Sunday, May 13, 2012


COLD EELS AND DISTANT THOUGHTS is an exhibition at Monash Gallery of Art by eight Aboriginal male photographers on Aboriginal men.

On Saturday 14 April 2012 I attended the artist and curator talk which led to the opening of the exhibition by Gary Foley, Aboriginal Gumbaynggir activist, academic, writer and actor.

Welcome to country was performed by Wurundjeri Elder Colin Hunter jr.

Uncle Colin Hunter
© Barbara Oehring 2012

The exhibition includes work by Michael Aird, Mervyn Bishop, Adam Hill, Gary Lee, Ricky Maynard, Peter McKenzie, Michael Riley and Jason Wing. It explores many of the stereotypes associated with Aboriginal masculinity from a range of perspectives, including documentary and conceptual practice.

Legendary photographer Mervyn Bishop with his photograph of prime minister Gough Whitlam pouring sand through the hands of Aboriginal Gurindji elder Vincent Lingiari. Bishop's photograph symbolised the return of land to its traditional owners. It became one of the defining images of the 1970s.

Mervyn Bishop
© Barbara Oehring 2012
Jason Wing is one of the younger generation artists included in the exhibition. Here he is with his 'An Australian government initiative self-portrait'

Jason Wing
© Barbara Oehring 2012

Cold eels and distant thoughts is curated by Indigenous curator and writer Djon Mundine OAM. "The central intention of the exhibition is to see Aboriginal men as just normal males with varying attributes, attitudes, fears, and hopes and dreams for a better future."

The catalogue informs that the title for the exhibition comes from a statement by Afro-American boxer Jack Johnson (1878-1946). When asked why white women were attracted to black men, Johnson amusingly and cryptically replied: 'We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts'.

The exhibition opening was a joyous event with the photographers happily snapping each other. They asked me to do this group shot.

Michael Aird, Jason Wing, Djon Mundine, Adam Hill, Mervyn Bishop, Gary Foley
and friend Margaret
© Barbara Oehring 2012

Destiny Deacon, photography, video, installation & performance artist attended the opening of Cold eels and distant thoughts.

Destiny Deacon
© Barbara Oehring 2012
Cold eels and distant thoughts at Monash Gallery of Art until 3 June 2012.