Are You There?, 2023
Are You There? at Wollongong Art Gallery, 2023
Photo: Zan Wimberley
Are You There? is the first major survey of the work of Daniel Mudie Cunningham. This exhibition maps 30 years of practice, bringing together videos, photographs, texts, and
 drawings from as early as 1993, alongside archival material and recently produced works.

Are You There? observes Cunningham’s lifelong practice of self-invention, documentation, 
and memorialisation. His deeply personal body of work publicly grapples with lived experiences of
love, loss and becoming as a queer person raised in a religious, suburban context. Employing enactment and reenactment, Cunningham captures and relays the developing psychological and sociopolitical dimensions of identity, most notably through video performance.

Fusing personal anecdotes with references to contemporary popular culture, Cunningham’s
 oeuvre functions as a form of durational queer self-portraiture, voraciously cataloguing his
own invention and, subsequently, examining how identity is performed and remembered.
Since his earliest performances to camera, Lonesome Cowboy (1993) and Gender is a Drag (1993), Cunningham has embraced the liberating potential of persona, adopting fictive celebrity and the androgynous sexuality of music videos and queer media to counter 
heteronormativity. His confessional works reckon with the past, simultaneously ensuring that his memory (and by extension the memory of others) is preserved into the future.

Cunningham’s life and career parallel an active period of social and technological development, aligning closely with the proliferation of the internet. His early analogue works are unwavering in their documentation of the realities and fantasies for queer people in late 20th century Australia, pre-dating the confessional mode of social media and utility of digital archives. In addition to historical works, Are You There? features the fourth iteration of Cunningham’s notable serial work Proud Mary (2007, 2012, 2017, 2022), in which he lip-syncs to Tina Turner’s iconic rendition of this track as his chosen funeral song. Since this series was conceived, Cunningham has committed to documenting his ageing process by restaging Proud Mary every five years.

Are You There? will be accompanied by a career-spanning monograph supported by Creative Australia (forthcoming March 2024).
Solo exhibitions:
Wollongong Art Gallery
Curated by James Gatt
30 June – 10 September 2023
Creative Australia