Congratulations to Liam Benson whose work has recently been acquired for the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. The museum acquired two embroideries titled You and Me and Untitled (Flag) from the artist’s recent 2017 series I have a wealth of unconditional love and it’s yours if you want it.
Liam Benson’s art practice is his way of dealing with the world. He addresses aspects of Australian identity – which in Liam’s purview can be whatever you make it… His art celebrates the function of good while exposing the alienating aspects of colonialism and its attendant attitudes. His art is a way for discussing a mechanism and a conversation around social interactions and what needs to happen… Central to this ethos of inclusivity are recent collaborative community-driven artworks such as You and Me and Untitled (Flag).
You and Me is a map that depicts the diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders languages that span across Australia and it’s surrounding islands. Facilitated by artist Liam Benson between 2013 and 2017, members of the public were invited to participate in the creation of the work by hand sewing beads and sequins onto the transparent fabric as part of an intuitive effort to nurture and deepen our awareness of Australia’s cultural history and acknowledge the diverse First Nation countries and languages of contemporary Australia.
The embroidered map is the outcome of a five year participatory performance – a shared act of creation between many hands of varied ages, from a diverse range of cultures, abilities and languages. As a non-indigenous Australian, Benson facilitated ‘You and Me’ as a way of supporting the recognition and understanding of Australia’s layered history whilst sharing what it means to exist here in the present. With the support of accessible public spaces such as artist studios, regional and local galleries, schools and community spaces, visitors were able to connect with each other and spend time sharing the act of sewing beads and sequins.
Untitled (Flag) explores the synergy between identity and culture through the process of collaborative embroidery whilst unpacking our relationship with nationalism by subverting patriotic iconography and challenging entrenched ideologies.
Made by many and varied hands in skill sharing workshops facilitated by Benson, the various patterns and symbols were hand sewn in beads and sequins onto transparent organza featuring the outline of the Australian flag. Participants were asked to consider what they would change about the Australian flag and respond by hand sewing it in beads and sequins onto the organza template. Whether the choice was to add or remove a detail, each participant would then be required to dedicate the time and effort to intricately embroider their contribution. As a result, participants blacked out symbols and elaborated on celestial motifs whilst others inserted new symbols of inclusion and empathy. Created over two years, the work was imbued with the unrestricted self-reflective imagery of contemporary Australian communities.
The conversations shared during the creation of these two works allowed each participant to contribute their voice to an ongoing dialogue of contemporary Australian identity and how we define ourselves as a diverse, interconnected nation both now and into the future.