press release

Walk & don’t look blak represents the first museum survey by Australian Indigenous artist Destiny Deacon. Deacon has exhibited her unique type of political tragi-comedy throughout the world.

Spanning fifteen years, this exhibition demonstrates Deacon’s versatile and innovative practice including photographs, installations and videos produced using straightforward, relatively low-tech methods: what the artist herself calls ‘el cheapo’.

In her work, Deacon creates beautiful, uncanny, frightening and funny vignettes of contemporary life from her domestic surrounds, utilising predominantly Indigenous friends and family as collaborators and subjects as well as her 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 these 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.

Both Deacon and Lisa Reihana, whose work is on view in the Upper Chartwell Gallery, are collectors of kitsch souvenirs. For this exhibition, these two artists present selected objects from their private collections to create a sitting room/reading room in the front window of the Adam Art Gallery.

Curated by Natalie King, Walk & don’t look blak draws out recurrent themes within Deacon’s prolific practice: landscape, portraiture, narrative and phantasmagoria. These themes intersect 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) retraces Deacon’s journey to her mother’s country and Forced into images (2001) follows a child’s painful passages into adulthood. The artist’s poetic use of narrative explores memory, intimacy, cruelty and loss.

Walk & don’t look blak also showcases 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 reveals the relationship between still and moving images and found objects, within Deacon’s practice. A new body of work unites all three aspects through a camouflage motif comprising the photographic series D-coy and the video work Crawl and the installation Camouflaged. Exploring ideas of concealment and the kitsch appropriation or military designs, this work is a humorous and timely reminder that seemingly harmless objects carry destructive potential.

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Destiny Deacon: Walk & don't look blak
Lisa Reihana: New Work