Jennifer Barrett and Jacqueline Millner
Ashgate Publishing 2014, 180 pp
University of Sydney academics Jennifer Barrett and Jacqueline Millner have pooled their extensive knowledge in Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum to chart shifts within Australian art and museology since the 1990s. This concise book encompasses interventions by artists in both art and non-art museums in every state and territory of Australia, and a number internationally. While initially exploring work using forms of post-colonial critique activated by the colonial foundations of Australian museums, by the later chapters the authors move beyond this framework to diverse approaches by artists in non-art museum spaces, particularly those driven by aesthetics and participatory public engagements.
This overview involves analysis of specific projects, a number of which are accompanied by often candid commentary from artists and museum staff. From these individual voices emerge strains of unsureness and difficulties between art and museology, two inherently different forms of engagement with Australian cultural collections and social histories. Rather than minimise the challenges, the authors consistently bring them to light. This reveals not only the troubling territories traversed in such endeavours but the potential for these clashes to lead to ultimately constructive though contested ways of re-viewing Australia's past and present.