Words: Sebastian Henry-Jones
In March 2021, Eugene Yiu Nam Cheung published the first editorial on his online publishing platform Decolonial Hacker. Titled, No Dignity in Resignation, the function of the platform – to critically examine cultural institutions, their alliances, interests and behaviour – is outlined clearly in the piece. Decolonial Hacker operates upon a simple premise: the structures, notions of care, definitions of art and working conditions that we have in cultural spaces today exist within the legacy of a failing colonial project, and are not fit for purpose in a world that urgently requires us to change the way we understand our place in the world and how we relate to each other. A little over a year later and Decolonial Hacker has established itself as a leader in critical discussions around the colonial logics that cultural institutions across the world abide by.
With a downloadable web browser extension that hacks the web pages of cultural institutions with critical analysis, the platform has published material from writers and artists based across the world. From stories of institutional racism at London’s Barbican Art Centre, workers’ struggles at the New Museum, New York, to the Sydney Opera House’s problematic relationship to orientalism, and the Museum of Contemporary Art’s harmful willingness to embody the status quo, Decolonial Hacker has quickly become a leading platform for its deep engagement with institutional critique on the international stage.
Indeed, the initiative was programmed as part of uber contemporary art festival Documenta this year. The project is exemplary of the ways that young, engaged people growing up in the context of contemporary Australia and its unique history of colonisation, are becoming pioneering voices in a global discourse around decolonial theory, and as such art and activism, art and the environment, and meaningful settler solidarity with First Nations people and their fight for Land Rights. The fact of the platform’s support by federal funding body for the arts the Australia Council, is indicative of a broader cultural shift away from artistic excellence and towards a deep engagement with what it means to be an artist, an artsworker or artistic organisation on stolen land. Cheung and his Decolonial Hacker form an important cornerstone of this local-cum-global movement.
Featured image: Eugene Yiu Nam Cheung at Privation in Three Acts by Decolonial Hacker with LE 18 Marrakech, Fridskul Common Library (Museum Fridericianum), documenta fifteen, 2022. Photo: Milan Soremski. Courtesy: Eugene Yiu Nam Cheung.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 103, January-March 2023.