Dean Cross: Nothing lasts forever
Biannual façade commission
8 Mar to 1 Sept 2022
Artist Dean Cross excavates the forgotten, the misinterpreted and the misremembered. He uncovers the lesser-known histories that challenge broader colonial and cultural narratives. In this public artwork, Cross turns his attention to Greater Bendigo, a region built on the extraction of gold and, later, clay.
Bendigo is the hometown of Francis Gerald (Frank) McEncroe, a boilermaker who is remembered as the creator of the chiko roll. Remaking the East Asian spring roll as a large snack sturdy enough to eat one-handed, McEncroe’s chiko roll has been ubiquitous in Australian fast-food shops and supermarkets since the 1960s. For Cross, the rise of the chiko roll encapsulates the forces of capitalism, cultural appropriation and extraction that have been at play in this country since settler colonisation.
Written in Cross’s own hand, a list of ingredients first reads as an heirloom family recipe. Continue reading, however, and familiar foods are supplemented with additives and emulsifiers. These are the ingredients of the industrialised chiko roll, mass-produced to taste exactly the same, regardless of where it was made.
Nothing lasts forever overlays this text with an image of a native hopping mouse and, faintly, a field of daisies. Indigenous to Australia, these species have been ostracised or misunderstood due to associations with introduced varieties and settler agricultural practices. Cross’s artwork links ‘big ag’ and industrialised food production to the erosion of native food systems and the changing landscape.
The title of the work, like the barely-there daisies pushing through, is quietly optimistic. If nothing lasts forever, if our current systems of industrialised farming give way, what new methods of renewal and reproduction might we imagine?