Finding country

O'Brien, Kevin & Markham, Michael (2009) Finding country. [Web-based Exhibition]

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The Finding Country Exhibition seeks a pluralist contest between the traditions of aboriginal space (Country), and European space (property) in Australia. Aboriginal Country is excluded from the Australian city. The city of Brisbane, located on the aboriginal Country of the Turrbal people, is the common ground of this confrontation.

It is the show Australia rejected.

Despite the 1992 landmark Mabo case High Court decision, a decision that struck down the doctrine of terra nullius (an empty land belonging to no-one), architecture in Australia continues its 18th century European tradition of drawing on empty paper. The aboriginal position is that this paper is not empty, but is full of what can’t be seen.

The aboriginal map of Australia reveals a continent with many Countries and many spaces. The prevailing spectrum of architectural positions, bookended by decorated sheds and metaphysical decks, continues to bring aboriginal Country into decline. If the opposite position is considered it is possible to find something lost. Cities historically enter states of decline, frequently associated with some form of catastrophe. Others end in a whimper. It is not unreasonable to imagine an opportunity for the recovery of Country through decline.

The central exhibit is an 8×3m drawing of the city of Brisbane consisting of approximately 50 individual grid submissions emptied by half to find something special. Each grid is an explicit architectural negotiation with decline, whilst carrying an implicit personal challenge to non-aboriginal architects to engage Country.

Since 2006, the Finding Country project has endeavoured to assert an aboriginal origin for architecture in Australia. It is led and directed by Kevin O’Brien a descendent of the Kaurareg and Meriam people of north-eastern Australia, and an architect working in Brisbane.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 76220
Item Type: Creative Work (Web-based Exhibition)
Refereed: No
Additional Information:

An ongoing project initiated by Kevin O’Brien and Michael Markham in 2005.

2005 Shortlisted for RAIA Directorship of the Australian Pavilion, Venice Biennale.

2007 Shortlisted for RAIA Directorship of the Australian Pavilion, Venice Biennale.

2011 QUT Lecture Series - Finding Country:
1. Eames Demetrios, USA
2. Tom dePaor, Ireland
3. Tim Hall, Australia
4. David Stewart, Japan
5. Gina Levenspiel, Australia
6. Michael Markham, Australia

Other Contributors:
Role Contributors
  • Kevin O'Brien
Host Organisation
  • Ventiu Di Cultura
  • Francesco Calzolaio, Michael Markham, Gina Levenspiel
  • Susan Ellison, Kevin O'Brien, James Pierre du Plessiss
  • Barbara Ellison
  • David B. Stewart, Michael Markham, Carroll Go-Sam
Exhibition Photographs
  • Eugene Nemesi, Kevin O'Brien, James Pierre du Plessiss
Catalogue and Web
  • The Letter D: Dan Pike, Luke Robertson, Matt Lenz
Funders: Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), Arts Queensland's Backing Indigenous Arts Program, Queensland Indigenous Arts Marketing and Export Agency (QIAMEA), QUT School of Design
Material: Drawing of the city of Brisbane consisting of approximately 50 individual grid submissions emptied by half
Measurements or Duration: 8×3m
Number of Pieces: 1
Published Source:
Location: From date: To date:
Finding Country Primer Exhibition, Sling Bar, Brisbane 2009 2009
Finding Country Primer Exhibition, Don't Come Gallery, Melbourne 2009 2009
Spiazzi 1, Calle del Pestrin Castello 3865 2012-08-28 2012-09-29
2012 Finding Country Exhibition: Collateral Event of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2012 2012
2011 QUT Lecture Series - Finding Country 2011 2011
Additional URLs:
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > ARCHITECTURE (120100)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > CULTURAL STUDIES (200200) > Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies (200201)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2009 The Author(s)
Deposited On: 23 Sep 2014 22:42
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2016 06:01

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