Michael Stevenson / New Zealand b.1964 / The gift (from ‘Argonauts of the Timor Sea’) 2004–06 / Aluminium, wood, rope, bamboo, synthetic polymer paint, World War Two parachute and National Geographic magazines / 400 x 600 x 300cm / Purchased 2007. The Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

Michael Stevenson
The gift (from ‘Argonauts of the Timor Sea’) 2004–2006

Not Currently on Display

The gift is part of Michael Stevenson’s ‘Argonauts of the Timor Sea’, a meticulously researched collection of nine objects pertaining to artist Ian Fairweather (1891–1974) and his ill-fated journey of 1952, when he attempted to sail from Darwin to Timor on a homemade raft.

One of the major ideas in the installation is that of ‘gift-giving’ and the existence of non-monetary economies. Fairweather’s intrepid journey fascinated Stevenson in part because it enabled the artist to travel from Australia to England while avoiding any expenses.

After his arrival in Roti, Indonesia, Fairweather was deported to England; although he had to reimburse the costs by digging trenches, he managed to use the system, rather than be bound by its economics.

The work also comments on migration debates and the more recent perilous boat journeys to Australia made by asylum seekers.

This central piece of the ‘Argonauts of the Timor Sea’ is a replica of Fairweather’s raft, made from discarded driftwood, a reconfigured old parachute sail and fuel tanks — remnants of the Japanese bombing of Darwin in 1942.

Multidisciplinary artist Michael Stevenson was born in 1964 in Inglewood, Aotearoa New Zealand, and studied at Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts, graduating in 1986. While living in Melbourne, he was granted the Greene Street studio residency by the Australia Council. Since 2000, he has lived and worked in Berlin.

In 2002, Stevenson was awarded the New Zealand residency program at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, and featured in the Sydney Biennale. The following year, he was selected to represent New Zealand at the 50th Venice Biennale. Since 2011, Stevenson has undertaken a full-time teaching professorship at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Nürnberg.1

A methodical researcher and passionate archivist, Stevenson brilliantly crafts works that probe cultural conditions and attitudes. His interests lie in uncovering obscure moments in history, particularly those related to the art world.


1 Drawn from www.michaelstevenson.info/biography.html, accessed 26 September 2017.

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