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Michael Cook
Language group: Bidjara
Majority rule (Memorial) from the Majority rule series 2014
inkjet print on paper
Monash University Collection
Purchased by the Faculty of Science 2015


Michael Cook (b.1968) is a Brisbane-based photomedia artist of Bidjara heritage. Through his photography, he develops speculative histories of Australia in which colonial stories and images are inverted or distorted. A skilled photographer, with over twenty-five years’ experience as a freelance commercial photographer preceding his artistic practice, Cook’s photographs often adopt the look of earlier photographic technologies and prints – thereby harking back to another time.

Majority rule (Memorial) 2014 is part of Cook’s Majority rule series, a body of work that imagines: what if Indigenous Australians constituted the majority of this country’s population – 96 per cent as opposed to the actual 4 per cent? The series shows an Australia – emblematised by its law courts, CBDs, and train stations – populated by a completely Aboriginal society. In Cook’s hypothetical Australia, it is the Aboriginal flag that solely adorns all official public buildings. After first glance, the photographs give way to a certain surreal element: the entire cast of characters is played by one man, whose figure seems to be repeated ad infinitum. The photographs are executed in black and white, and the buildings, buses and fashions depicted within them are reminiscent of the 1950s, a moment when the White Australia policy was only just beginning to be dismantled (between 1949 and 1973).


Bibliography:

  • Nancia Guivarra, ‘Through My Eyes – LaTrobe University Visual Arts Centre, Bendigo’, Arts correspondent, NITV News, 30 December 2012.
  • Michael Hawker, ‘Michael Cook, Civilised,’ Asia Pacific Triennial, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2012.
  • Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, ‘Omission,’ Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts, Melbourne, 2012.
  • Bruce McLean, ‘Michael Cook – An Interview,’ My Country, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2013.
  • Bruce McLean, ‘Michael Cook,’ in Carly Lane and Franchesca Cubillo (eds), unDisclosed: 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2012.
  • Shae Nagorcka, ‘On Weakness of monumental things,’ Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects, Melbourne, 2012.
  • Maurice O’Riordan, ‘Too Many Cooks?: The 2011 Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards,’ Art Monthly, no. 245, November 2011.

For further information or to view the artwork, please contact MUMA's Collection Curator: kirrily.hammond@monash.edu


Photo: © Michael Cook, courtesy of Andrew Baker Gallery, Brisbane