Commuting between centres and edges, between cities and countrysides, and between worlds is increasingly normal— necessary even. A commute or regular journey of some distance to and from one’s workplace is something many of us engage in on a daily basis. A commute as a multidirectional trip not only takes one to work but also leads one home and to places of learning and social/political connection. If we take this as fact, then we understand commuting as comprising two key factors, place and travel.
Through networks of migration, trade, and exchange engendered in both deep time and every day, place and travel become integral to contemporary Indigenous experience. Perhaps we can understand migration, trade, and exchange as forms of commuting, and understand ourselves as commuting cultures. So, then commuting also requires vigilance of the forces driving our understanding of place and movement, such as displacement, diaspora, and ecological devastation across various territories.
Drawing from the experiences of commuting cultures, the IMA Visiting Curators present The Commute. This exhibition encompasses a series of commissioned projects by artists located around the Great Ocean, also known as the Pacific Rim, who assert complex, wide-ranging, contemporary Indigenous experiences inclusive of both ancestral knowledges and global connections. The Visiting Curators are working closely with eight Indigenous artists, Chantal Fraser (Sāmoa), Carol McGregor (Wathaurung, Scottish), Lisa Hilli (Gunantuna), Hannah Brontë (Yaegel) T’uy’t’tanat-Cease Wyss (Sḵwx̱ wú7mesh, Stó:lō, Irish, Métis, Kanaka Maoli, Swiss), Bracken Hanuse Corlett (Wuikinuxv, Klahoose), Natalie Ball (Modoc, Klamath, Black), and Ahilapalapa Rands (Kanaka Maoli, iTaukei Viti, Pākehā).
The Commute is a collaborative project led by Indigenous curators Sarah Biscarra Dilley (yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash, Chicana), Freja Carmichael (Quandamooka), Léuli Eshrāghi (Sāmoa, Irānzamin, Guangdong), Tarah Hogue (Métis, Dutch Canadian) and Lana Lopesi (Sāmoa), invited as Visiting Curators during 2018 at the IMA in Brisbane.
On a basic level, commuting describes the way in which the mostly international group of Indigenous Visiting Curators are working with the IMA, the exhibiting artists and pockets of the local community. But in a greater sense, it also encapsulates the mobile yet located nature of being Indigenous today. Rather than attempting to package such diverse experiences neatly within a conceptual framework, The Commute explores the mess, the entanglements and the disparities of contemporary Indigenous experiences.
The Commute is supported by the IMA and has received assistance from the Australia Council for the Arts, Australian Government through the Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grants Program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Queensland Government through Arts Queensland in partnership with Brisbane City Council, Creative New Zealand, Canada Council for the Arts, and Vancouver Art Gallery.
Chantal Fraser (Sāmoa) is an interdisciplinary artist interested in the binary and ternary connotations of adornment and silhouette when presented in varying artistic contexts. Her work questions reader relevance by subverting the perpetual cultural and anthropological interpretations of the objects made.
Carol McGregor (Wathaurung, Scottish) works across multi-media disciplines with materials including ephemeral natural fibres, metal, and paper. Her recent art practice revives the traditional possum skin cloak as an art form and a way to strengthen community and individual identities.
Lisa Hilli (Gunantuna) prioritises Indigenous knowledge and matrilineal systems to subvert colonial and Western histories contained within ethnographic and archival material. The representation of the black female body and the politics of hair are ongoing themes that the artist explores through photographic and textile practices.
Hannah Brontë (Yaegel) is an artist and DJ whose practice focuses on developing female and Indigenous empowerment. Influenced by her love for rap and the power of spoken word, she explores language in popular culture, hip-hop, and slang.
T’uy’t’tanat-Cease Wyss (Sḵwx̱ wú7mesh, Stó:lō, Irish, Métis, Kanaka Maoli, Swiss) is an interdisciplinary artist whose work in new media, performance and community engaged projects spans over twenty-five years. Her work focuses on sustainability, Coast Salish cultural elements, ethnobotany, and digital media. Wyss is an emerging weaver, working with traditional techniques in wool and cedar.
Bracken Hanuse Corlett (Wuikinuxv, Klahoose) is an interdisciplinary artist who has studied Northwest Coast art, carving and design. His work fuses painting and drawing with digital-media, audio-visual performance, animation and narrative. He has received recent public art commissions from the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Mural Festival, and is a recipient of the BC Creative Achievement Award for First Nations Art.
Natalie Ball (Modoc, Klamath, Black) makes art as proposals of refusal, without absolutes, to complicate an easily affirmed and consumed narrative and identity. Her work uses materiality and gesture to create power objects that refuse the spectacle in relation to American history of settler colonialism, and her communities.
Ahilapalapa Rands (Kanaka Maoli, iTaukei Viti, Pākehā) uses performance, video and storytelling to explore and articulate intersections of Indigenous experience. Much of her work reflects and shifts around processes of reconnection to her cultures, weaving contemporary with historical Indigenous knowledge.
IMA Visiting Curators: Sarah Biscarra Dilley is an artist, curator, and writer residing in the unceded homeland of the Chochenyo (Ohlone) at Huichin. A member of yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash tribe, she works with cut paper, archival material, handwork, language, and relation to illustrate place-making, displacement, and home.
Freja Carmichael is a Ngugi woman belonging to the Quandamooka People of Moreton Bay. She is a curator working alongside artists and communities on diverse exhibition projects and is currently the inaugural Macquarie Group collection First Nations emerging curator and a member of Blaklash Collective.
Léuli Māzyār Lunaʻi Eshrāghi is an artist, curator and writer visiting Kulin Nation territory who hails from the Sāmoan archipelago, Pārs plateau and other ancestries. Ia work centres on ceremonial-political practices, language renewal, and Indigenous futures throughout the Great Ocean.
Tarah Hogue is a curator, writer and uninvited guest on xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territories/Vancouver, B.C. Her work engages collaborative methodologies and a careful attentiveness to place in order to decentre colonial modes of perception within institutional spaces. She is the inaugural Senior Curatorial Fellow, Indigenous Art at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Lana Lopesi is an art critic and writer based in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa New Zealand. Lana is currently the Editor-in-Chief for The Pantograph Punch, Editor for Design Assembly and founding editor of #500words.