In 1887, a group of Sandhurst settlers met at the Orderly Rifleman’s Brigade, declaring the new colony needed a gallery, ‘for the delight of the people through beautiful art’.
Over the years, they procured the finest examples of European grand narrative paintings, portraits and landscapes their gold-lined coffers could afford, as well as works that documented their conquests amidst the local landscape.
The art and stories of the Dja Dja Wurrung and Taungaurung people, upon whose unceded land the gallery (and indeed, the city) was established, were not, at that time, figured into this equation.
Western museums and galleries have historically acquired and arranged their collections as part of a broader chronology or narrative that told the story of the world – frequently from a European perspective, and a new exhibition opening at Bendigo Art Gallery next week proposes that by looking back, and visiting untold or repressed histories, we can open up new views to the present – and the future.
In New Histories, curated by Jessica Bridgfoot, contemporary artists reimagine ten historic works from the 19th and early 20th century Australian and European collection of Bendigo Art Gallery.
Informed by technological, social, environmental, political and historical events that have occurred since the original work’s creation, the artists in the exhibition revisit interpretations of Australian and European histories through the lens of contemporary culture.
The exhibition is a series of installations, with contemporary works ‘interrupting’ the expected chronological flow of the collections, offering new interpretations to both historical and modern works.
Many of the exhibition’s contemporary artists have looked for ‘hidden’ figures in history, or the veiled narrative at play.
Other artists have reimagined the symbolism within the historic works as they play out today or in our living memory.
Working across mediums of performance, sound, film, painting and textiles, the artists in New Histories challenge the nature of art as historic record and the role of the artist and the museum as documenter, and commentator of the world.
The artists are: Denis Chapman Seecum Cheung, Maike Hemmers, Pilar Mata Dupont, Isabelle Sully, and Flora Woudstra, Gabrielle de Vietri, FAMILY FIRST! (Devon Ackermann & Paul Yore), Juan Ford, Andrew Goodman, Bridie Lunney, Phuong Ngo, Jacques Soddell, Christian Thompson.
New Histories is a free exhibition which runs April 13 to July 29, 2018.