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date: 21 September 2019

Deacon, Destinylocked

(b Maryborough, Queensland, Feb 6, 1957).
  • Anne Kirker

Extract

(b Maryborough, Queensland, Feb 6, 1957).

Australian Aboriginal installation artist of the Kuku and Erub/Mer peoples (see fig.). Deacon became an artist after receiving formal university training in politics and spending 10 years as a teacher. Her first substantial debut as a self-taught artist was in 1991 at Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative in Sydney. By 1995 her staged photographs, installations and videos, which radically reappraise black feminine subjectivity, territorial rights and western canons of ‘high art’, earned her a place in the Johannesburg Biennale of that year and in Documenta 11 (2002). Effective through its pointed rawness and wit, Deacon’s work debunks the myths of ‘white fella’ histories of national identity and reclaims the kitsch of popular culture. Destiny Deacon: Walk & Don’t Look Blak, an exhibition held in 2004 at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), was her first solo museum exhibition.

Deacon’s imagery largely falls within the realm of social portraiture and satire, partly fictitious and partly autobiographical. Her characteristic use of dolls in her rudimentary photographic tableaux brings her troubling messages home through childhood toys. The dark-skinned dolls are often depicted as mutilated or are placed in simply constructed settings that present Aborigines as second-class citizens: impoverished or socially maligned. For instance, we are encouraged to imagine two trouser-clad males sitting in a gutter near a graffiti wall with a box of matches alongside ready for striking, or a woman hanging clothing on a line, in domestic servitude, or a female child (from the so-called ‘Stolen Generation’) captioned ...

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