Sixth Sense curated by Djon Mundine

Alexi Robinson

The traditionally accepted senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch are only five of many.
Sixth Sense curated by Djon Mundine

Image: Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano, Lux (still, detail), 2014 dual-channel, HD digital video, 16:9 colour and b/w, sound, 4:54 min Courtesy the artists and Anna Schwartz Gallery VIA The National Art School (NAS) Gallery as part of Sixth Sense Exhibition.

To most of us, bottled perfume generally implies something pleasant but to artist Archie Moore, it is an opportunity to toy with our perception. Les Eaux d’Amoore 2014 – an installation of custom-made perfume compounds – is personal; its variables dependent entirely on stored experience.


Guest curator Djon Mundine OAM describes this interaction as a feeling beyond the physical but more to do with memory and creativity. In Sixth Sense, Mundine presents the work of 13 Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal artists considering aspects of the spiritual world and the senses.

Aboriginal artists are widely believed to have an intuitive sixth sense. For the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye, her Dreaming was the source of her creative power and knowledge, with paintings such as Untitled 1996 testament to an ability to experience static visual imagery as song, dance movement, taste and scent.

Mundine gestures that our once untainted freedom of awareness is becoming lost and that simulacrum –moving away from the senses, towards being ‘sensible’ – is the byproduct of contemporary society. With technology comes imitation of reality and with this, a shift in how we perceive the world and our place in it.

Iranian born, Sydney-based artist Nasim Nasr contemplates personal identity in the context of travel from one culture to another. Referring to the pages in the Iranian passport, Forty Pages 2016 displays a gradual disfigurement of the artist’s face as the ink from one stamp bleeds into the next. Her pretty exterior has vanished, yet her eyes are left to tell.

Where Nasr’s work is passive in its protest, Gin Wash 2016 by Willurai Kirkbright takes on a different tone. Channeled through sight and sound the digital performance piece shows the bathing of a woman cast adrift on an imagined ocean as she battles with ancestral pain. Here, it becomes hard to distinguish Kirkbright’s story from the feelings it stirs in your own.

‘No country to sit on’ is how Karla Dickens describes the treatment of her ancestors, and the story of Emily Anderson in Work horse 11 2015. If Sixth Sense was hoping to provoke emotional and sensory responses, then the beaten down skin and orifice-like assemblage of found objects in this piece does both.

In its entirety, what this exhibition affirms is what scientists have known for some time - that the traditionally accepted senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch are only five of many.

Rating: 4 Stars out of 5


Featuring Works from: Daniel Boyd, Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser, Karla Dickens, Fiona Foley, Nicole Foreshew, Willurai Kirkbright, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano, Archie Moore, Nasim Nasr and Skye Raabe

National Art School Gallery (NAS Gallery)
19 August – 15 October

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Alexi Robinson is a Sydney-based interior designer, creative consultant and freelance arts writer. She has recently been appointed creative director of Melbourne design exhibition, DENFAIR.