Michael Cook, ‘Majority Rule (Senate)’ #2014-0151
About the artist
Michael Cook is an award-winning Indigenous artist who worked as a commercial photographer in Australia and overseas, before turning to art photography in 2009. The change in direction reflected Cook’s desire to explore his own Aboriginality. Cook was born in 1968 in Brisbane and raised by his white adoptive parents. His people are the Bidjara, of south-west Queensland. Although his adoptive parents were non-Indigenous they were heavily involved in supporting Indigenous rights. They imparted to Michael a strong understanding of his Aboriginal ancestry. Cook’s first full-scale solo art exhibition was ‘Through My Eyes’, shown in Brisbane and then at the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards 2011, where it won the ‘People’s Choice Award’. It was also exhibited at the Museum of Australian Democracy in 2014. The body of work called ‘Majority Rule’ was selected for inclusion in the 19th Biennale of Sydney in 2014. The museum purchased two works, ‘Majority Rule (Senate)’ and ‘Majority Rule (Parliament)’ in 2014 and displayed them together with the exhibition ‘Through My Eyes’.
About the work
In the ‘Majority Rule’ series, Michael Cook photographs one actor/model numerous times in various poses at a single urban location. He then fuses the images so that the actor/model appears up to twenty times in the one image. The introduction to the catalogue attached to this body of work states ‘Australia’s Indigenes are a small minority, comprising only three to four percent of the total Australian population. Consequently, black faces have little visibility in Australian capital cities and this series of images defies that reality – yet acknowledges it simultaneously with the use of only one model to build the crowd’. The catalogue then explains the rationale for all of the works of Majority Rule: ‘Cook poses an insoluble dilemma as he acknowledges the discriminatory nature of society. How it would be if these statistics were reversed? “The majority always has the rule and the minority doesn’t. Then there is racism that arises as a result”.’
In this particular image, photographed in the Senate Chamber at Old Parliament House, Cook is referencing what he sees as the inherent racism in Australia’s political system, where Indigenous representation is very small. He asks the viewer to imagine a Senate chamber where the statistic of 96% white majority is reversed, and Indigenous people are the majority.