Maluw Adhil Urngu Padanu Mamuy Moesik (Legends from the deep sitting peacefully on the waters)-
Selected works from the 23rd Biennale of Sydney: rīvus.
Participants include Zheng Bo, Casino Wake Up Time, Jessie French, Clare Milledge, Marjetica Potrč with Ray Woods, Duke Riley, the Torres Strait 8, and Hanna Tuulikki.
The Institute of Modern Art has collaborated with the Biennale of Sydney to commission a new work from the Torres Strait 8, a collective on the frontlines of advocacy for the climate crisis in Zenadh Kes (the Torres Strait Islands and surrounding seas). Led by Yessie Mosby, a Kulkalgal Traditional Owner and member of the group, Torres Strait 8 present a hybrid art-as-protest piece featuring campaign materials created as part of the Our Islands Our Home campaign.
This commission forms the anchor for the broader curation of select works from the 23rd Biennale of Sydney: rīvus (2022) that speak to our enduring connections and responsibilities to the natural world. The works share an understanding of place or environment as a container for deep knowledge, calling on us to listen to this wisdom to preserve these spaces and the communities they support. Many of these works advocate for the inherent rights of nature: acknowledging that this sovereignty is the only way forward in the climate crisis to avoid irrevocable destruction of both lands and cultures.
This partnership is part of the Casiquiare | Biennale of Sydney new national collaboration project, which involves collaborating with leading cultural institutions across Australia, presenting co-commissioned artworks in the Biennale of Sydney and, separately, in unique curated shows at institutions across Australia.
View our accompanying programs, events, and resources via the IMA website.
Maluw Adhil Urngu Padanu Mamuy Moesik (Legends from the deep sitting peacefully on the waters) – Selected works from the 23rd Biennale of Sydney: rīvus is presented by the Biennale of Sydney and the Institute of Modern Art, with generous support from the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund – an Australian Government initiative.
Dylan Mooney (Yuwi, Meriam, and South Sea Islander)
Campaign Posters, 2022
Jaelyn Biumaiwai (Fijian/First Nations)
Campaign Posters, 2022
Maluw Adhil Urngu Padanu Mamuy Moesik (Legends from the deep sitting, peacefully upon the waters), 2022
For rīvus, the Torres Strait 8 were co-commissioned by the IMA and Biennale of Sydney to create a hybrid art-as-protest work led by Masig cultural practitioner Yessie Mosby. Yessie has carved a series of new totem poles from materials, pigments and fibres found on the Islands. The mythological totems share stories of ancestral beings in deep saltwater. These stories are interconnected with the current climate trauma the communities are experiencing; Mosby says, “we will be the first climate refugees in this country.” The collective’s participation magnifies the activism of the Our Islands Our Home campaign fighting for justice for the communities of Zenadh Kes and holding the Australian Government to account on climate change policy.
Find out more and act: ourislandsourhome.com.au
Kes Wakai Ngu (voices from Zenadh Kes), 2022
“Every day I wake up, every morning I wake up, looking at my children, looking at my family. Looking at the surroundings of my home, my island...keeps me motivated. Keeps that fire burning. Listening to the laughter of our children keeps that fire burning. Knowing that what I am doing now is for their future. It’s not only for the future of the children of Masig, my children and the children of the village of Masig. I am doing this for my family, my clan, my tribe, my nation, and all saltwater people.” – Yessie Mosby
The Rights of a River, 2021
The Time of Humans on the Soča River, 2021
The Life of the Lachlan River, 2022
The Time on the Lachlan River, 2022
Uncle Ray Woods and Bernard Sullivan
Galari-dyi Bangamalagi – Sharing the Lachlan, 2021
When working on the rīvus project, I met many inspiring individuals who are standing up for the Rights of Rivers and the Rights of Nature, while in the same breath they remind us of the natural empathy we feel towards rivers and our urgent obligation to be their caretakers. They include Andreja Slameršek, a Slovenian advocate for river rights, and Ray Woods, an elder of the Wiradjuri First Nation and a caretaker of the Lachlan River. Around the world I see environmentalists and Indigenous people taking the same stand. I am hopeful that more people will recognize their knowledge and adopt their practices in the effort to ensure a more resilient future for all of us. The drawings The Time on the Lachlan River and The Life of the Lachlan River were made in close collaboration with Uncle Ray Woods, a Wiradjuri elder, and Bernard Sullivan, who co-authored on the video Galari-dyi Bangamalagi – Sharing the Lachlan River.
