6 March - 18 May 2019
Hoda Afshar, Tané Andrews, Walter Bakowski, Léuli Eshraghi + Joe Joe Orangias, Nikki Lam, Blake Lawrence, Sean Miles, Lucie McIntosh, Angela Tiatia, Justine Youssef + Duha Ali, Manisha Anjali
This curated suite of videos explores the shared experiences surrounding water – how its flux of space brings us closer together, and at times may dislocate. Bodies of water become liquid fields of poetry and politics, surging rivers of connectivity, sharing founts of knowledge, and offering a wellspring of healing. In the work of twelve contemporary artists, water carries nourishment and transformation, bringing about unity and understanding through the fluid frameworks of identity, gender, culture, and memory.
The pearlescent verse speaks of social, ecological and spiritual narratives, and meditates upon the fragility of nature, human migration and the impacts of climate change. Screened across several public spaces in Australia, this exhibition promotes the richness of exchange and storytelling, respecting the Traditional Owners of the land and waterways.
Kala Pani, a poem by Manisha Anjali that was commissioned for Pearlescent Verse, traverses the dreaded aspect of the Indian unconscious, a taboo whereby those who cross the black waters and leave the subcontinent are cursed - cut off from reincarnation, cut off from the source of holy water and doomed by meddling with houglis, bad foreigners.
The birth of a pearl is a gesture of creation through resistance.
From across broad sweeping currents a singular grain of sand may by chance become lodged within the mouth of an oyster. Abrogating soft issue, it can become irritable, causing friction, forming a wound. In an act of defiance the oyster tongues the grain, conjuring up a fluid called nacre—a strong, resilient material also known as mother-of-pearl. Layer by concentric layer, these minute crystalline licks coat the grain over time until it becomes newly built, regenerated and altogether harmonious, forming a lustrous object that is at once one and apart.
The birth of a pearl is a healed wound. Without the wound there would be no pearl. Healing is an act of metamorphosis.
In this exhibition the pearlescent verse is an articulation of poetics and politics: a passionate vocabulary wrapped around a tough syntax; a defiant wrestle to glisten a resplendent creation; an arduous labour becoming an amorous gesture; and an iridescent beauty to test the most trying circumstances. The presented artists explore the fluidity of identity, gender, culture, spirituality, knowledge, and memory, whilst surging issues surrounding human migration, climate change and social politics.
The therapy of water transmits through these digital channels, with each lapping wave encouraging new and transformative thoughts, washing upon the shorelines of our minds. These videos, like pearls, glisten with nurturing, potential futures, with messages born off utopian tongues, wet with the depth of resistance, compassion, strength and healing.
Hoda Afshar surges tidal urgency to the voices of Australian asylum seekers in Remain. Through moving image and text, waves of violent experiences on Manus Island are retold by detained refugees, juxtaposing the surrounding beauty of the island with nightmarish realities. Recounting personal and shared stories, these men recall memories and traumas, of the death of friends and the loss of freedom. The Australian government’s dislocation of bodies from potential futures and recent pasts results in a horrific and permanent liminal state. In this iteration, Afshar projects the video with socio-political agency, raising waves of awareness within these public spaces. Here, the azure waters and white sands do not depict paradise, but instead, a prison.
Tané Andrews composes a song in The Static of Nature, awakening the slumberous therapies held in the verse of art. A ceramic plate becomes a pure static ocean upon which a southern sea pearl glides and dances to imagined waves. The gentle rocking of the plate demonstrates the microcosmic magnitude cradled in nature's embrace, where even the smallest ripple echoes out across the universe. The smooth quality of the pearl reverberates a score upon the minute texture of a porcelain surface, evoking the harmonious and therapeutic orchestra sung within water. Andrews offers reflection and meditation through the vespers of this video, allowing us to reconcile with the Sublime and in turn ourselves, and to produce the pearls of good thought and action.
Walter Bakowski performs a queering ceremony for the unseen and unheard: a healing act of letting go. In Embrace; A river runs through, the remedy of a river to washes over them, through them and with them, allowing for oneness and a cosmic communion. The river’s force nourishes a rite of passage, a queer baptism, a bath of transcendence and a pool of reflection, in order to let go of the confines of ones skin. In this video the gentle and rhythmic dance of the river is a meditation upon the esotericism of nature, in turn celebrating the fluidity of gender. Bakowski demonstrates that upon relinquishing the anchors of binary statuses, liberation of flesh and spirit may be achieved, allowing the currents to guide us into glistening states.
