Born Canberra 1986

Worimi people, New South Wales

Lives and works in Sydney

Represented by Yavuz Gallery, Singapore & Sydney

Dean Cross was born and raised on Ngunnawal/Ngambri Country and a Worimi man through his paternal bloodline.

He is a paratactical artist interested in collisions of materials, ideas and histories. He is motivated by the understanding that his practice sits within a continuum of the oldest living culture on Earth – and enacts First Nations sovereignty through expanded contemporary art methodologies. He hopes to traverse the poetic and the political in a nuanced choreography of form and ideas.

The Map
By Liang Luscombe

For Free/State, Worimi man Dean Cross continues to unbraid the ways in which this settler state utilises instruments of cartography. He sets the stage quite literally with the construction of a free-standing wall with a door at its centre. From this vantage, the viewer is positioned as performer, and invited to enter the theatrical staging of Cross’s installation.

Attached to one side of this wall is a reproduction of Théodore Géricault’s most famous painting, and arguably one of the most significant and harrowing works of the romantic era, The Raft of the Medusa, 1818–19. An image of colonial disaster and Géricault’s abolitionist politics, the painting depicts the aftermath of the 1816 wreck of the French Royal Navy frigate, the Medusa, a vessel used in the French colonies’ slave trade to Senegal. Cross observed a strange convergence between the painting’s twisted black-and-white bodies and the continent of Australia, and applied one significant intervention to the work: he placed anthropologist Norman Tindale’s 1974 map titled ‘Tribal boundaries of Aboriginal Australia’ over the reproduction of the painting, inverting it and obliterating all of its detail. Walking through the door to the other side of the wall of Cross’s installation, we are confronted by a series of instruments for spatial boundary-making – starpicket fences, roughly attached to the wall itself.

Through Cross’s installation, the viewer comes to reflect on the way in which our settler country relies, as a key tenet of national identity, on borders for its legitimacy, as well as on the often-violent ways its bureaucracy is continually and materially laid on top of Indigenous conceptions of the very same place.

The full version of this essay by Liang Luscombe is published in Free/State.