taboo

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 19 December  24 February 2013
Curator: Brook Andrew
Assistant Curator: Ivan Muñiz Reed


Yal Ton (Eric Bridgeman), Haus Man, 2012, Installation view, TABOO, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2012 Image courtesy and © the artist. Photograph: Alex Davies

Yal Ton (Eric Bridgeman), Haus Man, 2012, Installation view, TABOO, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2012
Image courtesy and © the artist. Photograph: Alex Davies

TABOO was an exhibition and program of talks, performances and film screenings by guest curator Brook Andrew. Brook is an artist and cultural commentator of Wiradjuri and Scottish descent, who has a keen interest in hidden histories and ethnography.

TABOO built upon the ground-breaking blakatak series of talks and performances that Brook curated for the MCA in 2005. The concept of blakatakwas to give space within the Museum for lively debate surrounding issues of concern to Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, thinkers and activists. It touched on sometimes controversial topics, providing a forum for these ideas to be expressed and accommodated often highly divergent points of view.

The exhibition brought together Australian and international artists who respond to ideas around race, ethnicity, politics and religion. Newly commissioned and existing works sat alongside personal archives, postcards, press photography and works from the MCA Collection. TABOO attempted to represent fragments of history, narrative and memory through art works and contextual materials that, when juxtaposed, can create a powerful and emotional effect.

TABOO took on issues that may be hidden or distorted in the mainstream media; ideas that transgress what is considered to be ‘correct behaviour’; and the question of who can represent whom. Brook Andrew said, ‘Taboos are similar to social and religious rules of engagement, but their principal task is to separate one space from another. They mark off a person, place or thing as sacred and untouchable: as distinct from the ordinary, mundane, and by implication, the polluted, unclean, or infidel. One of the intentions of the exhibition [was] that artists should feel free to relate their own versions of taboos, or play with a taboo and trigger the possibility of a different story. This story might reveal new ways of seeing a history or subject that would otherwise be shut down as too upsetting or controversial.’

The exhibition included images dealing with deceased people, nudity, religious beliefs and historical material that reflected different social times when issues like racism were not so widely debated. The aim of TABOO was to create a space to try out new ways of seeing our world through different juxtapositions.