Léuli Eshraghi and Joe Joe Orangias convalesce by the nourishing waters of the Merri Yaluk. At once a sacred source of life to the Wurundjeri people, in this video the Merri Yaluk witnesses rituals that bind young men to each other and the landscape. To the symphonic chorus of birds, and the camp sounds of a distant radio, The Golden Flow of The Merri Yaluk demonstrates this site as a diverse meeting place of converging ecologies and communities across time. Here, three young men commune in other queer ceremony, where amorous and gentle gestures operate beyond conforms of society. The adorning of body and spirit occurs ephemerally without asserting title of First Nations territory. Coalescing in the afternoon sun, these bodies tread lightly, queering space through the respect of traditional knowledge associated with this waterway, in turn allowing its golden flow to fleetingly reveal a haven.
Nikki Lam balances between sea and sky, an echo across the horizon that conjures memory in between places. In Still…what is left a reflective suite of gestures resurrects residue across place, where between two lands cultural sediment is carried across the breeze. The haunting dance within a liminal landscape speaks of the complexities of self and hybrid identities, of belonging. Lam’s gestures enact the remembering of ritual that is no longer practiced as a result of migration. The shrouded figure is neither here nor there, yet like a spectre, possesses the potential to translate place and transcend space. The repetitive gestures evoke the past, and through such, re-imagine the emotions conjured in performing a ritual across time and geography.
Blake Lawrence traces the horizon, becoming a wanderer above the sea. To the choreography crashing waves and glistening backdrop of the dawn, A Cathartic Action unfolds in slow-motion, a queering of Romantic ideals. The sublimity and ferocity found in nature is enacted as Lawrence unfurls repetitive and emotive gestures. The stockwhip is a diviner to shepherd, a tool for redirecting emotion. With each crack of the whip, an indemnification of emotion echoes across the waves, dissipating as memory like foam collecting at the shore. Stripped back to an honest and vulnerable state, the tender teetering across the terrain both impedes and empowers, where the queer presence at such a liminal juncture of sea and land declares, I am here.
Sean Miles channels rivers of the underworld, opening chasms of volcanic terrain to exude the legends of their ancestors. In Pōhutu, sulphuric splashes erupt from the earth and spit into the sky, raining a story of metamorphosis. Birds fly through this vaporous, ever-changing space recalling the story of Maui, the trickster hero who transformed into a kererū in order to enter the underworld. A liminal portal opens, a brimstone scented threshold between two worlds, where one cannot discern the clouds in the sky from the mist of the geyser—background and foreground collapse and merge into a swell of ambiguous, billowing and almost ominous feelings, tones and textures. Here, Miles presents a space of uncertainty that may be scary for some however can be comforting for others.
Lucie McIntosh extrapolates time into a continuous river, looping moments upon themselves to flow an endless universe of images. Within these two videos, the magic of the sublime manifests within the stillness of action, multiplying out beyond the screen to flow the static of nature. In I still believe in paradise, a waterfall carries with it endless potential worlds with every drop pouring over the precipice. Each frame becomes a ceaseless meditation on the infinite number of distinct physical configurations that never recur. In Red Lagoon, McIntosh looks to nature in order to construct personal philosophical mantras and independent signification, finding within the abstract the deferral of absolute meaning. In meditative succession, we too are invited to divert our own expected trajectory, and to surface personal latency within the image.
Angela Tiatia performs strength in the waves of change. In Holding On, the theatre of the sea plays out a performance of body and nature, of culture and ecology. Urged by the celestial swell of the moon, the tide rises as Tiatia clings to a rock, finding grip in earthed resilience, yet also of lunar communion and cleansing. The intuitive, cyclical and feminine power of the moon gravitates the dance of the oceans' currents, as well as our own. Being in harmony with waterways and their cycles brings about deeper understanding of eco-connectivity and provides thoroughfares in community and communication. However, when this knowledge is lost, or neglected, or becomes corrupt by commercial capital, the fight is very much against the tide. In this video, Tiatia's performance becomes an allegory of an unrelenting faith required by the people of the South Pacific as they confront the monumental challenge of losing their home to the effects of climate change.
Justine Youssef and Duha Ali perform and repeat gestures of healing to venerate the aura of identity. In Body/Cartography, the washing of carpets maps tradition and ritual passed on from matrilineal knowledge. Here, memory wefts and wafts, where pattern radiates history and familial ties across time and place. Salvaged from hard-rubbish, these carpets can traverse: they wrap up experience and fly, carrying a narrative of home, resilience and strength across seas. Here they are washed to keep these stories cleansed and resplendent, to heal transgenerational wounds. Water purifies in order to remember, to restore, to indemnify cultural displacement and sanctify intergenerational knowledge. Upon the stone slabs of a colonial monument, Youssef and Ali conjure water to preserve heritage, whilst their actions soak post-colonial discourse, into the very fibres of these carpets.
