An Alternative Economics-
Artists: Five Mile Radius, Gunybi Ganambarr, Wanda Gillespie, Katie Paterson, Make or Break, Keg de Souza, and Shevaun Wright
Curated by Tulleah Pearce
An Alternative Economics brings together a group of Australian and international artists who each use their artmaking to explore and expand on the creation of value. Guided by the idea of the circular economy and its compelling counter-narrative to the untenable model of eternal growth, each work in this exhibition offers a provocation to make us reconsider what is ‘counted’ in our society and why.
Artists in this exhibition each offer propositions for artmaking in a ‘post-growth’ world; utilising materials of place, critiquing extractive systems, sharing cultural knowledge, promoting the rights of nature, and meditating on the role of art practice to promote change. The art objects in An Alternative Economics index these processes of critique through their form and offer alternate models in their concepts. These ideas often decentre the human or institution as the arbiter of value, and highlight that it is the transformation of relationships that mark the pathways towards change. The artists in this exhibition each propose (in big and small ways) alternate visions for a more sustainable, equal, and ultimately just future.
Read more via the IMA website here.
Five Mile Radius
444 Queen St, 2022
Five Mile Radius aims to keep the demolition materials recovered from 444 Queen Street in their highest value through repair, reuse or recycling, rather than downcycling which creates lower grade materials. The resulting table, seat, lightbox and shelving are not only reflections of a circular approach to materiality, but the dividend of a set of social relationships that enable this reuse to occur.
Suspended Ceiling Light – Fluoro light fitting, Perspex desk divider, galvanised fixings
Bench seat – Desk shelf, recycled pine frame (charred)
Knobs – turned recycled timber (charred), aluminium desk divider cap
Wall pocket – Letter tray, shelf bracket, recycled timber (charred), desk divider felt
Counting Frame (Pink), 2021
Counting Frame (Green), 2021
The Counting Frames are made from native New Zealand Rewarewa wood recycled from timber floorboards of a demolished Auckland Council Building. The forms of these counting frames are drawn from a wide range of sources; Molecular structures that have overcome the chaotic entropy of the universe, principles of sacred geometry, and the abstracted headlands and waterfalls that repeat in the landscape painting of Colin McCahon. These sources conceptually embed optimistic notions of balance and stability into Gillespie’s sculptural objects. In the future economic systems that they are created to serve forests, mangroves, reefs, and rivers have real economic values and anything that impacts the futures of these vital places has accountable costs.
Future Library: A Century Unfolds, 2019
Paterson states, “Future Library has nature, the environment at its core – and involves ecology, the interconnectedness of things, those living now and still to come. It questions the present tendency to think in short bursts of time, making decisions only for us living now. The timescale is one-hundred years, not vast in cosmic terms. However, in many ways, the human timescale of 100 years is more confronting. It is beyond many of our current lifespans, but close enough to come face to face with it, to comprehend and relativise.” This work calls our attention to the notion of non-human timescales, and what it might mean to think and make art beyond our lifetimes.
Teddy Bear Lien, 2022
Stylistically and conceptually echoing Ahh…Youth! by American artist Mike Kelley, where his photographed childhood toys became psychological stand-ins for their owners. Wright extends this contract into our colonial framework by equating the value of the debt owed to the compensation offered to survivors of the Stolen Generation as a one-off payment by the Australian Government.
Through this work the artist facetiously interrogates the Native Title process, while simultaneously seeking to provoke a genuine emotional response in the viewer. Teddy Bear Lien aims to generate insight into the ongoing violence of the Native Title process, and the damaging collision of lore and law in this settler-imposed system.
Fishtrap on the Gäṉgän River, 2019
Ganambarr’s works communicate the complex relationships between the artist and specific parts of country—the seasonal cycles of animal migration, food sources, environmental change, and ceremony—as well as the workings of spirit throughout country, forever connecting ancestral times with the current moment. These works use foil-covered building insulation to depict two sacred song cycles from the Yirritja moiety, one from freshwater and one from saltwater ancestral knowledge showing complex interweavings of place, knowledge and ancestral lore.
