Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Responding to The Water Hole

One of the weird little creatures at The Water Hole

One of the highlights of my final week in Melbourne was Shelka's workshops at Medium Arts Space in Brunswick. The best one was called Install it Like You Mean It and involved first visiting an installation at ACCA and then returning to Medium and creating our own installation in response to what we had seen.

Crystalised fertalizer grows in fantastic shapes and colours across The Water Hole

I'd wanted to see The Water Hole, an installation by Swiss artists Gerda Steiner & Jorg Lenzlinger, ever since I met the artists who have been living upstairs from the Melbourne Museum of Printing for three months while they created this installation. They travel around the world creating large, site specific installations constructed mainly from things they find in each place. The photos on their website give a hint of what their work can look like, but didn't really prepare me for the intense, intelligent and interactive nature of The Water Hole's response to the water crisis in Australia, and Victoria in particular. The review in last weekend's The Age describes the installation pretty well, but also confirms that it such a complex, layered piece that everyone will have a different response to it.

Two tiny echindna meet on the edge of an old bathtub

For me, most powerful and moving part of The Water Hole was the last. After the mysterious anticipation of the long and winding foil and dead-tree tunnel entrance, the exuberantly weird and wonderful chaotic systems of the water hole, the perspective offered by the bird hide, then a swoony waterbed multimedia dreamscape, followed by three horizontal perspectives: lying under a (real) meteorite, lying on a swinging bed, and lying under a water-hole type mobile you come out into a gallery space that feels conventional, aside from the burgeoning side of a foil tunnel billowing into the room.

Desalination plant for tears

The walls are hung with colour photographs of Gerda lifting people she has encountered on their world travels. The familiarity of perusing a row of wall art and its accessible humour felt like a transition back to the normal world, coming down from an incredible trip. Reluctant to leave I postponed rounding the final corner to what I assumed was the exit, but when I finally did it was a dead end, a tiny nook set up as a scientific laboratory: a desalination plant for tears. Retracing my steps though the whole installation, with the desalination plant for tears on my mind gave me yet another fresh perspective on the water crisis.

In response to the photographs of Gerda lifting people, some Shelley and I get lifted outside ACCA.

I'm very glad that I got to see such an amazing exhibition with a group of people who immediately set to work trying to manifest our responses. Instead of wandering into the next gallery, or back to work or meeting up with people who hadn't seen it, I got to keep thinking and talking and being immersed in the installation experience for many more hours.

Two of the first bits I made for our installation: releasing the urgent desire to be making with my hands

Back at Medium we pooled the bits and pieces we had been collecting for our installation: litter, shrubs, fabric, discarded appliances etc. Mostly each of us was working fairly independently, creating small elements that responded more to the style of The Water Hole than its content, but as the afternoon wore on and we became more concerned with integrating each contribution into a coherent installation, the work became more actively collaborative and more focused on water.

The last thing I made was my best and most ambitious: a hanging screen of shrubs laced with tubes connected by a long flow of blue fabric.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i've seen the watering hole. was reallllllllllllll good.