The two visual essays, The Rights of a River and The Life of the Lachlan River, show us that the life of the rivers can be protected and revived by addressing imminent challenges. In Slovenia, citizens overturned a law that would have allowed private business to exploit protected rivers for profit, while the caretakers of the Lachlan River are trying to stop the raising of the wall on the Wyangala Dam, which would deprive the country below the dam of water. The fundamental challenge is to end the overexploitation of the natural world. For this to happen, people must stop seeing rivers as objects, to use, abuse, buy and sell, and start seeing them as relatives or friends. The drawings propose new agreements between humans and the natural world." – Marjetica Potrč
Pteridophilia 1, 2016
Pteridophilia 2, 2018
Pteridophilia 3, 2018
Pteridophilia 4, 2019
Pteridophilia 5, 2021
Zheng Bo’s installation presents the artist’s ongoing series Pteridophilia, an investigation into the politics of ferns. The works portray intimate encounters between young men and ferns in a forest in Taiwan, pushing the boundaries of sexuality and love to incorporate the natural world.
“Connecting queer plants and queer people, Pteridophilia explores the ecoqueer potential”, Zheng says. In one film we see a man make love to a bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus) and then eat it. In this scene, Zheng reflects “on our current moral outlook that it is ‘natural’ to eat plants but ‘unnatural’ to make love to them”. Noting that “Bird’s nest fern is a popular delicacy in Taiwan.” The artist's work is informed by queer ecology, which rejects nature as existing in binary states – for example, human or non-human, natural or unnatural. Instead, Zheng situates both communities of people and plants as subjects in their films, depicting scenes of physical intimacy between them and destabilising identity and gender categories.
The installation also includes a variety of living ferns and visitors are invited to spend time with them. Zheng has a daily practice of drawing plants, a meditative exercise that seeks to understand the plants’ perspectives, and to empathise with their ways of being in the world, their time frames, movements, and behaviours.
The Myth of Nature – agaG1 (V2), 2022
We are living on a damaged planet.
The outcome of an ongoing material research project, The Myth of Nature – agaG1 (V2) speculates on what it would mean if a global price on waste and environmental depletion was introduced. In doing so, it proposes an alternative to our species’ problem with single-use plastics and infrastructural ties to petrochemicals.
"The algae-based polymer developed and used in these works is made from organic materials. It can be completely recycled in a process as simple as boiling pasta, enabling reuse of 100% of the material without need for a high-energy recycling system. If disposed in the environment, the polymer degrades without risking the lives of other species. They are made of Athrospira platensis microalgae, the first organisms known to have produced oxygen on Earth, and which still produce between 50-80% of the oxygen in each breath we take. They are the oldest organism to be found in fossils and have existed on this planet for at least 3.5 billion years.” – Jessie French
Imbás: a well at the bottom of the sea, 2022
Collaborators and participants
“The installation Imbás: a well at the bottom of the sea draws on the Story of Sinann, an Old Irish story/dindshenchas about the forming of the river Sinnan/Shannon. In the story, the woman Sinnan, a highly accomplished poet seeks imbás/inspiration. She journeys to a well at the bottom of the sea, surrounded by nine musical, magical hazel trees; there she draws imbás from the well in the form of bubbles released by the resident wise salmon, who chew on the hazelnuts fallen from the trees. This imbás/inspiration, previously jealously guarded by magicians is then released for the benefit of the community and forms the river Sinnan.
