Artspace

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson

One Love

11 March - 28 March 1998


One Love
was created as Peter Robinson's contribution to the first Seppelt Art Award exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, in 1997. The installation of brutal, shoddy signs offers a confusion of racist sentiments—something to offend everyone. On a backdrop Australia is cast as BIG BROTHER complete with swastika, while further panels instruct DIE ABORIGINE, DIE MAORI, DIE PAKEHA, WHITES HAVE RIGHTS TOO and FISH + CHIPS—a nod to Australia's controversial MP Pauline Hanson. There are sculptures of an ill-conceived Maori spiral, a swastika, a dollar sign, an exclamation mark, a fist. A spray of cheap shots, One Love offers an alternative, inclusive portrait of our culturally diverse society: we all hate each other. Riddled with bogan imperatives, One Love sits awkwardly in gallery spaces which normally foster cultural sensitivity and high minded discourse.

With its white words on black, One Love recalls Colin McCahon (whose text paintings drew on the humble, straight-up vernacular of street evangelists and grocer's signs) and Joseph Beuys (who also favoured blackboards and placards). Both volunteered themselves as spiritual teachers with burning messages to communicate. Contemporary Maori art is similarly worthy, developing out of experiments in education in the 1960s. Robinson apes the teacherly register, re-routing it to convey bad messages. A piece in One Love sums this up—a giant cardboard hand with extended middle finger and LOVE written across the knuckles. The image refers to Robert Mitchum's conflicted evangelist in the film The Night of the Hunter. Tattooed with the words LOVE and HATE, Mitchum's hands are teaching aids as he plays the good shepherd by day—but by night he leds his flock to slaughter. Similarly Robinson's conflicted hand could indicate ONE WAY JESUS or, more likely, FUCK YOU. But, as Mitchum apes good, perhaps Robinson is just feigning evil—overtly playing The Bad Preacher.