— Jake Treacy
Jake Treacy is a curator, writer and poet whose practice employs numinous acts through exhibition-making, performativity, and the spoken and written word. He is a University of Melbourne graduate with a Master of Art Curatorship (2017) and Postgraduate Art History (2013) who has previously co-directed an artist-run initiative, sat on grant advisory panels, and written published copy on numerous contemporary arts practices. His recent thesis examines ways of constructing liminal experiences in order to incur healing, promoting inclusivity and community, and exercising the therapy of art.
Manisha Anjali is a writer and performer. Working with South Asian and Oceanian mythologies and histories; Manisha's works bring ancient mysticism, metaphysics and music and into contemporary spaces. Her written and spoken works are embodied by devotional rhythms, erotic poetry and plantation songs. Manisha is the author of Sugar Kane Woman, a collection of poems about the dreams and hallucinations of exiled Indo-Fijian women. Manisha has performed at Melbourne Writers Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival, Emerging Writers Festival, Bendigo Writers Festival, West Writers Forum and Newstead Short Story Tattoo. She has been published in Peril Magazine, Mascara Literary Review, Seizrure, Blackmail Press and IKA Journal.
Hoda Afshar (born 1983, Tehran. Lives and works Melbourne) explores the nature and possibilities of documentary image-making. Working across photography and moving-image, the Melbourne-based artist considers the representation of gender, marginality and displacement. In her artworks, Afshar employs processes that disrupt traditional image-making practices, play with the presentation of imagery, or merge aspects of conceptual, staged and documentary photography. Recent exhibitions include Khalas, UNSW Galleries, University of New South Wales, Sydney (2018); Waqt al tagheer: Time of Change, ACE Open, Adelaide (2018); and Behold, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne and Horsham Regional Art Gallery, VIC (2017/2018). In 2015, Afshar received the National Photographic Portrait Prize, National Portrait Gallery.
Tané Andrews (b. 1986) is an artist based in Sydney, Australia. His practice explores transience, transformations, and hybridizations within the natural world. Working with perishable organic materials including; flowers, living cocoons, wood, and water, as well as more durable products such as pearls, marble and bronze. Andrews’ artwork involve repetition, process, and a demand for meaningful contemplation. In 2007 he completed a Bachelor of Arts (Art) with First Class Honours at Curtin University, Perth. Andrews has exhibited nationally and internationally since 2011. Solo exhibitions include: Lying in Wait, Wellington St Projects Sydney (2016), The Collector, Venn Gallery Perth (2015) and Silent Distortions, Venn Gallery Perth (2014).
A graduate of the BA of photography at PSC, Walter Bakowski (born in Melbourne, Australia, 1996) is an emerging artist practising in performance art, documented through the photographic and moving image, the written word and installation. To date, Walter's work explores dialogues between art and spirituality, the sacred and the unseen - discovering the nuances of queer self in practice. Walter has been awarded as an exhibiting finalist in the Moran Contemporary Photography Prize and CLIP award. And has been part of numerous group shows at recognised contemporary art institutions including; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Perth Centre for Photography and Seventh Gallery. Their work is held in private collections across Melbourne, Sydney, Paris and New York City, and in the public collection at the National Library of Australia. Walter’s recent body of work ‘Endure’, has recently been exhibited as part of a selection of group shows at institutions including Museum of Contemporary Art, Centre for Contemporary Photography and Seventh Gallery, creates discourse around the role of the spiritual ritual in facilitating the act of queering spaces.
Léuli Eshrāghi + Joe Joe Orangias
Léuli Eshrāghi (he/ia) is an Australian artist, curator, writer from Sāmoan, Persian and other ancestries. Léuli completed a PhD in Curatorial Practice at Monash University in 2018 and is the inaugural Horizon Postdoctoral Fellow with the Initiative for Indigenous Futures at Concordia University in 2019. He holds qualifications in Indigenous arts management, francophone Great Ocean literature, Indigenous studies and comparative cultural studies. Léuli creates performances, installations, writing and curatorial projects centred on the body, ceremony, language renewal and hopeful futures. He exhibits and publishes regularly, and serves on the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective (Canada) board.
Joe Joe Orangias is a visual artist, activist and writer based between New York City and Geneva. His projects, often collaborative and site-specific, focus on social justice and environmental sustainability issues, and investigate the roles of cultural heritage. He earned a MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston at Tufts University (SMFA), and a BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Orangias has exhibited work at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; the Cooper Hewitt-Smithsonian Design Museum, New York City; Gaffa Gallery, Sydney; Hinterconti Projects, Hamburg; Proof Gallery, Boston; and the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, Hong Kong; among other venues and public sites. He was awarded a SMFA Alumni Traveling Fellowship for research in Aotearoa New Zealand; an Art School Alliance Fellowship from the University of Fine Arts, Hamburg (HFBK) in Germany; and residencies at the Galveston Artist Residency, Art342 in Colorado, RM Gallery in Auckland and Atelier OPA in Tokyo. He has published writing in the Journal of Homosexuality and Scope: Contemporary Research Topics (Art: 11). He also makes projects as part of the collaborative Orangias+Eshraghi.
