Jonathan Jones, untitled (transcriptions of country), Palais de Tokyo
- Art exhibitions
“I’m curious about how we come to terms with objects that were collected and are now lost to the archive; how these objects can morph into new forms of dialogue, become tools of reciprocity and repatriation within the framework of decolonisation.”
– Jonathan Jones, 2019
Jonathan Jones’ new project untitled (transcriptions of country) looks into colonial transport, trade and the acclimatisation of indigenous plants, animals and objects, together with the colonisation of local knowledge. Its source of information is the French expedition to the southern lands led by Captain Nicolas Baudin at the very beginning of the nineteenth century. Commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte, this was one of the most extensive scientific expeditions ever undertaken in Australia, which brought back to France many artifacts and living elements.
The exhibition takes on multiple elements in order to unfold this complex story, central to the artistic approach being the process of translation. 300 plants, preserved at the National Herbarium of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, are reproduced as hand-made embroideries by community members. Sculptures, based on traditional indigenous objects now lost, are scattered on the ground. A soundscape, inspired by a corroboree (an Australian Aboriginal ceremony) as transcribed during the expedition, is broadcast in the space. Each body of work thus highlights how the interpretation and understanding of other cultures can be altered through communication and exchange.
Jonathan Jones is a member of the Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi peoples of south-eastern Australia. He works in a variety of media, creating installations specific to the ambient environment and exploring indigenous practices, relationships and ideas. His practice is often collaborative and seeks to bring different communities together. His work’s underlying concept is the process of mapping or tracing, as well as parallel representation of the traditional and the contemporary via the historic and present-day uses of specific sites and architectures. The artist often works with everyday materials, recycling and reusing them as a way of exploring relations between community and individual, personal and public, past and present.
Jonathan Jones’ exhibition untitled (transcriptions of country) will also run at the contemporary art center Artspace in Sydney, accompanied by a publication. This exhibition is part of a more general research of the Palais de Tokyo on the Australian art scene – Mel O’Callaghan (2017) and Angelica Mesiti (2019) both had a personal exhibition after participating in the Do Disturb performance festival. Invitations were also made for group exhibitions and performances (David Griggs and Justin Shoulder in “City Prince/sses”, but also Madison Bycroft in “Future, Former, Fugitive” in 2019) or for projects elsewhere (Mel O’Callaghan, Nuit Blanche, 2016; Dale Harding, 15th Lyon Biennale, 2019). The collective exhibition, public program and publication “Reclaim the Earth”, scheduled for June 2022, will be organised in collaboration with several Australian researchers and artists.
Curators: Daria de Beauvais, Alexie Glass-Kantor, Michelle Newton
Exhibition in partnership with Artspace (Sydney)
This project is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body; the NSW Government through Create NSW; the City of Sydney and the Copyright Agency.
The embroideries in the project are the result of a close collaboration with the women’s embroidery groups associated with Information + Culture Exchange (I.C.E.) and with the Adorned group.
The artist’s preliminary research in France has been supported by Lafayette Anticipations – Fondation d’entreprise Galeries Lafayette.
Image: Jonathan Jones, untitled (transcriptions of country) study, 2021
Historical prints, objects, embroideries by Shabnam Mukhi, Lida Heidari and Rabia Azizi (courtesy of the artist)