In You Wreck Me, artist Tony Albert assumes the role of a trickster. An archetypal character, featured throughout folklore, religion, and mythology, tricksters use their charm and cunning intellect to teach laypeople important morals and life lessons. Drawing inspiration from this historical trope, Albert’s trickster explores the complexity of memorialisation and nationalism through the lens of parody.
Playing on Australia’s self-deprecating humour (known as ‘taking the piss’), You Wreck Me not only offers an hilarious reimagining of Miley Cyrus’s infamous video clip Wrecking Ball, but a sharp and timely questioning of our national history. Unlike the original version, which depicts a naked Cyrus straddling a wrecking ball, Albert’s interpretation takes on a more political tone, with the artist sitting atop a suspended exercise ball, ploughing down monuments of Captain Cook. Painted up for ceremony, Albert’s impersonation here recalls the reductive representations that are often imposed on First People.
The launch of Albert’s work intentionally coincides with the 250th anniversary of Cook’s arrival on Australian soil. Yearlong celebrations, including a new $50 million monument to Cook have sparked debate around the necessity of yet another monument dedicated to a divisive historical figure. Albert’s farcical interpretation asks the viewer to reflect not only on who is written into history, but who is written out and why. The revolutionary spirit captured in You Wreck Me, cheekily asserts that the continued memorialisation of one figure be replaced by a multitude of voices that have shaped Australian history. Albert’s depiction is not so much a call to action, but rather the act of a trickster, imploring us to rethink national narratives through humour. In the artist's words: ‘if you can’t laugh with me, at least have a laugh at me’.