Born 1968 Brisbane, Bidjara people of south-west Queensland
Civilised #13 2012
Michael Cook’s image Civilised #13 is of an Indigenous man sitting atop a horse dressed in European costume from the late 18th Century. It is from his photographic series Civilised. The images from Civilised are all set on a shoreline referencing the first point of contact between Europeans, the Australian continent and therefore Indigenous Australians.
Cook questions the definition of the word ‘civilised’ in this series. He considers the European explorers that proceeded English settlement and the value judgement they placed on Indigenous people in terms of their civilisation.
It represents how European explorers saw Aboriginal people, how they looked at them, as being quite uncivilised so I recreated imagery and the way the models are dressed to look at them in a more civilised way in regards to how Europeans would have seen a people to be more civilised. The way that the Aboriginal people lived in Australia, I mean, it well and truly was civilised but its how the explorers saw Aboriginal people through their own eyes and what made them civilised was it cultivating the land, was it living in a built up society, was it the clothes that they wear or was it how they looked and the colour of their skin. That is the question ‘how did they see them as being civilised?’ because they were civilised. So, I wanted to show Aboriginal people in a civilised context in how a European explorer would have seen a civilised person.
Michael Cook worked for 25 years as a commercial photographer before being drawn into art photography as a means to explore his Indigenous heritage. He works in photographic series rather than single images allowing a story to unfold. The digital layering in each image gives his work a depth and dream like quality that–