SALLY SMART: The Exquisite Pirate Oceania



21 May - 20 Jun 2008

|  The Exquisite Pirate Oceania
Artist Statement, 2008

The Exquisite Pirate is an ongoing body of work, begun in 2004. It has been recently exhibited as wall installations of varying dimensions and is made primarily from felt, canvas and everyday fabrics. It was installed as a large-scale assemblage in 2006 at Postmasters Gallery, New York, NY; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, in the exhibition 2006 Contemporary Commonwealth; Dangerous Waters, Herbert F.Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; El Pirata Esquisito, Jacob Karpio Galeria, San Jose, Costa Rica; in 2007 in New History at The Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery, The Hunter College, New York and 24hrArt Darwin Contemporary Art Space.

The Exquisite Pirate work has developed from a long-term interest in representations of feminine identity with reference to contemporary and historical models. It also brings forth the woman pirate as a metaphor for contemporary global issues of personal and social identity, cultural instability, immigration and hybridity, and reflects on the symbolism of the ship and its relevance to postcolonial discourse and, specifically, its relevance to contemporary and historical Australia. My work places a practical and theoretical emphasis on the installation space, on mutable forms and methodologies of deconstruction and reconstruction. My use of materials is integral to the conceptual unfolding of my work: the process of cutting, collage, photo-montage, staining, sewing and stitching – and their association with women’s practices – are refined and reassessed in the context of each installation.

The Exquisite Pirate develops my ideas about the woman pirate as a metaphor for personal and social identity, cultural hybridity and immigration. The project initiated from a simple question – “were there any women pirates?” Parallel to this was the seemingly huge growth in popular culture imagery connected to pirates and continuous reference of the word itself in the media as relating to cyberspace activities. In contemporary and historical Australia the boat and ship have loomed large around immigration issues and for me have become expressive, powerful images for postcolonial discourses.

Of my research on women pirates, it is Kathy Acker’s book Pussy King of Pirates that resonates through The Exquisite Pirate. Acker uses the metaphor of female pirates to explore feminine issues and sexuality, at the same time subverting the historic perception of piracy as a male domain. Without glorifying the lawlessness of the historical woman pirate, my work proposes a figure of indeterminate identity as a way of thinking about a globalised world and the need for alternative opinions.

Sally Smart