FIVE years ago, the acclaimed exhibition We don’t need a map: a Martu experience of the Western Desert became the conduit for Aboriginal artists to come together to uninhibitedly explore and celebrate country and identity.
The event paved the way for a new creative project called In Cahoots which sees six independent artists and six rural aboriginal art centres—from the dust filled savannah of WA to the forest lain coastal escarpments of Victoria—connect to create a collaborative installation.
Facilitated by Erin Coates, each centre chose the independent artist they would work with and spend the next two years formulating and creating a body of work.
“In Cahoots is about artists working together in unexpected ways, combining different skills and knowledge to create rich, unique and surprising artworks,” she says.
Coates says that although each centre and independent artist is very different, a common theme runs through each piece.
“Every team got their hands dirty by gathering materials in the area to create these bold sculptures.”
Curtis Taylor, a celebrated short filmmaker from the Pilbara, collaborated with the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Arts Centre’s in the Northern Territory to create a series of pieces that explore Martu and Yolngu Country.
Taylor says the project forced him out of his comfort zone to work with new ideas, materials and techniques.
“In my experience the act of collaborative work tends to loosen up barriers and develop rich bonds between people and ways for working,” he says.
Taylor and Ishmael Marika, one of the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka artists, undertook several trips to both homelands to learn about each other’s cultures.
“We speak different languages and even though we are from different cultures we have similar ideas about the world,” Marika says.
“We want to teach our audiences about our cultures, and for our cultures to be recognised, respected and celebrated.”
The installations will showcase a haunting array of carved wooden spears, woven human hair and video components.
Perth artist and Policy Advisor for Water Corporation Neil Aldum travelled to Baluk Arts in the Mornington Peninsula. After the first visit he says he had to significantly review his practice by reconsidering “pace, dialogue, and development” to successfully collaborate with the Baluk Artists.
The Baluk Artists are an eclectic mob from all over Australia so their work reflects themes of identity through the use of kelp, clay, rubber, wood and metal which move on a strip of metal and is counterbalanced by stones.
The exhibition will run from the 25–28 of November at the Fremantle Arts Centre. Coates says the opening which will be an ‘incredible celebration’ of each centre’s work. The night will include artists from around the country who will run workshops as well as special guest Gavin Wanganeen, former football star and artist, who will inaugurate the event.
Coates talks of a photograph of a Ngaanyatjarra boy standing on the rusted remains of a truck in a Captain America mask holding an Indigenous shield, an inviolable stance that is proud of aboriginal identity and Country, with all its cultural crossovers.