Christian Thompson, Ritual Intimacy

Ritual Intimacy is the first major survey of the work of Christian Thompson. The exhibition spans 15 years of his practice, bringing together photography, video, sculpture, performance and sound works to explore the relationship between form and the body through a process of auto-ethnography.

Ritual Intimacy also features an ambitious new commission, Berceuse 2017. In an immersive three-channel sound and video installation, Thompson sings in Bidjara – his ancestral language that is considered to be ’officially endangered’. Through works such as this, Thompson practices what he describes as ‘the simple yet profound idea that if even one word of an endangered language is spoken it continues to be a living language’.

Another key idea explored in Ritual Intimacy is Thompson’s concept of spiritual repatriation, which he recently developed in his PhD at the University of Oxford while working with the Australian collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum. Rather than appropriating or restaging problematic ethnographic images of Indigenous ancestors held in the Museum’s photographic collection, Thompson chose to spend significant periods of time with these images, absorbing their aura and developing a personal artistic and deferential response that is decisively empowered.

Curators: Charlotte Day, Director, Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA and Hetti Perkins, Guest Curator

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This project has been supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria. MUMA and Griffith Artworks acknowledge the support of the Gordon Darling Foundation for the accompanying publication.

Media release: Christian Thompson: Ritual Intimacy comes to Griffith University Art Gallery (PDF 51kb)

Panel discussion

Restoring connections: Aboriginal images and objects in museum collections

30 August 6 pm for refreshments with panel discussion to start 6:30 pm

Griffith University Art Museum, 226 Grey Street, South Bank

Christian Thompson’s 2012 series ‘We Bury Our Own’ was inspired by the Australian photographic collection at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England. To coincide with Christian Thompson: Ritual Intimacy at Griffith University Art Gallery, join our distinguished panel of artists and researchers in a discussion that will explore artistic strategies of engagement with items of material culture collected from Australia’s Indigenous peoples and held in European museum collections.

Chair: Michael Aird (photographer, anthropologist, curator) Judy Watson (artist) Dale Harding (artist) Chantal Knowles (Head of Cultural Environments Program, Queensland Museum)

Image: Desert melon, from the series We bury our own 2012, Courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin.

RSVP: artmuseum@griffith.edu.au

The fashioning of identity: bodies, politics and performative strategies with Dr Nadia Buick, Luke Roberts, Gerwyn Davies and Chantal Fraser

19 September, 6 pm for refreshments with panel discussion to start 6:30 pm

Griffith University Art Museum, 226 Grey Street, South Bank

Christian Thompson’s photography, video and performance works often utilise the armature of his own body, focusing on the exploration of identity, sexuality, gender, race and memory. In his live performances and conceptual portraits he inhabits a range of personas achieved through handcrafted costumes and carefully orchestrated poses and backdrops. This panel discussion will explore the use of costume and body adornment in contemporary art, and the practice of assuming personas and using the artist’s body.

Image: Ellipse, from the series Polari 2014, Courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin.

In conversation: Christian Thompson

22 September, 6 pm for refreshments with conversation to begin 6:30 pm

Griffith University Art Museum, 226 Grey Street, South Bank

In this special event, leading contemporary Australian artist Christian Thompson will discuss his recent practice and current survey exhibition, Ritual intimacy, in conversation with Angela Goddard, Director, Griffith University Art Museum.

Christian Thompson, of the Bidjara people, works across photography, video, sculpture, performance and sound to explore notions of identity, race and Australia's colonial history. He will discuss the breadth of his practice, both in the media he employs and in the works he has made for Australian and European contexts, including the use of his own image to present ideas about identity and the collision of cultures, along with his audio and video works that celebrate language and gesture through performance, sound and song.

This event coincides with the last days of Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy, curated by Charlotte Day and Hetti Perkins, on tour from Monash University Museum of Art ( MUMA ).

Image: Energy matter, from the series We Bury our own 2012, Courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin.

Secondary school education resource

This resource has been created for use by teachers and secondary students to engage with artworks and themes in the Christian Thompson: Ritual Intimacy exhibition at Griffith University Art Gallery. This resource can be utilised by school groups visiting the exhibition or to assist with learning experiences in the classroom.

Teachers can use the questions featured in this resource to prompt individual responses from students or as a starting point for wider discussion.

In planning and writing this resource Griffith University Art Gallery has consulted the Australian Curriculum: Visual Arts, Years 7 to 10 and the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority’s Visual Art (2007) syllabus.

Download the Christian Thompson: Ritual Intimacy education resource (PDF 278kb)