Installation view of Esther Stewart’s work <em>The space has been created for something to happen; 1:2</em> 2019 on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023. Image: Tom Ross

Drew Pettifer

Drew Pettifer
(b. 1980, Shepparton, Victoria. Lives and works between Kyabram and Melbourne)

Drew Pettifer is an artist and academic. His art practice frequently explores themes of intimacy, gender, sexuality, power, the archive and social politics, using a combination of photography, video, installation and performance. His subjects are often young men, through whom the artist explores both private and public notions of desire.

Untitled (Ruel) and Untitled (Bram), 2020, are two video works that were also shown in the NGV’s recent QUEER: Stories from the NGV Collection exhibition in 2022. Here, the artist interrogates the historical archive to draw attention to forgotten queer histories and to explore gender, sexuality and the politics of desire. The works draw on a 1727 story about two young men, aged eighteen and twenty-two, who were aboard the Dutch East India Company ship the Zeewijk. Historical records show that the two men were lovers and were convicted of sodomy. As punishment, they were marooned on separate islands in the Houtman Abrolhos archipelago, off the coast of Western Australia. Nearby in the exhibition, video footage shows the ship bobbing between the two islands, where the two men ultimately perished alone. Pettifer posits that this marked the cruel beginnings of Australia’s European queer history.

In addition to his artistic practice, Pettifer is also program manager of the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) (Honours) program at RMIT University. He is currently a member of the Shepparton Art Museum board of directors, is a qualified solicitor, and also works as an independent curator and writer. His work is held in a number of collections, including the NGV, Monash Gallery of Art and Shepparton Art Museum, as well as private collections both nationally and around the world.