Artist Joan Ross asks us to think about museums as places that keep, acquire, and classify objects.

In her vast work of art, a fluorescent moth with flapping wings unleashes chaos. Vitrines smash, specimens escape, and the museum tumbles down. In the wake of a flood that clears the rubble, Weereewa/Lake George emerges as drawn by the colonial artist Joseph Lycett in 1825. Gold balloons spelling $BOUNTY$ float and later burst in the bright blue sky.

The legacy of colonisation is at the heart of Joan Ross’ practice. ‘One of the reasons that I make the work that I do is that I don’t think you can be anywhere in Australia and not consider that we’re on Indigenous land,’ says Ross, who was born in Glasgow and came to live in Australia as a child. ‘I’m constantly aware of the colonial influence, and the disjunction between that and nature.’

The National Gallery of Australia is built on the unceded lands of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples.

Joan Ross: Collector's Paradise is a Know My Name project and presented as part of the 2021 Enlighten Festival.

Curator: Elspeth Pitt, Curator, Australian Art

Joan Ross Appears In