Sharon West subverts the Australian culture war’s reactionary revisionist histories of Australia’s colonial era. West’s revision of this alternative history is more fun.

Gubbaworld is a humorous retrospective utopic view of Australian history. Sharon West, the artist, describes it as “colonial pseudo-histories and other follies”. It is, as if the bloody genocidal invasion never happened, instead it was Enlightenment folly that brought the English to Australia. It is an Australia full of strange fauna, like a giant budgie. It is an artistic Australia full of statues and romantic ruins. It is an Australia where colonials encounter Aboriginal campsites complete with caravan and beach umbrella.

Art is a form of artifice: we want to be told stories, we want to be lied to, and we want to be shown attractive images. Sharon West Gubbaworld is a perfect exhibition for Platform; it is fun, it is relevant to the public and uses the display cabinets to advantage playing with the idea of museum displays. The exhibition combines small dioramas made of toys and model materials and large photographs of views more models. Gubbaworld might be controversial if it wasn’t so obviously fun.

Along with Sharon West there is a group exhibition, Koori Allsorts, celebrating NAIDOC Week. The exhibition features recent work by Jarrod Atkinson, Mandi Barton-Travis, Andrew Travis, Charlie O and Carol Wright and shows the great diversity of art practices in Koori art.

Daniel Dorall tackles the big themes of life and death at the Majorca Building. The cabinets in the Majorca building are too thin for Dorall’s usual architectural-style models. Instead Dorall’s exhibition, like Sharon West’s, features large photographs of 3 dimensional models. Dorall created these models to be photographed, they are graphically striking, a skull and a cross section of a heart. Most of the figures are crushed in, trapped at two points in life and death. In this small exhibition Dorall has taken his usual architectural model and created a new range of imaging making possibilities.

In Vitrine “Continually Genuine” is an elegant video and installation playing with signs and signified. In applying for Australian residency the artists, Kubota Fumikazu and Tania Smith were obligated to prove that their union was “genuine and continuing”. However, signs like the video in the installation are never genuine although they may be continual. In the installation potatoes signify a western diet to contrast the rice that signify the eastern diet (more celebration of the International Year of the Potato 2008, the potato as art). The rice has the additional symbolism of being thrown at weddings.

Victoria Stamos work in the Sample cabinet is only one large photo, an enlargement of her Greek grandmother’s practice at writing the English alphabet. Symbolizing the migrant experience with the change from Cyrillic to Roman alphabets is a good idea. But the cool documentary aesthetic felt to minimal to engage with the passing public. 


About Mark Holsworth

Writer and artist Mark Holsworth is the author of two books, The Picasso Ransom and Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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