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What's in an object?

Our latest exhibition looks at how two people interpret the same object

5 min read

If you were in charge of your own museum, what stories would you choose to share about the fascinating items in its collection? 

Keeping it Real is a thought-provoking new exhibition using objects from the QPAC Museum Collection to encourage big ideas to flow from conversations about small things.

The exhibition is scheduled to run in QPAC’s Tony Gould Gallery until 27 November 2021, and is also available online.

The exhibition reflects the idea that two people can view the same object, but interpret it differently based on their background and knowledge.

Exhibition Manager, Maria Cleary explains:

“There is something universally human and optimistic about the seven themes of the exhibition - Unite, Transform, Bring Joy, Find Courage, Remember The Good Times, Love, and Make Change. Twenty-one objects were carefully chosen from the collection because they resonated beautifully with the themes of the exhibition and seven of these became our ‘hero’ objects.

“We invited the people connected to these hero objects – as previous owners, or someone with special knowledge for instance, to talk with someone not connected to it. Then we listened as wonderful conversations took place,” says Maria.

Long Tack SamLong Tack Sam and his Children, 1925. Photographer C F Gairing and Company, Chicago.

Maria says the exhibition themes could be interpreted as contemporary calls to action. 

“The conversations revealed something of these aspirational themes in a variety of unexpected historical and theatrical contexts,” says Maria 

The exhibition brings together arts industry personalities including Australian playwright and artistic director Wesley Enoch AM and First Nations multidisciplinary artist and producer Aidan Rowlingson.

Wesley and Aidan discussed a program for a play called Fountains Beyond. The program was from a Brisbane Repertory Theatre Society (forerunner of La Boite Theatre) production at Albert Hall, Brisbane in 1947.

The Fountains Beyond program

In 2000, Wesley directed a new production of Fountains Beyond and shared his particular connection with the play in conversation with Aidan.

I did a new production of [Fountains of Beyond] 50 years later and our conversation made me think on what’s changed in that period of time and the representation of Indigenous Australians from this particular play through to my production,” says Wesley. 

“This object is a through-line to the kind of history it represents for Indigenous Australians.

Arts objects act as anchors for memory. They are a great way to remind us of how much we have changed. These exhibitions give us a new view of history, an insight into how it was, way before our lived memory.”

Wesley added that he was quite surprised about the inter-generational differences he and Aidan had. 

I love this idea that I am an artist in my 50s talking to an artists in his 20s and how we have different views on the world.  

“If anything, that says how things shift and change and how we have to stay interconnected to that inter-generational recording of history through museum experiences, lived experiences, sharing stories and also encouraging younger generations to see the future and what is possible.”

See more:

Want to know more about Fountains Beyond? Here’s a link to a precis of the play.

We hope to welcome you online or in-person for this latest exhibition. If you do visit us in-person, here are some tips for visiting our Keeping it Real exhibition:

  • Bring your own device and use your own headphones. Stay COVID safe as you interact with the exhibition inside the gallery.
  • Join QPAC Museum free WiFi or use your own network to listen in and share your own stories about the curious objects you’ll see.
  • No smartphone or pad? No problem,our friendly gallery team will help you out with some old school technology!
  • Now you can visit QPAC’s Tony Gould Gallery after work or before a show. The gallery will open from 12 noon Tuesday – Saturday. Entry is free. Closing times vary.
  • Keeping it Real merchandise will be available for sale including tea towels and greeting cards inspired by the exhibition items.


Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians

We pay our respects to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors of this land, their spirits and their legacy. The foundations laid by these ancestors – our First Nations Peoples – gives strength, inspiration and courage to current and future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, towards creating a better Queensland.