Jonathan Jones
untitled (transcriptions of country)

15 Dec 2023 – 11 Feb 2024

Above: Jonathan Jones, untitled (emu eggs) after Étienne-Pierre Ventenat, 2021–23, and untitled (vases, armes, pêche), 2023. Ceramic work: Somchai Charoen. Courtesy the artists. Photo: Jenni Carter
43–51 Cowper Wharf Roadway
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
Sydney Australia
Friday 15 December, 2023, 5.30pm

Based on research undertaken in Australia and France, this exhibition considers the colonial transportation, trade and translation of Australian native plants and animals, as well as Australian Aboriginal portraits, objects and music, and their associated knowledges, by examining the 1800–1803 French expedition under the command of Captain Nicolas Baudin. The French explorers amassed extraordinary collections. Countless plants and animals, along with the largest known ensemble of Sydney Aboriginal objects, were taken back to France and installed at the Château de Malmaison. But with the demise of Napoléon, the exact fate of the Australian animals is unknown, the significant collections were largely lost or forgotten, and the story remains untold. 

Jonathan Jones presents a collection of collaborative elements – a series of embroideries that transcribe the plant specimens collected in Sydney, a set of wreaths and historical portraits, a moving image work, soundscape, and planting installation. These artworks ponder the process of translation and how concepts, practices and stories distort as they move away from their homelands and caretakers. The artist explains: ‘I’m curious about how we come to terms with objects that were collected and are now lost to the archive; how these objects can morph into new forms of dialogue, become tools of reciprocity and repatriation within the framework of decolonisation.’

As the world’s refugee crisis continues to grow and displacement dominates our contemporary experience, understanding how Indigenous concepts, practices and stories can be translated across cultures is more than ever relevant. The exhibition untitled (transcriptions of country) speaks to the way seeds can flourish in new environments, to how Aboriginal understanding of Country and respectful sharing of knowledge can connect people and communities.

Jonathan Jones was born in 1978 in Sydney, where he lives and works. He belongs to the Wiradyuri and Kamilaroi of southeastern Australia. 

Research and exhibition developed by Jonathan Jones with the support of Elders Aunty Julie Freeman and Uncle Charles Madden.

Collaborators and artists
Anaita Abdul Azim, Anamika, Rabia Azizi, Gail Barclay, Liam Benson, Somchai Charoen, Khyati Niket Gathani, Lida Heidari, Farzana Hekmat, Khal Bibi Hekmat, Stu Hunte, Carla Kapinga, Heifa Kazemi, Hilin Kazemi, Floura Khosh Kish, Lille Madden, Kyle Leonard, Matt Mckay, Jazz Money, Ginette Morato, Shabnam Mukhi, Luke Mynott, Shannon Nakayama, Zahra Nawabi, Genevieve O’Callaghan, Wendy Osmond, Ayusha Prasad, Fariba Rahimi, Maveryn Reid, Marina Robins, Junghee Seeto, Penelope Seidler, Sharadha Sivaram, Seethalakshmi Srinivasan, Victor Valdes, Matthew Walsh, Susan Ling Young, Kathryn Yuen


Past Locations

Palais de Tokyo
6 Nov 2021 – 20 Feb 2022

Public Program

Jonathan Jones, untitled (transcriptions of country) is co-commissioned and co-curated by Artspace, Sydney, and Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Research and exhibition developed by Jonathan Jones with the support of Elders Aunty Julie Freeman and Uncle Charles Madden. The project is developed in close collaboration with and supported by Arts & Cultural Exchange (ACE), with additional assistance from Adorned Collective. The project is also supported by Creative Australia and is proudly funded by the NSW Government through Create NSW, the Australian Government through the Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grants Program, Australia Now France 2021–22, an initiative of the Australian Government celebrating Australia’s creative excellence, diversity and innovation, our Commissioning Partner Andrew Cameron AM and Cathy Cameron, the Embassy of France in Australia, the City of Sydney and the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund. The Gunnery redevelopment is proudly funded by the NSW Government through Create NSW.