Free with Museum Pass
Future Primitive’ brings together works by 19 artists from Australia and New Zealand to explore a renewed engagement with primitivism in contemporary art. Their works perform a kind of time travel, as they conjoin modernist forms with atavistic, totemic or tribal motifs, and create speculative worlds from images and ideas drawn from multiple cultures and times.
The word ‘primitive’ has often been used in the West to describe whatever its present lacks – for example, after World War I the Dadaists embraced the ‘primitive’ as a counter to the shortcomings of European ‘civilization’. Today a similar move may be taking place. Primitivism – stripped of negative racial or cultural identifications – is again a magnet of attraction for artists. While they speculate on possible futures at a time of deep uncertainty, many artists have turned to using basic materials and process, or to intense expressions of life using ceremony, ritual, the body and its senses.
Some turn the table on modernist primitivism and explore its specific local histories, reworking the legacies of colonialism; some make reparative gestures, attracted to what joins cultures or communities rather than what divides; while others sidestep the usual decorum around the subject and provoke questions about how we relate to cultures outside our own.
Within today’s relentless focus on the ‘now’, many of the works in ‘Future Primitive’ move forward and back between past and future, going back to origins, whether ancestral, animal, or cultural, in an attempt to find out how to live better in a world in crisis or to question its values.
Participating artists: Daniel Boyd, Janet Burchill & Jennifer McCamley, Sarah Contos, Mikala Dwyer, Graham Fletcher, David Griggs, Fiona Hall, Newell Harry, Siri Hayes, Brendan Huntley, Jess Johnson, Narelle Jubelin, Dylan Martorell, Alasdair McLuckie, Sanne Mestrom, TV Moore, Michelle Nikou, Ricky Swallow, Rohan Wealleans