The connection between rivers, inspiration, poetry, truth-telling, and ecology is explored in this work. Nine cauldrons stand in for the nine hazel trees at the well; and research notes appear as text on silk fragments. Music and voices of poets and ecologists are combined in a complex sound work that runs the duration of the day.” – Clare Milledge
Runes of Ruin, 2021
The View From The Mouth Of The Newtown Creek During Final Days of Battle, 2022
Riley’s works for rīvus focused on the Newtown creek in Brooklyn, originally an estuary where pure spring water emptied into the East River. In 1950 it became the site of the largest oil spill in U.S. history when a pipe burst, unsurpassed until the BP oil spill of 2010. It remains the second largest oil spill in the history of the U.S. The area has never been remediated and remains highly toxic with alarmingly high cancer rates in the surrounding communities.
In making this work, Duke Riley drew upon stories from the Newtown creek and the many people that illegally moor their vessels there. “In 2003 I sailed a 26’ dilapidated sloop into the [Newtown] creek and illegally tied it up to an abandoned bulkhead […] As days turned into years, other boats began to appear around me and continued to do so long past my departure from the creek in 2013. There are currently more than 30 derelict boats moored in the creek, mostly clustered together, with people living aboard full time. At first glance, the people that remain there are living out a romantic maritime dream […] In reality, for most this alternate existence is coupled with harsh winters without heat and a lack of plumbing, running water and basic amenities that many of us take for granted. The most notable downside is the continuous and potentially lethal exposure to a highly carcinogenic environment caused by living on top of a federal Superfund site. Most have no financial means to leave and live elsewhere but are constantly in fear of being told to leave in the middle of the night.” – Duke Riley
Seals’kin (choreographic visual score), 2022
"In Scottish folklore, mythical seal people known as selkies are said to shed their sealskins and step from water as humans, until mysteriously disappearing back to sea. Perhaps selkie stories of loss and longing helped to alleviate the feelings of sorrow brought on by a sudden death in the community, or from relatives lost at sea. Musical practices of singing to or with seals may have maintained a felt connection with the dead through the fostering of kinship with seals and selkies, thought by some to be the souls of the departed. But as folkloric coping mechanisms for grief, how might these stories and songs help us to come to terms with the collective and personal tragedies of the present pandemic? And furthermore, how might they help us to navigate the sorrow of ecological or climate grief?" – Hanna Tuulikki
Casino Wake Up Time
Slumber Party, 2022
Advisors and helpers
The bed frames suggest dormitory beds from violent colonial practices of removal and the paternalistic slumber state of society, government, and industries regarding actions to care, protect and restore our freshwater systems. Kylie Caldwell says, “it is a domestication of acceptance, the complacency of freshwater care, and negligence prevalent in our society. We need to show up and take care of these waterways!”
Through drawing, dance and film, Zheng Bo cultivates intimate relations with plants. These relations are aesthetic, erotic, and political. For them art does not arise from human creativity, but more-than-human vibrancy. In 2022 they presented a new forest dance film titled Le Sacre du printemps (Tandvärkstallen) at the 59th Venice Biennale. Zheng Bo grew up in Beijing and now lives on Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Guided by Daoist wisdom, they grow weedy gardens, living slogans, ecoqueer films, and ecosocialist workshops. These diverse projects, alive and entangled, constitute a garden where they collaborate with both human and nonhuman thinkers and activists. Their ecological art practice contributes to an emergent planetary indigeneity.
Casino Wake Up Time
Casino Wake Up Time is a collective of Bundjalung and Kamilaroi women who have been meeting and weaving for over ten years. Established in 2006 in Casino, Australia, members Auntie Janelle Duncan, Auntie Margaret Torrens, Theresa Bolt and Kylie Caldwell are leading NSW Aboriginal contemporary weaving into new and abstract forms. Meeting to share stories, learn traditional crafts and make intricate pieces, sharing skills has been a way of renewing culture for the collective. The artists have held several exhibitions locally as well as showing at Boomalli Gallery, Sydney and have conducted numerous workshops locally, regionally, and nationally.
