"Australia: Defending the Oceans at the Heart of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Art", exhibition at the Oceanographic Museum, Monaco, 2016
This exhibition - curated by Stephane Jacob in association with Suzanne O'Connell, coordinator in Australia - is part of a larger one and will be entirely dedicated to the creation and presentation of six monumental contemporary installations by seventy major Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to be displayed in six key positions in and around the Museum. These works are testament to one of the worst dangers of our century, specifically the threat of pollution that is endangering marine biodiversity and food. Indigenous people of Australia deal with the effects of global warming and pollution in their daily lives, in particular the "death nets" created by macro-waste such as discarded fishing nets and floating plastics. The Torres Strait channel situated at the eastern tip of Australia, and the shores of Queensland are particularly affected by this increasing pollution. Like land mines, these nets go on killing long after their initial use is over.
It is by far the most complete and ambitious project ever undertaken on this subject by Australian Indigenous artists in Europe. The international reputation for excellence enjoyed by the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco and its world famous aquarium will significantly increase the resonance and reach of this project. The partnership developed with the Musée des des Confluences in Lyon will further enhance the strength of the message.
The artists address these environmental issues with humour and subtlety. The exhibition has been created as a virtual fairy tale, a story of enchantment; the monumental size of the work will create for visitors, a sensation of being transported into Alice’s Underwater Wonderland.
Visitors to the famous Rock of Monaco will be welcomed by a playful group of Bagu sculptures - made by artists from Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre - that will dominate the Museum’s forecourt. Behind them, three monumental mud crabs by Brian Robinson will climb the facade as if taking over the Museum‘King Kong’ style. Explanatory bi-lingual labels will clearly identify the artworks and artists who created them, as well as provide their totemic meanings. Special attention will be given to didactic information made available for children. This theatrical display, accessible to all, will welcome 500,000 visitors to the Oceanographic Museum during the summer period, before they continue their visit inside the building.
On entering the Museum, the public will be welcomed by a magnificent sculpture of a dugong – once thought to be the origin of the fabled mermaid – made by Alick Tipoti and placed at eye level, creating an immediate intimacy with this emblematic sea creature and important totemic figure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Beyond the entrance, visitors will be lead into one of the most dramatic spaces of the Museum, the Hall of Honour with its imposing statue of H.S.H. Albert I and the stunning sea creature crystal chandelier hanging in the middle of the room. Here, sculptures of turtles, sharks, crocodiles, dugongs and a gigantic whale will swim with a colourful school of fish against the sublime views of the Mediterranean Sea in the background. A canoe woven from abandoned fishing nets is a symbolic reminder of what is destroying these sea creatures in huge numbers. These works were created by artists of Erub Arts, Pormpuraaw Art & Culture Centre et Ceduna (Tjutjuna).
As visitors reach the first floor landing they will find the enormous, magnificent composition of headdresses (‘Dhari’) waiting for them and created by Ken Thaiday. The main Dhari, over six meters high, frames the main doorway and access to the next section of the exhibition. On either side of this door two Dhari (3m50) that mirror each other.
As a climax to the exhibition, the visitor is then invited to proceed up to the Terrace that, on one side, overlooks the city of Monaco and the grand rock formation that surrounds the Principality, and on the other, offers a breathtaking view over the Mediterranean sea from the French Riviera to the coastline of Italy. Here will lie one of the largest works ever made by an indigenous artist, Alick Tipoti: a670 square meter sea turtle made of dozens of sea creatures, the same that children and their parents will have discovered in the Museum’s collections. The full body of the turtle will be visible from the air for those flying over the Museum. It will be the landmark of the Museum for 2016, a year in which the Oceanographic institute’s scientific programs will focus on the ‘Ambassador of the Sea’: the Sea Turtle.
With the support of the Australian Embassy (Paris), the Australian Business in Europe, Tea Dietterich (2M Europe), Julia King & Joël Hakim (Sydney) and Béatrice Hedde (Paris). We'd like to thank for their geenrosity METROPOLE Gestion (Bagu project) ; Judith and Bruce Gordon (Sydney, Australie) & Myriam Boisbouvier-Wylie and John Wylie (Melbourne - Australia), «Ghost Nets» project.
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