At Michael Aird’s Captured exhibition at the Brisbane Museum

At Michael Aird’s Captured exhibition at the Brisbane Museum I found myself staring hard, trying to pierce the sealed surfaces and compressed scenarios of the tiny carte de visite tableaux of aboriginal people on display, most taken be either Thomas Bevan or Daniel Marquis in their George Street or Edward Street studios, in Brisbane in the 1860s.What extraordinary photographs. Aboriginal people lived in Brisbane in number, they entered into some unknown financial contracts with the photographers, who obviously had a global market in mind for the images. They pantomimed affection and mimicked fights between themselves, flexed their muscles, pumped out the extraordinarily knotted lumps of dense scarification on their backs, brandished their shields to cover their genitals, and either beetled their brows into the distance or looked at each other with glances of ambiguous filial affection that obvious parodied the bourgeoise family portrait. Were the cartes collaborative? That is the question. Did the subjects have any more or less agency than the white Queensland arrivistes who would have visited the same photographers at the time, and sent their cartes back across the globe. One thing you can say for certain was: these guys were hardcore. You had to refer to the helpfully scanned and enlarged digital prints on the wall to see the studium of the images and figure out what was going on, but return to the tiny oysters of the cartes for the full pungency of the objects.

Thomas Bevan, Queensland aboriginal person, 1860s

Thomas Bevan, Queensland aboriginal person, 1860s

Thomas Bevan, Queensland aboriginal peopld, 1860s

Thomas Bevan, Queensland aboriginal peopld, 1860s

Daniel Marquis, Queensland aboriginal person, 1860s

Daniel Marquis, Queensland aboriginal person, 1860s

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