October 16, 2015 - Institute of Modern Art - Gordon Bennett and Slavs and Tatars
October 16, 2015

Gordon Bennett and Slavs and Tatars

Gordon Bennett, Study for Possession Island (1991). Oil, acrylic and gouache on illustration board, 65 x 100 cm. Collection of Wavell State High School, Brisbane. © The Estate of Gordon Bennett. Photo: John O’Brien.

Gordon Bennett: Be Polite
Slavs and Tatars: Mirrors for Princes

24 October–20 December 2015
Opening: 24 October, 6pm

Institute of Modern Art
420 Brunswick Street
Fortitude Valley
Brisbane, Queensland, 4006

T +61 (0) 7 3252 5750
ima [​at​] ima.org.au


An exhibition of largely unseen works on paper by one of Australia’s most visionary and critical artists, Gordon Bennett (1955–2014), will be presented at the Institute of Modern Art (IMA). The IMA’s Executive Directors Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh have worked closely with the Estate of Gordon Bennett to curate a selection of works on paper that comprise drawing, painting, watercolour, poetry, and essays from the early 1990s through to the early 2000s. Though rarely seen in exhibition contexts, Bennett’s drawing and script formed the foundation of his practice: Paper is the site where imagery, words, and ideas often found their first expression before being combined into the large-scale conceptual paintings for which he is known. Despite their relatively small scale, the works in Be Polite embrace the rich layers of Western and Australian Indigenous art history and contemporary politics, a direction Bennett pioneered in the 1980s and continued to explore throughout his successful career. 

Bennett has been the subject of major solo presentations and retrospectives at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, (touring, Europe), 1999–2000; Griffith University, Brisbane, (touring, Australia), 2004–05; and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, (touring, Australia), 2007–09. International recognition and attention for Bennett’s work has been growing with his inclusion in the acclaimed dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel in 2012, and in the 8th Berlin Biennale in 2014.

A publication featuring contributions by Candice Hopkins, Helen Hughes, and Ian McLean is being co-published with Sternberg Press in early 2016. After showing at the IMA, the exhibition will evolve and travel to Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts in 2016, and to the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver in 2017. 

Alongside Be Polite sits the first solo exhibition in Australia by the art collective Slavs and Tatars: Mirrors for Princes. In this show, the artists look to a medieval genre of advice literature known as “mirrors for princes.” These guidebooks for future rulers were a literary tradition shared by Christians and Muslims, with Machiavelli’s The Prince the best-known example. The texts present issues that continue to resonate today across the world, providing a case study of the balance between faith and state. In the exhibition, visitors traverse two immersive and contrasting environments: a multi-channel audio installation featuring multilingual excerpts from an 11th-century Turkic “mirror for prince” called Kutadgu Bilig (Wisdom of Royal Glory), and a dark, psychedelic space revealing a series of glowing, fetishistic sculptures that share the text’s concern with grooming: of hair, language, and etiquette. Kutadgu Bilig has been translated into six languages, including the Aboriginal language Yuggera. It represents one of the few known recordings of Yuggera, and was translated by language custodian Uncle Des Sandy. The exhibition is accompanied by a book also titled Mirrors for Princes, edited by Anthony Downey of Ibraaz, commissioned by NYUAD Art Gallery and published by JRP|Ringier.

Founded in 2006, Slavs and Tatars is an art collective that describes itself as “a faction of polemics and intimacies devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia.” The collective’s practice is based on three activities—exhibitions, books and lecture performances—and spans a broad spectrum of cultural registers (high and low).

Slavs and Tatars have exhibited in major institutions across the Middle East, Europe and North America, including the Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, the 10th Sharjah, 8th Berlin, 3rd Thessaloniki, and 9th Gwangju Biennials. Select solo engagements include MoMA, NY (2012); Secession, Vienna (2012); Künstlerhaus Stuttgart (2013); Dallas Museum of Art (2014); Kunsthalle Zurich (2014); GfZK, Leipzig (2014); and NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery (2015). 

For more information about the IMA or the exhibitions, please contact Sarah D’Ardenne at sarah [​at​] ima.org.au, or call T +61 (0) 7 3252 5750.

The IMA is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, and from the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts, and through the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian Federal, State, and Territory Governments. The IMA is a member of Contemporary Art Organisations Australia (CAOs). Gordon Bennett: Be Polite is supported by Arts Queensland and Visions of Australia, Department of Communications and the Arts. Slavs and Tatars: Mirrors for Princes is supported by Choices Flooring and MAAP Media Bank.


Gordon Bennett and Slavs and Tatars at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
Institute of Modern Art
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