25 September–20 November 201025 Sep–20 Nov 2010
Brook Andrew is an artist of Wiradjuri and Scottish descent whose work centres on race politics and history. Conflating contraries, his work confounds clear political readings. His contribution to this year’s Biennale of Sydney is a generic war memorial in the form of an inflatable jumping castle, decorated with a dazzling Wiradjuri/op-art motif. It presents itself as an ethical conundrum: should we stand back and regard it respectfully, as a mechanism of mourning, or should we pounce upon it and have our fun? Is it about memory or amnesia?
Andrew’s follow-up work is even more oblique. The Cell is a three-by-twelve-by-six-metre inflatable room, decorated inside and out with his Wiradjuri pattern. To enter, one must first don paper overalls, also covered in the pattern. The overalls recall those worn by forensic technicians to avoid contaminating—and being contaminated by—crime scenes. In wearing them, are we donning ‘the skin of the other’, to merge with his environment and feel at one with him? Or, conversely, are the overalls camouflage or disguise, protecting us from our new environment, allowing us to lurk? Indeed, might they even be a form of masquerade—cultural drag? Is Andrew’s ‘padded cell’ punishment or playpen—for us or against us?
Andrew says, ‘You are immediately transformed once you don a costume and enter. You become an inmate, a cellular astronaut, or asylum seeker. Experiences of loss, asylum, and genocide are turned on their head. The Cell is a conundrum; a monument to such stories; a space for quiet contemplation, disorientation, and spectacle.’