Michael Cook - A Contemporary Perspective

Cook's artworks shift roles and perspectives around the notion of European ‘discovery’ of Australia, reflecting upon our habitual ways of thinking and seeing our history.

This series questions who really discovered Australia while making reference to what was always here, what has been introduced and the effect this has had on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their culture and country.

“Cook asks us to consider how Australian history might have been different if early explorers and settlers had ‘seen through the eyes of the Aboriginal people’”

Dr. Lisa Chandler, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland from Points of View: Michael Cook’s Re-Imagined Histories

The scene is set on the shoreline looking out to sea, the site that bought the first ships to Australia. The photos depict an Aboriginal man role-switching with his colonisers, at times he is  dressed in full colonial style clothing, other times the colonial clothing is removed revealing the strength and resilience of Indigenous Australians before and after colonisation.

Throughout the series the man is joined by some of our Australian native animals as well as modern introduced objects. In some photos a sailing ship appears on the horizon - a strong reminder of European colonisation.

About the artist

Portrait of artist Michael Cook

Michael Cook is from the Bidjara people of south-west Queensland. Although an emerging artist, he has a wealth of photographic knowledge and experience that has gained him national and international recognition.

He originally worked as a fashion photographer and has effectively applied these skills to the visual arts with Undiscovered, which comprises a suite of 10 photographs and was recently acquired by the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Text courtesy ANMM / Tina Baum, Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art in artonview, issue 65, autumn 2011

“Michael Cook’s elegiac visual poems use a rich palette of moody greys to shape contemporary attitudes.... a genuine, and persuasive, voice.”

Michael Desmond from Wistful Humour: Michael Cook’s Antipodean Garden Of Eden

Tour Dates

South Australian Maritime Museum, Adelaide
14 April - 4 June 2017

Museum & Art Gallery, Northern Territory, Darwin NT
17 June 2017 - 27 August 2017 

Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Art and Culture Centre, Katherine NT
6 February - 29 March 2018

Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs NT
18 May - 24 June 2018

Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo NSW
18 August - 27 October 2018



ABC interview with Michael Cook and Donna Carstens   

ABC Weekend Breakfast's Miriam Corowa interviews Michael Cook and Donna Carstens about his exhibition, Undiscovered, at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Buy the book

Order the East Coast Encounter catalogue from our online store which features some of Michael Cook's works and those of other artists.


The Australian National Maritime Museum acknowledges all traditional custodians of the lands and waters throughout Australia and pay our respects to them and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.