Fishtrap on the Gäṉgän River depicts the sacred expanse of water where Barama the ancestral being of the Yirritja moiety created the law, language, and ceremonial rituals that define Yirritja life. The diamond miny’tji in this work refer to the river waters flowing through Gäṉgän, but also are transformed into triangles by strong verticals which refer to the structure of fishtraps. Fishtrap ceremonies are an important ritual between different Yirritja clan groups, bringing people together for social, educational and ceremonial exchange through this shared ancestral song cycle.
Make or Break
Institutional Waste #2
The arts sector is often described as an ecosystem, suggesting that there are material and immaterial flows between institutions. Waste management is one way that these flows—or lack thereof—can be considered and critiqued. Our core organisational practice at the IMA—temporary exhibition making—generates waste that is ‘de-valued’ and sent to landfill. In response, Make or Break have set up a recycling-station-as-sculptural-installation built from exhibition waste, where the audience can participate in breaking down used gyprock sheeting into its constituent parts to be used in gardens as a soil improver and in papermaking.
Visitors are invited to engage deeply with this material through participating in the recycling process; to handle gypsum it and work with it, to imagine the long geological processes that create the mineral, and to appreciate the time embedded within it. What care do we owe a substance that has formed over a million years? How do we feel about wasting something that has taken millennia to form? By slowing down to consider these questions Make or Break hope our reappraisal of this single material may spark our willingness to find avenues for its reuse, and in turn spark our creativity to seize opportunities for redirecting other materials from waste.
Carolyn McKenzie-Craig for assistance with screen printing
Dr Monzur Imteaz at Swinburne for discussing his team’s research into plasterboard recycling
Sam at REGYP for material safety data and advice
The generous staff at IMA for their input and assistance
Keg de Souza
Not a Drop to Drink, 2021
Originally housing a series of participatory performances over shared drought tolerant meals, it is presented as an installation at the IMA with an immersive soundtrack by Tim Humphrey and Madeleine Flynn, built from de Souza’s conversations which is intimately delivered via wireless headphones while visitors explore the space. Embedded between the glass of the table are samples of edible drought tolerant plants that will be critical in our coming climate, as suggested by the interviewees. De Souza views the work as a temporary architecture that provides a frame for dialogue, and uses the installation to imagine the future food systems and sources we will need to adopt in order to live in a way that sustains and nourishes both Country and ourselves.
Kangaroo Grass, Carob, Murnong (native yam), Climbing Saltbush, Bunya, Pigface and flowers, Ruby Saltbush, Olive, Sunflowers, Asparagus, Amaranth (native), Purslane, Dandelion, Prickly Pear.
Cultural Consultant: Senior Boon Wurrung Elder N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs
Interviews/participants: Senior Boon Wurrung Elder N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs, Niyoka Bundle (Kirrae Wurrong/Gunditjmara), Zena Cumpston (Barkandji), Claire G. Coleman (Wirlomin-Noongar) , Nornie Beru (Torres Strait Islander), Dr Jen Rae (Métis), Aviva Reed, Adam Grubb, Dr Erin O’Donnell, Caitlin Molloy, Lien Yeomans, Aheda Amro, Rouada Elhajja, Neville Walsh and Tom May.
Sound: Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey
Access Consultants: Fayen d’Evie, Andy Slater
Creative Producer: Sarah Rowbottam
Originally Commissioned by Arts House for Refuge 2021 and Supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body and the NSW government through CreateNSW. Arts House is a key program of the City of Melbourne, and supported by the Australia Council for the Arts. Studio support by Clothing Stores Studios, Carriageworks. Special thanks to Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Kara Ward, Emer Harrington, Dr James Oliver and Dr Brian Martin
This project forms research towards a PhD through Wominjeka Djeembana; MADA, Monash University