Michael Cook invites us to a conversation, a reimagining of Australia, with this powerful series, Majority Rule.
“Currently, Australia’s Indigenes are a small minority, comprising only three to four percent of the total Australian population. Consequently, black faces have little visibility in Australian capital cities and this series of images defies that reality—yet acknowledges it simultaneously with the use of only one model multiple times to build the crowd because, Cook noted, “The reality is it is hard to find models who look characteristically Indigenous. ‘Indigenous’ is many things and physical characteristics have little to do with this identification. So while looking Indigenous has nothing to do with Indigeneity, in my aesthetic I seek out a strong character in a model’s physicality.”2
The multiple versions of the subject populate generic city locations: a subway tunnel, an old-style bus, and city streets. Old Parliament House and Canberra’s High Court are more iconic buildings, and take Cook’s protagonist to the seat of Australian political power. As such, Cook’s imagery challenges our ingrained belief systems, yet these images do not offer judgement—they are observational, asking questions, setting up lively interactions within their scenes, without proffering neat nor prescriptive conclusions.
MAJORITY RULE (BRIDGE) 2014
Cook noted, “I was never taught Aboriginal history at school, only about the European settlement of Australia. What I learnt in school was similar to the first European settlers’ beliefs, with words like ‘natives’ and ‘discovery of Australia’. Looking back now, I realise that it was a false way of teaching, and that it hid the truth about the treatment of Aborigines over the past four hundred years.”
The colour of the man’s skin is the disjunction that prompts the viewer to wonder, and then wonder at their own wonder. It becomes a gauge for internalised racism. Australian audiences may ponder why this collection of well- dressed black men in a city street strikes a discordant note, an atmospheric that feels wrong, unusual, discomfiting.”
To see the other images in the series, and to continue reading click here.
Feature image Majority Rule (Court) Michael Cook