Jessie French explores speculative futures through algae-based bioplastic and water-based ecologies. Housed within an ethos of consumption, sustainability and regeneration, her practice invites others to engage with the possibilities of a post-petrochemical world. Through experimenting with other materials, she explores the potential of closed-loop systems of (re)use and conscious consumption and interaction with objects. In 2020, Jessie founded OTHER MATTER, an experimental design studio working with algae-based bioplastics which engages others in the possibilities of new materials though objects, experiences and futures.
Clare Milledge lives in Bundjalung Country (Broken Head, Australia) on the lands of the Arakwal people, and the Eora Nation (Paddington, Australia) on the lands of the Bidjigal and Gadigal people. Clare’s work re-examines contemporary environments with a focus on our engagement with ecology through art, in particular through the use of the historical figure of the artist-shaman. Working with fieldwork as her primary methodology she collects, re- organises, transforms and re-presents recordings, information and material gathered on ecological surveys and site visits. Her research output takes the form of public installation environments that variously incorporate glass paintings, textile works, costumes, sets, collaborative experimental sound and performance.
Marjetica Potrč is an artist and architect based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Marjetica’s practice includes drawing series, architectural case studies and public art projects. Her on-site projects are characterised by participatory design and a concern with sustainable solutions. These projects often centre around infrastructure and resources such as water and soil. Her work emphasises individual and community empowerment, problem-solving tools, and strategies for the future that transcend neoliberal agreement and testify to the failures of Modernism.
Torres Strait 8
The Torres Strait 8 are a group of claimants and Traditional Owners from Zenadh Kes (Torres Strait Islands). The Torres Strait 8 have recently won their legal fight against the Australian government for its inaction over climate change before the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations. Formed in 2019, the Torres Strait 8’s members are Yessie Mosby, Masig (Yorke Island); Kabay Tamu, Warraber (Sue Island); Keith Pabai, Boigu (Boigu Island); Stanley Marama, Boigu (Boigu Island); Nazareth Warria, Masig (Yorke Island); Ted Billy, Warraber (Sue Island); Daniel Billy, Warraber (Sue Island); and Nazareth Fauid, Poruma (Coconut Island)
Ray Woods is a Wiradjuri man dedicated to caring for country, primarily the land and waters along the Murrumbidgee and Galari (Lachlan) Rivers around Hay. Ray’s practice is as a collaborative film maker working with Bernard Sullivan and others to create videos that share understanding about Country and his concerns for it. Previous collaborative projects include the film Yindyamarra Yambuwan and exhibitions at Wagga Art Gallery, Burambabirra Yindyamarra: Sharing Respect (2016) and Ngiyanggarang: Beginning a conversation in the morning to awaken others (2018).
Duke Riley’s work addresses the tension between individual and collective behaviour, independent spaces within all-encompassing societies, and the conflict with institutional power. He examines transgression zones and their inhabitants through drawing, printmaking, mosaic, sculpture, performative interventions, infiltrations, and video structured as complex multimedia installations. Duke combines populist myths and historical obscurities with contemporary social and environmental dilemmas, connecting past and present, drawing attention to unsolved issues. Throughout his projects he profiles the space where water meets the land, traditionally marking the periphery of urban society, what lies beyond rigid moral constructs, a sense of danger and possibility.
Hanna Tuulikki is a British-Finnish artist, composer and performer based in Glasgow, Scotland. Her practice spans performance and audio-visual installation, blending vocal music, choreography, costume and drawing. In her work, she investigates how the body communicates beyond and before words to tell stories through imitation, vocalisation and gesture. With a largely place-responsive process, she considers how bodily relationships and folk histories are encoded within specific environments, ecologies and places. Her recent work engages with what it means to live on a damaged planet, proposing contemporary queer ritual as a way to process the trauma that comes with ecological awareness.