Rhymes with Failure, 2010
Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Rhymes with Failure, 2010
Photo: Don Cameron
According to colonial myth, Elizabeth Macquarie would sit on her sandstone chair with her back to Sydney town and watch for ships from England sailing into the harbour. Perhaps she played a mournful tune on her cello as these threatening colonial symbols drew close. Meanwhile, Barron Field, the first published settler poet in Australia, was nearby writing his best-known poem, ‘The Kangaroo’. In it, he rhymed “Australia” with “failure” hinting at his pessimistic view of a country that would later turn the kangaroo into a national mascot and souvenir. 

Mrs Macquarie’s cello was collected by the Museum of Sydney in 1992. Daniel Mudie Cunningham requested loaning it for this project but was declined: “Might I suggest you consider using a stand-in cello to carry out your project?” replied the museum curator. Through absurdism and mimicry Rhymes with Failure adopts the vernacular of the stand-in to melancholy affect – a reflection on how the whiteness of colonial history and collections are built from Indigenous erasure.

Rhymes with Failure, 2010
HD single channel video with sound, 16:9, 4:29 min
Performers: Daniel Mudie Cunningham & Rachel Roberts
Music: George Tillianakis
Camera: Don Cameron
Editor: Vera Hong
Cello Designer: Drew Bickford
Filmed at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Sydney, 18 August 2010
Edition of 5 + 2 AP
Solo exhibitions:
Rhymes with Failure, MOP Projects, 2010
Group exhibitions:
Fishers Ghost, Campbelltown Arts Centre, 2010
MCA Art Bar, MCA, 2013
Creative Visions, MQ Uni Gallery, 2014
Les Misérables ‘18, Kudos Gallery, 2018
Do You Hear the People Sing?, Metro Arts, 2019
Macquarie University
City of Sydney