain relationship between fiction and reality in a media-saturated society was explored. Many of the works used photography to highlight this seeming paradox.

The exhibition did not present a singularly ‘Canadian’ perspective, but the parallels between Australian and Canadian society were evident in issues such as the relationship between indigenous and colonising cultures, the relatively recent colonisation and independence of each country, and the colouring of local experience by a dominant mass-media – a particularly relevant issue in a diverse, multi-cultural Australia with a strong indigenous culture, where media was still dominated by white European authors, actors and personalities.

Featuring Works from the MCA Collection

Robert Houle
  • Parfleches for Sydney