We grew up in suburban Melbourne neighbourhoods where no one else looked like us and the culture set us apart.

—Destiny Deacon

Exhibition Dates: 3 May – 19 May 2012

Destiny Deacon’s installation of photographs, video and sculpture in ‘Going Strait’ was commissioned by the Gallery of Modern Art | Queensland Art Gallery and included in their recent exhibition, Land, Sea and Sky: Contemporary Art of the Torres Strait Islands (1 July – 9 October 2011). The black and white footage in Deacon’s installation is taken from a nitrate film shot on Erub in the Torres Strait in 1899 by the Queensland Department of Agriculture.* Deacon is a Kuku & Erub/Mer woman and has strong ancestral connections to Erub. The people depicted in the film are likely to be Deacon’s ancestors, relatives, or even great grandparents. In contrast, Deacon’s colour photographs and film projection depict scenes from her contemporary family life. Friends, neighbours and relatives gather together in lively activity. In the lead up to 'Land, Sea and Sky' curator Julie Ewington interviewed Deacon about the ways in which her Torres Strait Islander heritage is manifest in her work. Deacon’s responses are recorded in the exhibition catalogue**:

“Mum often spoke about her Torres Strait culture and her life on Erub, before she left it. She loved school, but only went up to grade two, then was evacuated to Hopevale on the mainland because of World War Two. Mum had a lot of knowledge, history and proper culture ways, untouched by government and missionary influences, and many memories and stories – knew how to speak the language, sing and dance the songs and cook the food. She tried to teach us language and songs, but we grew up in suburban Melbourne neighbourhoods where no one else looked like us and the culture set us apart. I remember as a child, being spat on, having rocks thrown at me. Racism. We preferred to watch Mickey Mouse or play outside with friends. I was aware of certain words, the food and some songs and dances. I don’t think I have progressed much since then, but when I shut my eyes and think of Erub I think of the beach and the sea. I can smell it and hear it. ...  I grew up in houses where it was always on for young and old – food, drink, laughs, fights, music and politics – universal mixture of oppressed but aware people – tribal, rural and urban aborigines, Africans, Polynesians, poor whites, African Americans and Torres Strait visitors ... There always has been a Torres Strait in Melbourne. People always coming and going. ...

It’s strange looking at the few photos we have of TSI family, they seem so formal and remote. I used a photo of my great-grandfather Edward Pitt, grandmother Emma Nain and Mum when she was a little girl for my ‘Postcards from Mummy’ series. They all had a tough life and died young. I wonder if they would like me. ... I have a few TSI frocks or ‘Marys’ as mum called them. Some call them Mother Hubbard dresses. I like them, one size fits all and they’re comfortable for a big girl in hot weather, and I have worn these frocks at formal events down south and even overseas. I tell them my real national costume is being in the nude, but the missionaries came up with this garb. I use friends and family as models in my work, so there is a lot of Torres Strait in the images. For instance, Luke Captain poses in ‘Where’s Mickey?’ and I have his brother David in the video ‘Matinee’. My brothers Johnny and Clinton have posed for me, as well as my sister Janina and nieces and nephews, Sofii, Inyaka, Elia, Atticus and Leilana. ... I think of myself as an Indigenous Australian of Torres Strait and Aboriginal heritage. I’m proud to be Blak and happy it’s more normal now than when I was growing up.” 

* Darnley Islanders pay tribute to Hon. J.F.G. Foxton, a film by Henry W Mobsby for the Queensland Department of Agriculture, 1899      From the collection of the Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane, stored at the National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra.

** The Torres Strait Islands, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2011 pp. 105 – 113. 

_______________________________________________________

Destiny Deacon is an artist, performer and political activist. Since 1990, she has exhibited her photographs, videos and installations in numerous solo and group exhibitions, nationally and internationally.  In 2005 the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney held a major retrospective of Deacon’s work titled ‘Walk & don’t look blak’, which toured to the Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Tokyo, the Tjibao Cultural Centre, Noumea, New Caledonia, the Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand and the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne. In 2002 Deacon was the only Australian artist to be chosen for ‘Documenta 11’ in Kassel, Germany and she has been included in many other important survey exhibitions such as the Havana Bienal in 2009 and 1994, the Biennale of Sydney in 2008 and 2000, the inaugural ‘National Indigenous Art Triennial 2007: Culture Warriors’, National Gallery of Australia, the Yokohama Triennale in 2001, the Adelaide Biennial in 2000, the Australian Perspecta in 1999 and 1993,and the 1st Johannesburg Biennale in 1995. Other group exhibitions include ‘Rising Tide: Film and Video Works from the MCA Collection’, Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego 2009,  ‘Half Light: Portraits from Black Australia’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2008, ‘Yours, Mine & Ours: 50 years of ABC TV’, Penrith Regional Gallery 2007; ‘Why Pictures Now’, Museum Moderner Kunst (MUMOK), Vienna in 2006; ‘Image & Imagination’, Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal, Canada in 2006; ‘High Tide: Currents in Contemporary Australian Art’, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw in 2006 and Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania; and ‘Faces in the Crowd’, curated by Iwona Blazwick and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev at Whitechapel Gallery, London and Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy in 2004. Deacon’s work is held in most major public collections in Australia as well as Museum Moderner Kunst (MUMOK), Stifting Ludwig Vienna, Austria and Museum Sammlung Essl, Austria. Deacon was selected for the Clemenger Prize at the National Gallery of Victoria in 2009. ‘Going Strait’ is Deacon’s ninth solo exhibition with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.

