THIS IS NO FANTASY presents a survey exhibition of Michael Cook’s work. Including photographic works spanning the past 15 years, the exhibition showcases seminal works in Cook’s extraordinary career. This exhibition is presented as part of PHOTO 2021, International Festival of Photography.
A photomedia artist of Bidjara heritage. Cook’s photographs restage colonial-focused histories and re-images the contemporary reality of indigenous populations. His images seek to address the ongoing effects of colonisation through the depiction of Indigenous culture, challenging narratives surrounding the ‘discovery’ of Australia and its representation in history.
‘I was never taught Aboriginal history at school, only about European settlement of Australia. What I learnt in school was similar to the first European settlers’ beliefs, with words like ‘natives’ and ‘discovery’ of Australia. Looking back now, I realise that it was a false way of teaching, and that it hid the truth about the treatment of Aborigines over the past four hundred years.
Captain Cook, who ‘discovered’ Australia wrote ‘these people may truly be said to be in the pure state of nature, and may appear to some to be the most wretched upon the earth; but in reality they are far happier than … we Europeans.’
What was the colonisers’ view of what it means to be civilised, and would a better understanding of Aboriginal cultures have made a difference to our history? Was being civilised about fashion, speech, cultivating the land and having Christian beliefs, or was it to do with the colour of someone’s skin, or how they appeared?’ Michael Cook