Vernon Ah Kee, corpse table negotiation, 2016 vinyl banner. Photograph by Carl Warner.
The IMA Courtyard Commission is an ongoing commissioning platform engaging with Australian and international artists to produce dynamic public artwork. For this first commission, Vernon Ah Kee builds on his powerful use of language with the new work, corpse table negotiation, 2016.
The outdoor work confronts the unequal dynamic at the heart of any dialogue between Aboriginal people and the state: there is an implicit rule that nobody should talk about the dead bodies (massacres, detention, deaths in custody, etc.); yet for Aboriginal people, the spectre of history must be addressed before proceeding with any negotiations. And at any negotiating table set up by the government, participants are strategically selected in advance to ensure that the conversation can be controlled and the outcomes predicted. Despite this management, corpse table negotiation is a potent reminder that the bodies are always under the table, staring upward.
Vernon Ah Kee was born in Innisfail, Queensland, and is a member of the Yidindji, Kuku Yalandji, Waanji, Koko Berrin and Gugu Yimithirr peoples. Ah Kee represented Australia at the 2009 Venice Biennale and has participated in group exhibitions at Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney, 2009); Biennale of Sydney (2008); Indigenous Triennale, National Gallery of Australia (2007 and 2012); Artspace (Sydney, 2012); Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern art (Brisbane, 2013) and Sakahàn: 1st International Quinquennial of New Indigenous Art, National Gallery of Canada (2013). Recent solo exhibitions include Barack, National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne, 2011); tall man, Gertrude Contemporary (Melbourne, 2011); Hallmarks of the Hungry (2012) and Brutalities (2014) both at Milani Gallery, Brisbane. In 2015 he exhibited in the 14th Istanbul Biennale.