Michael Cook is a Brisbane-based photomedia artist of Bidjara heritage. Cook’s photographs restage colonial-focused histories and re-image the contemporary reality of indigenous populations. Touching on the discriminatory nature of society, his images muddle racial and social roles ‘painting’ a picture of a societal structure reversed. Cook invites viewers to speculate Indigenous cultures living at the forefront, even a majority, rather than manipulated to live within the confines of a white man’s world. Cook’s images challenge our ingrained belief systems yet do not offer judgement – they are observational, asking questions without proffering neat prescriptive conclusions.
Considered to be one of Australia’s most exciting contemporary Indigenous artists, 2016 saw Cook present a solo exhibition at the global art fair, Art Basel Hong Kong. His work has most recently been curated into Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation at the British Museum, London; Taba Naba, Oceanographic Musuem of Monaco; Saltwater Country at AAMU Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art, The Netherlands; and Personal Structures at Palazzo Mora, Venice during the 56th Venice Biennale. Cook’s photographs have also been exhibited in the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, 2014; the 2nd National Indigenous Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia, 2012; and the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at Queensland Art Gallery/ Gallery of Modern Art, 2013.
Cook was twice named Winner of the Deadly Awards – Visual Artist of the Year, in 2008 and 2011; he received People’s Choice Award at the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards 2011; and has been a selected finalist in awards including the Olive Cotton Award 2013, Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, 2012, and Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Cook’s work has been acquired by institutions including the National Gallery of Australia, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia, National Museum of Australia and Parliament House, Canberra.