Best thing to do in Brisbane this summer – QAGOMA!

I’d be the first to admit I don’t know a lot about art. But, as they say, I know what I like. And I really liked APT9 at QAGOMA in Brisbane, an international modern art expedition that’s on until end of April 2019.

I call it an expedition, rather than exhibition, because it covers so much ground. Murray and I spread APT9 over three days, after realising on day one that it deserved (nay, demanded!) careful attention. Admission is free, so you could even stretch it further. If ever you needed an excuse to visit Brisbane this summer for a long weekend or a week, APT9 is it.

Art as entertainment  

What amazed me the most about APT9 is its ability to entertain. Art exhibitions are often so static and ungiving, i.e. flat and boring. But this one gives all it’s got, leaving you agape in wide-eyed wonder with brain fully engaged.

There are some big names, like Lisa Reihana. She’s the Kiwi whose massive video work wowed the crowds at the Venice Bienniale in 2015. The same screen-based masterpiece, ‘In Pursuit of Venus [infected]’, is showing at APT9. Inspired by Joseph Dufour’s 1804 printed wallpaper ‘Les Sauvages De La Mer Pacifique’, which depicts an idealised view of 18th century Pacific voyages of discovery, it floats past your eyes telling stories as it goes. The most compelling bit is when the hat and thigh bone of Captain Cook (deceased) are unwrapped. Most unexpected.

captain cook

Bees artfully making honey

Another Kiwi included in APT9 is Anne Noble. Her work is bee-based and features a live hive connected to the real world. Bees are making honey right in front of your eyes. The real beehive is supported by large-scale photograms and video, both highlighting the plight of bees on our unbalanced planet.


A real stand-out for me was the rice-meets-railway work by Hou I-Ting. This multimedia display tells the historic story of Taiwan’s rail journey lunchboxes (ekiben). Framed artworks of sushi rice and nori are complemented by a video that shows the artworks being created against a backdrop of real-life mass lunchbox production. The fact that the lunchbox art has at times transmitted propaganda messages makes this exhibit even more fascinating.

sushi with plane

Songs from above

Video is huge at APT9. One piece that manages to be everywhere at once, due to its pervasive soundtrack, is a work by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries. An LED video artwork in the shape of a crucifix, it hangs from the ceiling enchanting everyone who looks up with a combination of poetry, typography, music and vocals.

Some pieces are deeply political, like the cluster bomb fern gardens from Laos. While they’re so serenely beautiful you want to take one home for your barbecue area, the message about Laos being the most bombed country on earth is clear. Laotian people live with unexploded bombs, mines and ammunition; they’ve learned to re-use them in hundreds of ways.


Another political piece is the wall of amusingly-crooked political and rich-people portraits by Australian artist Vincent Manatjira. These caricatures come to life in a hilarious animation that has politicians hooting like kookaburras.  I was also deeply moved by the story of copper on Bougainville, told with an exhibition of rain cloaks and a brilliantly edited video of old and new footage.


Just go!

It would be impossible to cover all the highlights of APT9 without turning this piece into a novella, so you’ll just have to see it for yourself. Read more about it at the APT9 website.