Vernon Ah Kee’s cantchant was first presented at the IMA, and then the work was included in Once Removed (2009), representing Australia at the 53rd Venice Biennale. Afterwards, IMA toured the cant chant exhibition across Australia. The installation involved large text works, surfboards printed with Yidinji shield designs and portraits of the artist’s family and three video works.
The work was created after the 2005 Cronulla riots. On 11 December, thousands of people converged on the beach of Cronulla as racial tensions and disputes between beach going Middle Eastern Australians and white Australians flared. White Australian rioters chanted “we grew here, you flew here” as a means of claiming a greater entitlement to the beach and its surrounds. Ah Kee has used this chant as the title of the images to reference the ideology of white Australian beach culture and as a reference to his own heritage
Born in Far North Queensland, Vernon Ah Kee is a conceptual artist and a founding member of the Brisbane-based proppaNOW artists’ collective. He has a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Hons) at the Queensland College of Art, Brisbane. Vernon’s work critiques Australian popular culture, particularly the dichotomy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal societies and cultures. His art practice consists of video, 3D installation, photography, digital design, painting, printmaking, and drawing.
Vernon represented Australia at the 53rd Venice Biennale in the group exhibition Once Removed (2009). His work was featured in exhibitions such as Culture Warriors: National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia (2007); Revolutions-Forms That Turn: 16th Biennale of Sydney (2008); Figuring Landscapes at the Tate Modern, London, UK (2008); Contemporary Australia: Optimism, at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2008); Erased: Contemporary Australian Drawing, the National Art School Gallery, Sydney (2009); proppaNOW: Putsch at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Adelaide (2010) and proppaNOW: The Black See at KickArts Contemporary Arts, Cairns (2011); UnDisclosed: the 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia (2012); Theatre of the World (2012) at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart; Volume One: MCA Collection at Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2012); Everything Falls Apart, Part II (2012) at Artspace, Sydney; Insurgence at the Museum of Australian Democracy (2013); Australia at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2013); My Country: I still call Australia home, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2013); Sakahan: 1st International Quinquennial of New Indigenous Art, National Gallery of Canada (2013).
Solo exhibitions include ill-like at the Kluge-Ruhe Gallery in Charlottesville, USA (2012); tall man at Gertrude Contemporary in Melbourne (2011), Vernon Ah Kee at City Gallery in Wellington, NZ (2010); Waru, Kick Arts Gallery, Cairns (2009); Blow Your House In at Mackenzie Gallery, Regina, Canada (2009); Belief Suspension at ArtSpace, Sydney (2008); and Cant Chant at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2007) where ‘borninthisskin’ (2009), the first major publication on his work was published.
His work is held in various collections including the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, USA; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart; and the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane.