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Monster Pop!

From inflatable dolls to startling shadow puppets and sculptures made of coloured pencils, this daring exhibition marries contemporary art from Australia with one of our closest neighbours, Indonesia.

By Claire Eltringham

There are two main definitions for the term “Monster”: one: a large, ugly, and frightening imaginary creature; and, two: a thing of extraordinary or daunting size.

From fantastical creatures of the imagination through to the ubiquitous or ‘monstrous’ nature of street art or graffiti, Monster Pop! is a challenging exhibition that demonstrates the ways in which the term 'Monster' can be applied to popular culture in Indonesia and Australia, while linking the two countries together.

Curated by two people well known in the Darwin arts scene – Andy Ewing and Fiona Carter – Monster Pop! explores all that is deemed popular across Indonesian and Australian societies through a myriad of multimedia art forms. It also touches on a shared history of relations dating back to 1640, when Indigenous Australians began trading with Makassan trepangers from southwest Sulawesi. “Being in Darwin, we have a strong relationship with Indonesia. We wanted to expand on that history, and recreate exchanges of a cultural kind,” said Ewing.

From film and television, traditional Indonesian ceremonies, Australian Indigenous culture, gender politics and street art, Monster pop! is an intercultural dialogue that explores the different vehicles for what is deemed popular. According to Ewing and Carter, the show’s theme came naturally. “We saw a synchronicity with pop culture and monsters, which we thought would be appealing. It evolved into artists exploring monsters and the monstrous who also referenced popular culture, hence Monster Pop!” said Carter.

The show boasts an impressive list of artists including Deborah Kelly and Reko Rennie, Australian artists previously selected for the Sydney and Venice Biennales respectively, and street art activists Bayu Widodo and Digie Sigit from Yogyakarta, where political street art is part of a burgeoning scene. One half of Red Hand Prints and distinctive local artist Chayni Henry is included, as are sculptor and creator of fictional worlds Rodney Glick and Sydney artist Lionel Bawden, a colour pencil fan to the nth degree – go and see Bawden’s work to see what we mean!

Whether it intends to or not, Monster Pop! and the artists involved cross borders in more ways than one; some of the artists involved have a history of collaborating with one another. Indigenous Australian artist Reko Rennie made a video work while on an Asialink Residency in Yogyakarta, which involved working alongside Indonesian artists. Rodney Glick’s sculpture was made in collaboration with Balinese master craftsmen, who traditionally make Hindu deities. Legendary street artists Digie Sigit and Bayu Widodo will be holding street art workshops with locals during the show.

“Street art is massive in Yogyakarta – really creative, in-your-face and politically passionate," said Ewing. As a sideline to the show itself, these meaningful collaborations demonstrate the power of artists working alongside international peers and how this can have wide-spread appeal.

Monster Pop! opens at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory this month. One thing is certain, this unique exhibition traverses new ground in the Northern Territory. It would make the forefathers of Pop proud!

Click here for exhibition listing.

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