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Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser Contacts, 2011; digital video from a black and white nitrate film, original shot by Henry W Mobsby; Edition of 5 + 2 APs; enquire
Contacts, 2011
digital video from a black and white nitrate film, original shot by Henry W Mobsby
Edition of 5 + 2 APs
Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser Untitled , 2011; assemblage, black and white inkjet prints ; 53 x 71 cm (framed); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Untitled , 2011
assemblage, black and white inkjet prints
53 x 71 cm (framed)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser Untitled, 2011; assemblage, black and white inkjet prints ; 53 x 71 cm (framed); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Untitled, 2011
assemblage, black and white inkjet prints
53 x 71 cm (framed)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser Untitled, 2011; assemblage, black and white inkjet prints ; 53 x 71 cm (framed); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Untitled, 2011
assemblage, black and white inkjet prints
53 x 71 cm (framed)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser Untitled, 2011; assemblage, black and white inkjet prints ; 53 x 71 cm (framed); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Untitled, 2011
assemblage, black and white inkjet prints
53 x 71 cm (framed)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser Untitled, 2011; assemblage, black and white inkjet prints ; 53 x 71 cm (framed); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Untitled, 2011
assemblage, black and white inkjet prints
53 x 71 cm (framed)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser Untitled, 2011; assemblage, black and white inkjet prints ; 53 x 71 cm (framed); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Untitled, 2011
assemblage, black and white inkjet prints
53 x 71 cm (framed)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser Untitled, 2011; assemblage, black and white inkjet prints ; 53 x 71 cm (framed); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Untitled, 2011
assemblage, black and white inkjet prints
53 x 71 cm (framed)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser Untitled, 2011; assemblage, black and white inkjet prints ; 53 x 71 cm (framed); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Untitled, 2011
assemblage, black and white inkjet prints
53 x 71 cm (framed)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser Untitled, 2011; assemblage, black and white inkjet prints ; 53 x 71 cm (framed); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Untitled, 2011
assemblage, black and white inkjet prints
53 x 71 cm (framed)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon Melbourne girls in their Marys, 2011; from the series Frieze Frames, Melbourne 2011; colour inkjet print; 100 x 114.5 cm; 80 x 94.5 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + 2 APs; enquire
Melbourne girls in their Marys, 2011
from the series Frieze Frames, Melbourne 2011
colour inkjet print
100 x 114.5 cm; 80 x 94.5 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + 2 APs
Destiny Deacon Lovely hula hands, 2011; from the series Frieze Frames, Melbourne 2011; colour inkjet print; 41 x 114.5 cm; 20.9 x 94.6 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + 2 APs; enquire
Lovely hula hands, 2011
from the series Frieze Frames, Melbourne 2011
colour inkjet print
41 x 114.5 cm; 20.9 x 94.6 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + 2 APs
Destiny Deacon Two young Islander women from Melbourne, 2011; colour inkjet print; 20.9 x 42.7 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + 2 APs; enquire
Two young Islander women from Melbourne, 2011
colour inkjet print
20.9 x 42.7 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + 2 APs
Destiny Deacon Pregnant bride, 2011; colour inkjet print; 19.4 x 28 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Pregnant bride, 2011
colour inkjet print
19.4 x 28 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon Kim's foots, 2011; colour inkjet print; 30 x 28 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Kim's foots, 2011
colour inkjet print
30 x 28 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon Mother and Child, 2011; colour inkjet print; 60 x 35.5 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Mother and Child, 2011
colour inkjet print
60 x 35.5 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon Janina, 2011; colour inkjet print; 49.5 x 30 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Janina, 2011
colour inkjet print
49.5 x 30 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon Cousins, 2011; colour inkjet print; 70 x 36.8 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Cousins, 2011
colour inkjet print
70 x 36.8 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon Leilana, 2011; colour inkjet print; 49.5 x 28 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Leilana, 2011
colour inkjet print
49.5 x 28 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon Aunties keep a watch out, 2011; colour inkjet print; 60 x 36.4 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Aunties keep a watch out, 2011
colour inkjet print
60 x 36.4 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon Real hair, 2011; colour inkjet print; 23.8 x 28 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Real hair, 2011
colour inkjet print
23.8 x 28 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon Brideshead, 2011; colour inkjet print; 15 x 28 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Brideshead, 2011
colour inkjet print
15 x 28 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon Where the boys are, 2011; colour inkjet print; 80 x 99 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + 2 APs; enquire
Where the boys are, 2011
colour inkjet print
80 x 99 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + 2 APs
Destiny Deacon Great uncle and great nephew, 2011; colour inkjet print; 70 x 26.9 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Great uncle and great nephew, 2011
colour inkjet print
70 x 26.9 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon Uncle and nephew, 2011; colour inkjet print; 21.9 x 46 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Uncle and nephew, 2011
colour inkjet print
21.9 x 46 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon Elia, 2011; colour inkjet print; 80 x 20.5 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Elia, 2011
colour inkjet print
80 x 20.5 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon Clinton, 2011; colour inkjet print; 80 x 20.5 cm (image size); Edition of 5 + AP 2; enquire
Clinton, 2011
colour inkjet print
80 x 20.5 cm (image size)
Edition of 5 + AP 2
Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser Glass House and Island Flicks, 2011; mixed media, digital video; 59 x 73 x 47 cm (sculpture); enquire
Glass House and Island Flicks, 2011
mixed media, digital video
59 x 73 x 47 cm (sculpture)