Ayers Rock jumper, 2002

85 x 480 cm
edition of 1

Melbourne Fashion Week, 2002
Tactility, two centuries of Indigenous objects textiles and fibre, National Gallery of Australia, Brenda L Croft curator, 2003
Christian Thompson, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, 2014

Christian Thompson, colour illus. pages 32 to 35, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, 2014

Kangaroo and boomerang jumper 2002 [held by the National Gallery of Australia] together with Tiwi Jumper 2002 [held by the National Gallery of Victoria] and Ayers Rock Jumper, 2002 are from the series Blaks’ Palace from Thompson’s solo exhibition held during 2002 Melbourne Fashion Week.

“I constructed 3 kitsch jumper designs from the 1980s…the Ayers Rock (Uluru) Jumper, Tiwi Island Jumper and the Kangaroo and Boomerang Jumper. I extended the sleeves to about 4 or 5 metres long and employed 1950s colour. I then took photographs of Indigenous arts workers, academics and curators wearing them. I think it was my most effective work because it combined…elements of performance and sculpture but also was [based on] quite a simple, tangible concept of iconic reclamation.” [RealTime issue #52 Dec-Jan 2002 pg. 20]

By reappropriating kitsch imagery of bygone times and reinvesting it with his own stylised intent, Thompson subverts the safety net of icons that non-Indigenous Australians think we all ‘own’ — in this case, iconic images of native fauna and Indigenous tools. The boomerang, for example, has been appropriated as a logo by national airlines, real estate companies and, most recently, the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

Machine-knitted by professional machinists, the jumper Ayers Rock jumper, 2002 is 98% polyester and 2% wool. The work depicts an almost unrecognisable image of the Australian icon, the sacred site of Uluru in central Australia. The ridiculous sleeves can take on a myriad of meanings, turning the item of clothing into a literal as well as metaphorical straightjacket.

Image credit: silversalt photography

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