Australian Week: Ray Cook
Guest Curator for Australian Week is the talented Heidi Romano. Today she features the work of Ray Cook…
The other day I received Ray Cook’s “Diary of a Fortunate Man” book and his characters kept me company. They whispered in my ear, told me stories, since forgotten, made me laugh, made me cry and presented me with a fragile perspective of his fictional characters ups and downs. I think David Broker distilled it to the point “As we look at the breadths of Cook’s work, it is his ability to thread a fine line between humour and sadness, the coarse and the tender, ecstasy and anguish, comedy and tragedy, that becomes the most noteworthy aspect of his practice.”
Ray Cook is a photo media artist practicing since the late 80s and currently completing a PhD at Queensland College of Art where he lectures in photo art practice. In the past his work has used tableaux photography to trace issues that define queer life, more recently his work focuses on the impact of neoliberalism on subcultural identities. Ray’s work has been exhibited in Australia and overseas and in 2007 the Queensland Centre for Photography published a major monograph of his practice entitled, “The Diary of a Fortunate Man”.
Not with a Bang but a Whimper
This series is called “Not with a Bang but a Whimper”. It came about in 2004 when I was struck by the number of gays on TV. This ubiquity of gay representations in the media is widely interpreted as a symptom of a new legitimacy. I thought some of these representations were good but others like those on lifestyle programs trivialised us – I found them predictable and patronizing. I’m an old dog; I’ve been around the traps. I lived through the 80s and 90s. I witnessed the era of AIDS and the bitterness it caused. It seemed unlikely to me that so much acrimony could dissipate in such a short time.
End of the World
I wasn’t willing to play the clown for straight acceptance. This distrust led me to think about the causes of gay legitimacy. Popular opinion seems to view it as a teleological progress of civilisation towards ever-greater enlightenment. I saw it as a consequence of gay usefulness to the market. Under the cultural logic of neoliberalism, every minority is legitimate just as long as they can be strip mined of resources for new commercialised identities and markets—a shift in the determinants of inequality from race, gender and sexuality to class. In the studio I cast my own personal history against the classed fairytale embodied by lifestyle programs, hoping to reveal the discrepancies and condescension on which the mediated representations rested.
From the Cradle to the Grave
hold on to your dreams
it pays to look your best
out on the tiles
reconfiguring the constellations in the night sky of my youth
Sweeping the sad things out the door
the new disaster
there is always hope