String Theory Indigenous art exhibition at Moreton Bay Regional Art Gallery

String Theory is a travelling exhibition from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. It features a range of diverse works from across Australia from artists who use textile and other craft-based practices. We headed to the Caboolture Hub (a campus of the Moreton Bay Regional Art Gallery) to see the touring installation of the Museum of Contemporary Art exhibition string theory exhibition. Glenn Barkley, the curator, writes,

string theory: Focus on contemporary Australian art brings together over 30 Aboriginal artists and artists groups from across the country who work in ways that extend traditional forms of textile and craft-based practices. string theory continues the MCA’s longstanding involvement with these important areas of artistic activity in Australia.

Many of the works on display use handmade string produced from plant fibres. This string is the lingua franca, or working language, of the exhibition. It is both a physical material and a conceptual means of connecting. It binds things and so acts as a metaphor for bringing people and ideas together. It can be tangled and it can be tidy, strong and delicate, complex and simple.

string theory deals in the transformation of media no longer considered fixed or discrete. A painting can be a weaving. A photo can be a basket. A text is a container, or a bag is a receptacle of ideas and a way of carrying things.

In string theory, artwork is not only about politics or about community; it is about engaging with real social change and affect. Until recently, many of the artists may not have even have considered themselves artists, but rather, as participants in a wider-reaching dialogue between families, peers and tradition. The exhibition celebrates both the creation of objects and the exchange of knowledge through social, familial and community structures.

I highly recommend seeing this exhibition of Indigenous art. It features a range of artists from around the country, and crosses disciplines, including animation, photography, sculpture as well as traditional textile work.

Some of my favourite works included:

Just another Black C (2011) by Laurie Nilsen


Just another Black C, 2011, by Laurie Nilsen. Powder coated barbwire.

About the work: Just another Black C relates to a work by the artist’s friend and colleague Gordon Hookey that responds to a highly publicised racial abuse incident in 2010 during the annual State of Origin competition between the New South Wales and Queensland rugby league teams, in which the Assistant Coach and former-Captain of the NSW team, Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns called the opposing Aboriginal play Greg Inglis a highly offensive racial slur during a training session.

Works from the Optimism Series, 2008, by Tony Albert

One image from Works from the Optimism series. 2008 by Tony Albert. type C photograph.

One image from Works from the Optimism series. 2008 by Tony Albert. type C photograph.

About the work: In the photographic series Optimism, Albert depicts a jawun, a basket specific to the artist’s family’s country around Cardwell in Northern Queensland, being used as part of ‘everyday life’ in urban Brisbane. The artist notes:

When I was around 12 years old., my Aunty introduced me to jawun, a bicornual (two-horn) basket unique to North Queensland Rainforest. She explained how jawun is used for a variety of purposes, including leaching out toxic substances from bush fruits, carrying food, or for ceremonial and mortuary purposes.

In [the] ten photographs, my fellow countrymen and cousin Ethan Rist wears a jawun made by my Aunty and senior weaver Ninni Murray. Ethan wears the jawun in the traditional manner: on the head and hanging down along the back. In each image the jawun is filled with objects from my daily life. The photographs were then taken at places I visited almost every day, such as the local supermarket. Optimism is simultaneously a self-portrait and a family portrait. For me, jawun is a symbol of positivity, resilience and hope: a reminder of where I come from, my family and my culture.

Scarred, 2013, by Yhonnie Scarce. Blown glass and perspex box.

Scarred, 2013, by Yhonnie Scarce. Blown glass and perspex box.

Scarred, 2013 by Yhonnie Scarce

About the work: Indigenous fruits and vegetables such as bush bananas, bush plums and long yams are metaphoric tools to represent Indigenous people, culture and traditions. Scarred rec-creates the experiments and inhumane research that has now resulted in forming stereotypes that continue to shape attitudes towards the artists identity as an Aboriginal person.

String Theory is an MCA touring exhibition. Remaining dates include:

  • Moreton Bay Regional Gallery (Caboolture) 16 September – 10 November 2014
  • Cairns Regional Gallery 13 March – 10 May 2015
  • Wollongong Art Gallery 6 JuneĀ  – 20 August 2015
  • Glasshouse Port Macquarie 18 September – 29 November 2015