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Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Mrs Cook’s Waistcoat and other hybrid objects

Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Contemporary Art
140 George Street , The Rocks NSW 2000
Lecture theatre: Level 2

Saturday 24 September from 2pm to 3:30pm

Panel discussion presented by the MCA and Power Institute, University of Sydney.

This panel considers the hybrid objects that trace the Pacific region's colonial history, and the ways Australian artists have responded to them.

Painted by Vivienne Binns in 1997, Mrs Cook’s waistcoat depicts an unfinished waistcoat panel sewn by James Cook’s wife, Elizabeth Cook, on Tahitian tapa cloth. It is believed that the tapa cloth was brought back by Cook from his second voyage and gifted to his wife, who began embroidering it during his ill-fated third voyage.

As Quentin Sprague writes in his essay 'The World is Made of Layers' in Vivienne Binns: On and Through the Surface, the waistcoat is linked 'to other hybrid objects that trace Australia’s colonial frontier—the kinds of objects that are imprinted with the marks of two previously separate worlds, and which repurpose cultural materials and forms towards new ends. For contemporary viewers, such objects can be both rich and confronting. They prompt us to imagine the granular detail of contact, to sense in that detail both the threat and promise of the frontier; put more simply they ask us to feel the complex realities of history in their very shapes and forms.'

What are the conditions that bring these objects into existence, and what institutional forces preserve them? Who is able to access them? What techniques have artists used over the past several decades to interrogate these hybrid objects and the histories they tell?

The Panel

Introduced by Mark Ledbury, chaired by MCA Curator Anneke Jaspers, and featuring speakers Kyra Mancktelow, Margy Burn, Matt Poll, and Ruha Fifita.

The Power Institute is a non-profit foundation for visual art and culture, based at the University of Sydney, Australia. We curate live and online lectures, workshops and other events with internationally renowned scholars, house one of Australia’s leading fine art libraries, publish award-winning titles, and engage with partner organisations to generate new research. Our focus is on seeking out, developing and communicating ideas and theories in visual art and culture – past, present and future – through teaching, research, public talks, exhibitions, publications and podcasts, for a national and international audience.

Covid-safe information

The health and safety of visitors and staff is our main priority at the MCA. We are following government guidelines with regard to COVID-19 to ensure our visitors and staff are safe at all times and follow social distancing guidelines. Please read our visitor safety information here.

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Museum of Contemporary Art Australia


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