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Five Questions with with Abdul Abdullah

Abdul Abdullah is an Australian multi-disciplinary artist and one of the commissioned artists for Interspecies and Other Others.

As a self-described “outsider amongst outsiders“, Abdul Abdullah‘s practice is primarily concerned with the experience of the “other”. Identifying as a Muslim and having both Malay/Indonesian and convict/settler Australian heritage, Abdul occupies a precarious space in the political discourse that puts him at odds with popular definitions. 

We had a chat with Abdul about his new series Interloper, a newly commissioned work, which will be presented as part of Interspecies and Other Others at the Convent from 26 August.

1.   What initially attracted you about being involved in Interspecies and Other Others at the Convent? 

Kelli Alred approached me in 2021 with a really interesting exhibition proposal. I was very excited to produce work on this historical site and particularly interested in having access to the Children’s Farm. I’ve been to shows and picnicked on the grounds, and thought it would be a great place to make and exhibit work. I was immediately convinced of Kelli’s curatorial vision and her credentials and was enthusiastic to show alongside the other artists in the project. 

2.   Your photographic series Interloper explores the idea of the imposter and the outsider. What gave you the idea for this striking series of images? What is it about the fox that you feel captures the essence of what you’re trying to explore? 

I remember being in London in 2009 and was catching a night bus past White Chapel tube stop, and down one of the side streets I spotted a fox walk slowly out between two bins. The image stayed with me ever since. I saw a wild animal living on the societal fringe and in the peripheries, barely tolerated and surviving in an urban landscape. In sounds funny to say, but I really related to that fox. Since then, I have also enjoyed foxes (and particularly fox puppets) in popular cinema like Meet the Feebles (1989) and Fantastic Mr Fox (2009). 

3.   This will be your latest collaborative work with David Charles Collins. Why do you think the two of you make such a good team? 

David and I have worked together on projects since 2011 and we have worked out a very efficient short hand. When we are on set it’s very simple for us see our counterpart’s vision. I completely trust David creatively, and I believe that is truly reciprocated. 

4.   Your photographs were captured at the Collingwood Children’s Farm, was this your first time working with animals? What was that like? 

I have previously worked with David on a photo series shot in Malaysia, featuring a macaque. Working with the animals at Collingwood Children’s Farm was a lot easier. These animals were much more used to human contact and were wonderful collaborators.  

5.   What do you hope audiences take away from this series of works? 

I hope the audience gets a little bit of joy from these photographs. They were a lot of fun to produce. Beyond my stated intention for the work, I hope audiences see these images as stills from an incomplete folk story, that they can then complete. 

Interspecies and Other Others 
26 August –  2 October  
Wednesday to Sunday, sunset to 10pm 

 Learn more about Interspecies and Other Others here.