A river is a thing with life, an artery of change, a living breathing organism in a city. The Brisbane river flows with wide majesty from its source in the South Burnett region [Nanango] to its mouth in Moreton Bay. What stories this river could tell us, does tell us, wants to tell us! We have heard from aboriginal people that at one point it could be walked across not far from the mouth. Dredging has increased the depth and changed its flow. How do we respond to this river? To enjoy beauty superficially is to treat it as a consumable, a commodity, a disposable and useful thing. To take time over time, to sit and wonder at this beauty that flows by our doors, under our Brisbane City Council Cat or through our fingers is to begin to find its voice to our souls.
Jugglers has had the enviable position of being the lease managers of choice for the Queensland Government [Economic Development Queensland] to develop an Arts and Cultural Hub at “The Shed” on Macarthur Avenue, Hamilton [Brisbane, Qld, Australia]. We have been planning a “response to river” exhibition of works by artists in residence at “The Shed” in response to the river and our experience of it for the past two years. Curated by Jess Row and Peter Breen from October 31 – November 9, “Response to River” artists installed mutli-modal works including glass, timber and paper sculptures, works on paper, video installation, a “White Silence” performance piece and artist talks.
The work of preparing a rather mysterious monolythic industrial shed for a more gentile viewing public took hours of collaborative work and imaginative hiding of storage in out of site areas. Jess led the project with enthusiasm and attention to detail that resulted in a transformation and exhibition calling for more to come in the future. Every artist’s work was a reflection on the river and on the experience of this majestic, flowing, laughing, sighing, breathing, snaking, silent, “vessel element.”* From Vanessa Stanley’s carefully constructed “Your Altered Gaze Returned” installation and video to Joanna’s and Aaron’s suspended glass bubble installation to Joy McDonald’s gentle rice paper gelatin prints, this was a multi-faceted body of work by an artist’s collective.
Artists and artists’ collectives are a parallel universe, a river of life, a window onto possibility, a nerve end of local cultural norms. Jugglers Art Space is an artists collective, an artist run organisation drawn into drawing out what life might be saying and in this instance, what a river might be saying to us. How well did we do? Did we sit long and silently in her presence, unfolding our understanding in her whispered stories?
I think we did well. Representational and interpretive works allowed artists and viewers to hear the river’s whispered voice. Joel Glazebrook’s [Edith Thomas Fury] sound scape installation and recorded works added the unseen and deepened the experience. It seemed that experiencing the shed and the event captured the imaginations rather than motivating collectors but as a first event the future is bright for the next phase of visual art installations in this space. Economic Development Queensland’s support meant each artist had some material costs met. In 2015 we will ramp up the event into an art prize with EDQ. This will expand the spread of representation and interest. Crowd numbers were not where we had hoped and other local sponsorship was not forthcoming even though our first attempt at marketing was intense and thorough. We will be evaluating each aspect of Response to River in our report to EDQ.
For me the most memorable segment of Response to River was White Silence. This is a growing passion of mine, an exercise in finding a way into another space and timelessness, a reflective event of silent and gentle experiment. At Response to River a group of us carried Sha Sarwari’s paper mache sculpture to the edge of the beach at Northshore Cafe and cast our little paper boats – while attempting to set fire to them – into the river as a kind of blesssing, a grateful symbolic gesture. Only one boat could be lit and as it so happened, this was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream for the one woman whose boat it was. Every White Silence has at least one moment of entering the unknown and the inexplicable and this time it was in the moments after returning to the shed and gently lowering the boat to the floor. We stood silently in the space held by Joel’s music beauty and finally broke into a slow exodus.
*Fil Filardo credit.
With thanks to all the artists: Sha Sarwari, Joy McDonald, Rose Moxham, Mel Davis, Johanna Bone, Aaron Micallef, Vanessa Stanley, Kay Lawrence, Jess Row, Paul Harris, James Watts, Zoe Mary, Matt Lockwood, Peter Breen.
With thanks to Economic Development Queensland.
A White Silence Video will be released soon.