Ashe examines the role of the Australian Flag in contemporary Australian life in his new exhibition, Flagging Opinion. Ashe investigates the schisms of esteem, novelty and identity in an installation that brings together photographs of himself and objects he has made from the Australian Flag.
In the gallery space these photographs are placed within a soundscape of voices that vocalise comments made on social media about his work, Untitled (Oi, Oi, Oi), which was removed from the BUILDING | ART ON WALLS project in Tallangatta 36 hours after it was installed.
The Autogenous Script
In late January of this year Ashe’s Untitled (Oi, Oi, Oi) was publicly presented in the artist’s (then) current hometown of Tallangatta, as part of the BUILDING | ART ON WALLS project. Ashe initiated this project where a small group of artists were invited to respond to prominent public positions on the main street of the town. Ashe was the second of a group of four artists to exhibit. Untitled (Oi, Oi, Oi) was on public display for less than 36 hours before it was removed by the owner of the property on which it had been installed. The owner of the property had been an enthusiastic participant in the BUILDING | ART ON WALLS project, however objected to this work once it was on view. A heated public debate followed.
This exhibition, Flagging Opinion, is the artist’s response to those events. Untitled (Oi, Oi, Oi) 2nd Iteration is presented in a simplified and more direct form - a figure, blue-eyed, dressed on a Niqab (not a burqa, as is often suggested) made using multiply, printed, polyester Australian flags. The artwork has a counterpoint in this presentation, Untitled (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie) – an image of the same to blue eyes visible behind a Ned Kelly-esque mask, again patterned with the Australian flag. The two staged photographs exist here in a call and response, much like the chant made famous at the 2000 Olympics.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie … … …
This suggests a desire for compatibility, or at the least an opening to a view where these two images can have some equivalency. Presented alongside these two works are documents from the BUILDING | ART ON WALLS project, a collection of either store bought or found objects that also use the Australian flag outside of its standard context (i.e.: as a flag), and a three-channel sound work that makes present the voices of those who were enraged by Ashe’s original presentation, or were supportive of it, or were ambivalent, plus a range of non-polarised opinions. As these voices may clear, many who first viewed Ashe’s work in Tallangatta (or perhaps on reproduction afterwards) could not see any justification for a flag nicab. The Niqab work, Untitled (Oi, Oi, Oi), presented in a context where the flag is plastered on a great many objects, forms of address, and in the reproduction, asks us simply, What is the problem?
Michael Moran, Curator – MAMA, 2018