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Majority Rule (Memorial) 2014
Michael Cook, Memorial, Majority Rule, 2014.
Michael Cook

(Status : Public)
  • Artist

    Artist: Michael Cook

    Birth date, place: 25 August 1968, Brisbane

    Heritage: Bidjara people of South-West Queensland

    This artist's profile was developed by Alice-Anne Psaltis during 2014 at The University of Queensland as a part of the Visual Arts Curating and Writing course, convened by Dr Allison Holland.

    EDITORS: this Header component is linked to in the Explore section of the following AGENT record(s): Michael Cook -
  • Biography

    Michael Cook, Brisbane based photographic artist, poses questions about the treatment of Aborigines in Australia both past and present. Cook has been greatly influenced by his family who, while not of Indigenous decent, adopted him and brought him up with a strong sense of his Aboriginal heritage. Originally a commercial fashion photographer he was drawn into art photography in 2009, in a desire to explore, understand, and connect with this heritage. Bringing with him a wealth of technical knowledge, Cook’s beautifully composed photographs hypothesize how Australia would be if historical stereotypes and discriminations had worked in reverse.

    An award-wining photographer, Cook has gained national and international recognition. His 2012 body of work Civilised promoted The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT7) at Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, and was included in My County: I Still Call Australia Home – Contemporary Art from Black Australia (QAGoMA, 2013). Recently, he has exhibited in London and at the 22nd and 23rd International Los Angeles Photographic Art Exposition. Majority Rule (2014), Cook’s most recent series, has propelled him further into the international arena with inclusion in the 19th Biennale of Sydney You Imagine What You Desire.

  • Overview of Career

    Cook’s first solo exhibition, Through My Eyes, was exhibited at Andrew Baker Art Dealer in 2010. The series overlays appropriated photographs of Australia’s prime ministers with Aboriginal faces. In asking the simple question, “what if our past leaders … could see through Aboriginal eyes,” Cook is re-imagining the Aboriginal experience, exploring both the complexities of Australia’s past and an aspiration for a more positive future. Now part of the National Gallery of Australia, this series has been of vital importance to Cook’s oeuvre being included in the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards (2011) as well as an exhibition at the Museum of Australian Democracy Canberra in 2014.

    2011 saw Cook depart and develop in style and subject with two new series, Broken Dreams and Undiscovered. Both bodies of work are part of the National Gallery of Australia’s collection and were shown in the 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial (2012) Undisclosed. These series explore separate narratives of Australian’s colonial history and evoke the imagination as they shift from a dream like space to colonial reality. Ultimately, the viewer is confronted by the historical construction of Australia as being an uninhabited and undiscovered country before European settlement.

    Cook has developed a very distinctive method of photographic manipulation. Implementing aspects used in the fashion and commercial industries (retouching, styling, hair, and make-up), his practice, more comparable to painting than traditional photography, utilizes photographic layering (between 5-30) to foster his original idea into an aesthetically flawless composition. This is particularly evident in Civilised (2012). A visually striking series which conjures “a timeless place that traverses colonial and contemporary, sustaining itself on what-ifs and hypothetical situations – a place of Cook’s own modern Dreaming.”

    Over Cooks’ short career as an artist he has evolved, developed, and proven his relevance as a major figure in contemporary Australian art. Cooks’ promise for the future has been acknowledged in his selection in the United Kingdoms ACCELERATE (2013) program as well as the Australian Council Greene Street Studio Residency in New York (2014).

  • Artist Statement

    “It’s about learning Australia’s history to create a better future. Through my art I ask questions, ‘How would a better understanding of Indigenous culture for the past 200 years affect Aboriginal people today?’ Australia is very multicultural, it’s about everyone having a little more understanding and not just looking at the whole picture as black-and-white.”

    Michael Cook

  • Represented

    Andrew Baker Art Dealer

    Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects http://

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