Brook Andrew: Theme Park
Andrew, Brook; Gardner, Anthony; Langton, Marcia
Brook Andrew is the 2020 Artistic Director of the Biennale of Sydney. In 2008 he took over an entire museum in the Netherlands for six months to present his Theme Park exhibition. He used his own works in combination with works on loan, including seventeenth-century engravings from the Maritime Museum in Rotterdam, contemporary works by artists such as Marlene Dumas, Felix De Boeck and Marcel Broodthaers as well as traditional objects and items from the museum’s and other international collections.
Andrew presents nineteenth-century depictions of Australia alongside large inflatable Wiradjuri-clad clowns, Aboriginal sculptures, kitsch souvenirs and neon. A photocopy machine runs continuously, symbolising the disconnection of an object’s image to the original object and it’s cultural meaning.
Brook Andrew challenges cultural and historical perception with intelligence, irony and a sense of humour. His work dives into the political and social, challenging historical and personal conventions. His ancestral Wiradjuri motifs repeatedly surface in different places in Theme Park, including the objects on loan from the Royal Museum for Central Africa (Belgium) and the Musée des Confluences (France).
“If the circuses of old with their exhibitions of 'fierce savages' and 'wild indians' tell us anything about the allure of the wild in the midst of the urbane cosmopolitan lifestyles of Australia and Europe, it is that if Aborigines did not exist, they would have to be invented. Here, Brook Andrew's Theme Park re-invents the Aboriginal 'type' exhibited in the old circus with both grave and ironic intent. Brook has borrowed from darkest Africa to stage this exhibition of colonial and Australian objects, images and soundscapes, all buzzing with memories and ideas of the Imperial Age and its consequences for native peoples everywhere.” (Marcia Langton)
In most exhibitions, the role of the artist is limited. In this Theme Park, the opposite is the case. Brook Andrew debates what an Aboriginal art museum could be as well as the whole idea of how Aboriginal art is consumed in an international art and museum sector. As Andrew himself says: “This is the world. It’s not all as black-and-white as we imagine it to be.”