Feature

Glenn Iseger-Pilkington likes to joke that he’s an “arts handyman”. Yet the phrase does have merit: he’s an artist and writer and has held various curatorial roles at the South Australian Museum, Western Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Nowadays, he’s the lead consultant at Gee Consultancy, where he works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and arts workers.

In this latest Art Guide podcast, Iseger-Pilkington, a Yamatji Nyoongar man from Western Australia with Dutch and Scottish migrant history, talks about his curatorial and consultancy roles. But he’s careful to point out that he sees himself less as a voice of authority and more as a conduit.

With a career largely spent working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and art objects, as well as working in non-Indigenous institutions, Iseger-Pilkington has interesting insights into his arts roles.

In particular, his experience leads to reflecting upon the colonial history of many art institutions. “[In the past] it was very much about gathering these collections of objects for a culture that was seen to be dying out, and there was active campaigns to try and make it die out through the last couple of hundred years,” he says. “So I think that museums are tormented with their own history, but a lot of them are doing great work to re-write the role of what museums and galleries can do.”

Iseger-Pilkington discusses the idea of national centres run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which are centred on the presentation of their own culture, reflecting Aboriginal ways of being and knowing. “For me, in the last few years, I’ve started to really understand the significance of that,” he says. “It’s beyond the surface level of ‘we need our own museum’, but more to do with the constructs of power that could be turned on their head if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were given that remit of presenting and caring for their own culture material.”

During the podcast, Iseger-Pilkington also talks about the experience of judging the recent 2018 National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards and tells us what changes he’s noticed in the arts in Australia over the last 15 years — both for better and worse.

This podcast has been produced in partnership with the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in recognition of the annual National Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Art Awards.

Tiarney Miekus