Cushla Donaldson & Ayesha Green
The Physics Room, Melbourne Art Fair
at the Melbourne Art Fair Project Rooms, Booth 01, 2 – 5 August 2018
(Un)conditional III includes new work by Ayesha Green (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti
Kahungunu) and Cushla Donaldson. This exhibition in the Melbourne Art Fair
Project Rooms is part of The Physics Room’s itinerant operating model for 2018 and draws on the ideas of reciprocity, trade and exchange, hosting and guesting. This iteration of the (Un)conditional series, taking place outside of Aotearoa, explores human and cultural movement across oceans.
Green’s research-based painting practice attempts to relocate and redefine
the power relationships of, and within, Māori representation. Kurawaka is a new
work comprising of four large-scale paintings completed on full sheets of plywood.
Depicting two generations of Green’s maternal whānau, as well as the illustrated
record of New Zealand flora from Joseph Banks’ Florilegium, Kurawaka traces living connections of lineage and displacement over expansive distances. Kurawaka refers to the womb of Papatuanuku, where, in Te Ao Māori, the first woman was created. It is this point of generation, which links the two subjects of Green’s paintings.
Green’s simplified painting style refers to the essentialising nature of colonial
representation of indigenous subjects. Their desire to capture subjects as closely as possible—as scientific or anthropological studies—is challenged by Green’s
flattening of perspective and reduction of detail. In this methodology of lazy mimicry the idea of the authentic is eroded.
Donaldson’s new work 501s foregrounds the historical instrumentalisation
of glamour and soft power. Donaldson has created a gigantic moving image work
referencing a legendary event at the Carnival of Venice in the 1600s in which a giant glass slipper was put in a public square and filled with wine. Donaldson has
developed a technology that allows current detainees, as well as those already
deported from Australia under the Migration Act (1958) to text in and disrupt the seductively spinning crystal shoe to speak back to the present and prevailing power structures.
The texts come through as both a live feed and at random intervals once they
have been sent in. These text messages are not vetted or viewed before they are
displayed. The shoe literally operates as a vessel, a Trojan horse, for the
presentation of stories that would otherwise be invisible and unheard. Stories that have been suppressed until recently: on 21 June 2018, The Australian Federal Court found that the Australian Border Force could not mandatorily confiscate property, including mobile phones, from people in immigration detention.
Throughout the development of the work, Donaldson has been in close
contact with the advocates Filipa Payne and Erina Morunga for the 501s group, ‘Iwi n Aus’. Payne has visited every detention centre to date, is the only person keeping full records of those detained and extradited, and is working in collaboration with Donaldson to enable the voices of the detained and deported to be heard in a physical and economic context that has forcibly excluded them.