Michael Cook Memorial 2014 from the series Majority Rule inkjet print on archival paper

Michael Cook

Born 1968 Brisbane, Queensland. Bidjara people

Memorial, 2014


Michael Cook’s work Memorial is part of a series of works titled Majority Rule. Memorial is set in front of a war memorial in Brisbane. Like all works in Majority Rule the backdrop for each image is taken fromthe public places in Brisbane that feature in any Australian city; a tunnel, a bridge, a Parliament building, a Court House.

The digitally manipulated images portray the same protagonist, an Aboriginal man dressed in an old fashioned three piece suit, repeated in different physical postures. This duplication implies an inversion of Australian population statistics, presenting an alternative where the Aboriginal population is the majority.

In Memorial, the multiple protagonists stand around the memorial, placed on the stairs surrounding the Grecian-like architecture but never standing inside the structure, referencing the discrimination subjected upon many returned Aboriginal and Torre Strait Islander service men. Writer Louise Martin-Chew notes,

Aboriginal and Torre Strait Islanders have been involved in fighting for Australia since the Boer War in 1901 but, while they were paid equally for their work in the armed forces and fought alongside white Australians, on their return home they were subject to the same discrimination they faced before serving their country.

In Majority Rule Cook is asking us to consider the disparity in populations statistics in Australia and what that might imply about early colonisation.

After the explorers arrived in Australia, the Indigenous population was decimated. That was, in part, because Aboriginal people were without immunity to introduced diseases. ‘The majority always has the rule and the minority doesn’t. Then there is racism that arises as a result. –Michael Cook