Collective Unease is a bold exhibition of three new commissions inspired by the University of Melbourne’s students, archives and collections. The three works, by artists Andy Butler, Lisa Hilli and James Nguyen, move beyond colonial narratives to a complex, multi-voiced understanding of Australia inflected by experiences of migration and diaspora. In the face of difficult histories and an uncertain future, these works emphasise themes of self-representation, empowerment and optimism.
Co-curated by Samantha Comte and Jacqueline Doughty, the exhibition forms part of the University of Melbourne’s Ian Potter Museum of Art’s artistic program, and is presented inside the Old Quad, at the centre of the University’s Parkville campus.
Andy Butler’s video ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ juxtaposes artworks from the University Art Collection with footage of the University of Melbourne Cheerleading Club. In this interview, the artist provides insight into the development of the work, including the tensions inherent in making a site-specific work in the Old Quadrangle at The University of Melbourne.
Lisa Hilli’s installation ‘Birds of a Feather’ celebrates the resilience of Papua New Guinean women through the story of Dame Meg Taylor, the first woman from Papua New Guinea to receive a degree from the University of Melbourne Law School and most recently Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General. Composed of images of the feathers of PNG’s national bird, ‘kumul’ (birds of paradise), the artwork honours a significant figure who continues to inspire and empower women to navigate their role in contemporary PNG society.
In James Nguyen’s artwork ‘An Australian National Song’, musicians interpret a Federation-era song sheet from the University of Melbourne’s Rare Books collection, performing this nationalistic jingle on violins that have been muffled with foam. In this video interview, the artist delves into the process of creating a work in response to the University’s collection.