Byron Arts Magazine is excited to announce the launch of  BAM Art Series Dinners. The first dinner hosted at BARRIO, Byron Bay on October 18 featured works by artist Michael Cook. Cook is considered to be one of Australia’s most exciting contemporary indigenous artists.  


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At the inaugural Byron Arts Magazine Artist Dinner, guests were invited to an evening of great food and conversation with artist Michael Cook.

The Art Series dinners are an opportunity for people to engage with contemporary art and artists in a relaxed and convivial setting.

Guests were captivated by the works exhibited at BARRIO from Cook’s series Mother, Invasion and Broken Dreams. Cook’s photographs colonial-focused histories and re-image the contemporary reality of indigenous populations. His powerfully staged narratives have featured at both the Sydney and Venice Biennale.

Guests were served a Brookies Gin cocktail on arrival and a surprise Welcome to Country performance by Joey, a Butchulla man, childhood friend and model for Cook’s work. Joey entertained guests with a traditional dance and didgeridoo performance — he performed later in the week for Prince Harry, no less!

Art writer and critic Louise Martin-Chew hosted a lively conversation with Michael as he opened up about work, the influence of identity, and how life has shaped his artistic trajectory since his first exhibition in 2010. Joey and Michael’s camaraderie resonated throughout the conversation, with humorous anecdotes from their childhood.

The journey for Michael while staging the Mother series was quite personal, particularly given he was adopted by a white mother (who was politically active when it came to Aboriginal rights), and only met his biological mother later in life. The Hitchcockesque works from the Invasion series were a departure for Michael in terms of subject matter, but were the most demanding in terms of production. Cook said it was like producing a short film with a cast of actors.

The Argentinian-influenced, ethically-sourced table menu — designed by head chef Francisco Smoje — included matching organic wines and a delicate moscato jelly and custard dessert.

This was a great event, with culture, conversation with the artist, and fun! There will be more, with this new initiative from Lisa Cowan (The Art Connector) to continue in 2019.

Photography by Kate Holmes and Brian Hodges

Artist BIO

Michael Cook is a Brisbane-based photomedia artist of Bidjara heritage. Cook’s photographs restage colonial-focused histories and re-image the contemporary reality of indigenous populations. Touching on the discriminatory nature of society, his images muddle racial and social roles ‘painting’ a picture of a societal structure reversed. Cook invites viewers to speculate Indigenous cultures living at the forefront, even a majority, rather than manipulated to live within the confines of a white man’s world. Cook’s images challenge our ingrained belief systems yet do not offer judgement – they are observational, asking questions without proffering neat prescriptive conclusions.

Considered to be one of Australia’s most exciting contemporary Indigenous artists, 2016 saw Cook present a solo exhibition at the global art fair, Art Basel Hong Kong. His work has most recently been curated into Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation at the British Museum, London; Taba Naba, Oceanographic Musuem of Monaco; Saltwater Country at AAMU Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art, The Netherlands; and Personal Structures at Palazzo Mora, Venice during the 56th Venice Biennale. Cook’s photographs have also been exhibited in the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, 2014; the 2nd National Indigenous Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia, 2012; and the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at Queensland Art Gallery/ Gallery of Modern Art, 2013. A number of Cook’s works are currently being exhibited in the group show Colony – Frontier Wars at the NGV.

Cook’s work has been acquired by institutions including the National Gallery of Australia, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia, National Museum of Australia and Parliament House, Canberra.

The Art Series Dinners are bought to you with the support of Byron Arts Magazine, McGrath & Brookies Gin and produced by

For further information and hi-res images, contact
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