Michael Cook: Livin’ the dream

Michael Cook’s photographs explore the continued effects and ongoing aftermath of colonisation and cultural marginalisation. In his new series ‘Livin’ the dream’, six photographs depict an Aboriginal nuclear family headed by “Joey Jones”, transplanted into a remote outback community in the 1960s, into a world of “white Australian ideals” – real estate, a luxury EH Holden, Victor mowers, swimming pools, smart clothes and the weekend bbq. However, with contrasting images of stick shelters and windowless shacks, Cook exposes inequity.

Michael Cook, Livin’ the dream (For sale), 2020, inkjet print, edition 6, 120 x 180cm; or edition 10, 80 x 120cm. Courtesy the artist, Andrew Baker Fine Art, Queensland and THIS IS NO FANTASY, Melbourne

‘I was never taught Aboriginal history at school, only about European settlement of Australia. What I learnt in school was similar to the first European settlers’ beliefs, with words like ‘natives’ and ‘discovery’ of Australia. Looking back now, I realise that it was a false way of teaching, and that it hid the truth about the treatment of Aborigines over the past four hundred years.

Captain Cook, who ‘discovered’ Australia wrote ‘these people may truly be said to be in the pure state of nature, and may appear to some to be the most wretched upon the earth; but in reality they are far happier than … we Europeans.’

What was the colonisers’ view of what it means to be civilised, and would a better understanding of Aboriginal cultures have made a difference to our history? Was being civilised about fashion, speech, cultivating the land and having Christian beliefs, or was it to do with the colour of someone’s skin, or how they appeared?’

Even today, Aboriginal people are still suffering because these beliefs still exist amongst some non-Indigenous Australians.’

Michael Cook, 2020

Michael Cook, Livin’ the dream (Welcome home), 2020, inkjet print, 120 x 180cm edition of 6, or 80 x 120cm edition of 10. Courtesy the artist and Andrew Baker Art Dealer


9 April to 30 May 2020 (and online)

Andrew Baker Fine Art
15 April to 6 June 2020 (and online)

Horsham Regional Art Gallery
23 January to 14 March 2021