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The Program promotes Australian art globally, helping Australian artists reach new audiences.

Masquerade: Representation and the self in contemporary art

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)

Duration

23 Mar 2006 to 21 May 2006

Artists

Bas Jan Ader, Claude Cahun, Samuel Fosso, Ronnie van Hout, Shigeyuki Kihara, Martin Kippenberger, Kalup Donte Linzy, Ana Mendieta, Todd McMillan, Yasmasa Morimura, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Tracey Rose, Cindy Sherman, Sam Taylor-Wood, Hannah Wilke, Francesca Woodman

Curator: Rachel Kent

This exhibition examined the act of self-representation in contemporary art. Taking the idea of the self-portrait as inherently ambiguous, it examined ideas about construction, interpretation, artifice and role-play through the lens of selected international and Australian artists from the 1970s to 2006, alongside significant contextual imagery from the early part of the 20th century.

The auto portrait, in which elements of narrative and biography figure strongly, was manifested in some exhibited works whilst others used props, clues or symbols to suggest a sense of self, real or false. Masks, costume and prosthetic devices were variously employed to construct individual identity before the viewer, and through these works the idea of the ‘self’ was actively contested and undermined. Other works were grounded in the physical body, using performance as a way of foregrounding concerns about individual identity and its embodiment. In these works the shadow, doubling, and absence rather than presence, suggested the mutability of the self and its representation in art. Combining critical enquiry with irony, pathos and a sense of play, this exhibition presented just some of the many approaches that artists have taken towards self portraiture in recent years.

This exhibition coincided with the Art Gallery of New South Wales and National Portrait Gallery, London historical survey of self-portraiture through painting. It represented an exciting opportunity for Australian viewers to see both projects and engage with their various discussions about individual identity and its representation across time.

Masquerade: Representation and the self in contemporary art included work by Mike Parr and Sam Taylor-Wood, whose solo exhibitions were held in the Level 1, 2 and 4 galleries, linking all four levels of the Museum in a special MCA Portraiture Season.

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