Cover image of the review


4 Feb 2017
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) 17 Dec - 26 Mar 2017

Anyone familiar with contemporary art exhibitions, art fairs and international biennales might notice that Sovereignty just doesn’t quite feel like an exhibition of contemporary art. And it raises one question: Why is this?

It can’t only be explained by Sovereignty’s display of cultural products that aren’t “fine art”, because contemporary art curators regularly draw on a broad cultural archive, as seen in influential biennales like Documenta 13 at Kassel, Germany in 2012. Sovereignty includes objects such as William Barak’s Shield and Club (1897), with which the exhibition begins, to the various reflections on personal identity in a series of short videos InDigeneity: Aboriginal Young people, storytelling, technology and identity (2014–16) presented by students from the Korin Gamadji Institute. The exhibition even includes a feature-length film: Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s documentary portrait of Jack Charles, titled Bastardy (2008) (which I’m sure you can watch on iTunes), is historicised alongside the first Indigenous-made film production, Bruce McGuiness’s documentary Black Fire (1972), and a montage of digitised 8mm footage from the Aboriginal cultural leader, political activist and entrepreneur, Bill Onus. Adding to the plethora of screens there’s a soundtrack as well. Entering the main exhibition space, viewers will hear the beats and lyrics of hip-hop artist Briggs (Adam Briggs) with tracks like Sheplife (2012) and his increasingly well-known track, Bad Apples (2014), displayed as slick, commercial video-clips on flat-screen TV monitors mounted to the gallery wall. Protest banners by the Melbourne-based political resistance and Aboriginal nationalist group WAR (Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance), clearly not intended as contemporary artworks, per se, also cover the walls in the final room of the exhibition.

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