NGV Triennial

Megan Cope



Unprecedented 2020 is a new work by Qunadamooka woman and contemporary artist, Megan Cope. Her text-based work explores the use of the word ‘unprecedented’, which is written on a wooden board in old English script. The letters ‘precedent’ glow under a black light and are distinguished from the full word. Made from ochre, burnt Bundjalung country (charcoal) and glow mineral, the piece draws attention to a word that is used by colonisers to further reinforces the myth of Terra Nullius. Cope believes the use of the word ‘unprecedented’ is ‘completely irresponsible’ as it should only be used to describe something that has been ‘never known or done before’. By referring to the current global crisis as ‘unprecedented’, Australia’s Aboriginal history is ignored. This history includes the small-pox pandemic, which decimated Aboriginal populations in the 19th century, plus ongoing violence and systemic racism experienced by Aboriginal people.

Megan Cope is a Quandamooka woman from North Stradbroke Island in South East Queensland, who is also a member of the Aboriginal art collective proppaNOW. Her site-specific sculptural installations, video work and paintings investigate issues relating to identity, the environment and mapping practices. Cope’s work often resists prescribed notions of Aboriginality and challenge the grand narrative of ‘Australia’ as well as our sense of time and ownership in a settler colonial state. Her art has been exhibited locally and internationally at Queensland Art Gallery|/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; Gold Coast City Art Gallery; MONA FOMA, Hobart; ARC Biennial, Brisbane; Cairns Regional Art Gallery; Koorie Heritage Trust, Melbourne; City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand; Para Site Contemporary Art Space, Hong Kong; Care of Art Space, Milan; the Australian Embassy, Washington; and Next Wave Festival, 2014. In 2015 Cope’s work was curated into an exhibition at Musées de la Civilisation in Québec, Canada, which also acquired her work for their permanent collection. She undertook a Time_Space_Place: Nomad Residency in 2014, awarded through Performance Space in Sydney.