Nikki Lam’s practice explores the complexity of belonging through the exploration of self, memory and space. Working primarily with video, performance, text and installation, she is interested in exploring the translations of hybrid identities, often through studies of rituals, language and representations. Born in Hong Kong (1988), Nikki's work has been shown at Underbelly Arts Festival, SafARI, Firstdraft, BUS Projects, The Ferry Gallery (Bangkok, Thailand), Galleria Marcollini (Forli, Italy), and toured around the world with Over View International Festival of Video Art. Her most recent curatorial projects include Frames of Seeing (2017) at Nite Art, Flygirl by Caroline Garcia (2017), Screen as a Room (2016) at THE SUBSTATION and Channels Festival (2015).
Blake Lawrence was born and raised in Palmers Island, Northern NSW, across the lands of the Yaegl, Bundjalung, and Gumbaynggirr nations. He lives and works on the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, in Sydney. These lands were stolen and never ceded. He extends his deepest respect to their traditional custodians, and their elders: past, present, and emerging. Lawrence studied at the Sydney College of The Arts and has exhibited nationally at Firstdraft, Seventh Gallery, C3 Contemporary, The Walls, and Verge Gallery. He has presented performance work in Brisbane’s Spring Hill Reservoirs, Sydney’s Carriageworks, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Art Gallery of NSW.
Lucie McIntosh is a visual artist and curator based in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia. Lucie completed a Bachelor of Art (Fine Art) (Honours) with First Class at RMIT University in 2015. Lucie has a deep commitment to the independent arts community and has volunteered her time to a number of not–for–profit and contemporary art projects. She is currently a Director and Program Curator of BLINDSIDE, an independent, artist–run space based in the heart of Melbourne. Lucie's exhibition and research based practice explores process of signification and, more specifically, in how the process of signification might be made visible through the content of an artwork. Her practice emphasises the inherently plural and personal nature of meaning —reminding us of, and celebrating, our agency in its creation.
Sean Miles (Ngati Raukawa) is a cute queer trickster artist living as an uninvited guest in unceded Kulin nation territory.Their multi-disciplinary art practice spans across performance, photography, video, installation and sculpture.
Angela Tiatia explores contemporary culture, drawing attention to its relationship to representation, gender, neo-colonialism and the commodification of the body and place, often through the lenses of history and popular culture. Tiatia's work has been included in a number of important institutional exhibitions, including After the Fall, National Museum of Singapore (2017/2018); Personal Structures, 57th Venice Biennial (2017); Eighth Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT 8), Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2015/16); as well as Tūrangawaewae: Art and New Zealand, Toi Art, Gallery of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand (2018). She is represented by Sullivan + Strumpf in Sydney, Australia.
Duha Ali + Justine Youssef work across multiple disciplines through their collaborative practice, including video, installation, text and performance. Their practice is site-responsive and attentive to their respective origins in South-West Asia. The work is rooted in research into moments and places which allow them to move through questions surrounding post-colonial rhetoric, feminist lenses, and diasporic and material exchanges.
HODA AFSHAR Remain, 2018, single-channel digital video, 3:30min. Excerpt from original work | TANÉ ANDREWS The Static of Nature, 2017, single-channel digital video of south sea pearl, porcelain, electronic device, motor, wood plinth, 1:56min. Footage: James Aiken. Music: Tane Andrews. Editing: John Scarpias | WALTER BAKOWSKI Embrace: A River Runs Through, 2019, single-channel Colour HD Video | NIKKI LAM Still... what is left, 2018, two-channel video installation and performance, 3:24min. Sound Design: Supina Bytol and Beatrice Lewis. Cinematography: Scott Heinrich | BLAKE LAWRENCE A Cathartic Action, 2016, digital video, 15:00min. | ANGELA TIATIA Holding On, 2015, single-channel High Definition video, 12:11min. Courtesy the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf | LÉULI ESHRAGHI + JOE JOE ORGANGIAS, Golden Flow of the Merri Yaluk, 2015, single-channel High Definition video, 10:10min. | SEAN MILES Pohutu, 2018, Single-channel digital video | LUCIE McINTOSH, Red Lagoon, 2017, Single-channel video, Continuous loop (∞) | JUSTINE YOUSSEF + DUHA ALI, Body/Cartography, 2018, Three-channel video, 4:00 min. | Images courtesy the artists.