The exhibition Novel Ecologies presents a group of artists who contemplate a relationship with a more vital world. Whether looking for greater attunement to the continuities of the earth or to the solace and joys of an unruly embodied life, they have consistently sought to cultivate the natural in all its guises. Working across performative registers and through processes that reflect humour and uncertainty, they have often interrogated the ways in which they apprehend their place in the scheme of things.
|Perdita Phillips, , .--. / .- / .- (penguin anticipatory archive), 2013, mixed media, drawings and digital prints (work in progress), each 31.5 x 31.5 cm, edition of 7. (Left, centre and right.)|
|Robert Zhao Renhui/The Institute of Critical Zoologists, Expedition #45, From the series The Glacier Study Group, 2012, archival print with pigment, 84 x 121 cm
||Robert Zhao Renhui/The Institute of Critical Zoologists, Expedition #25, 2009, archival print, 74 x 111 cm
Robert Zhao Renhui/The Institute of Critical Zoologists, Expedition #45, 2012, archival print with pigment, 84 x 121 cm
|Robert Zhao Renhui/The Institute of Critical Zoologists, Expedition #25, 2009, archival print, 74 x 111 cm
|Tori Benz, Birthing Totem I, 2013. Lead pencil on gesso on marine ply, 30 x 20 x 4.5 cm
||Tori Benz, Birthing Totem II, 2013. Lead pencil on gesso on marine ply, 30 x 20 x 4.5 cm||Tori Benz, Untitled, 2013. Lead pencil on gesso on marine ply, 30 x 20 x 4.5 cm||Tori Benz, Untitled, 2013. Lead pencil on gesso on marine ply, 30 x 20 x 4.5 cm|
These artists deploy shifting speaking positions and are attracted to the ties between the drawn, the written and the uttered. Their activities are characterised by a complicating of the relationship between the visual and truth and, although working in ways that acknowledge broader political and philosophical questions, their approach is more poetic than didactic.
The term ‘novel ecology’ refers to ecological systems that have only recently come into being and that consist of previously unseen combinations of species and interactions. These novel systems, which now comprise the majority of the world’s ecosystems, profoundly challenge traditional philosophical and disciplinary distinctions. While two of the artists have taken these emerging systems as their subject, novel ecosystems arguably provide a metaphor for the practices of all the artists in the exhibition. With their hybrid nature and contested status, such systems offer connotations of not only newness but also strangeness and discomfort. As an exhibition title, the phrase ‘novel ecologies’ also brings to mind the role of fiction and narrative in the processes of the artists.
Jasmin Stephens, Sydney
About the artists
Tori Benz deploys painting and drawing to capture moments of tension and possibility within the context of the everyday. Many of her images are derived from home movies and family photographs and her practice is informed by her recent experience of motherhood. Benz, who works in the Art Department at Curtin University, Perth, has recently exhibited in Metallic, Spectrum Project Space, Edith Cowan University, Perth (2012); Constellations: a large number of small drawings, RMIT Gallery, RMIT University (2010); and Revelations: contemporary visions of apocalypse, Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth (2009). She lives in Perth.
George Egerton-Warburton’s work delves into the application of irrational methodologies to better understand the awkward moral balance in nature. In a practice merging video, performance and sculpture, he often pursues schemes and urges in which the lowly and the outcast gain the upper hand. He is a Gertrude Contemporary Studio Artist. His recent solo exhibitions include Studio 12: Dog, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne, (2013); Steaming Ties, Artspace, Auckland (2013); and Living With Living, Sutton Project Space, Melbourne (2012). Group exhibitions include Public Thinking, 55 Sydenham Road, Sydney (2013) and The Stalactite Love Review, as part of the Perth International Arts Festival, University of Western Australia, Perth (2011). He lives in Melbourne.
Dr Perdita Phillips has an expansive practice working in installation, environmental projects, walking, sound, video, publishing and object making. Her commitment to ‘ecosystemic thinking’ has led her to work with minerals, termites and bowerbirds at the intersection of the human and non-human worlds. She contributes to many interdisciplinary forums and her most recent solo exhibition was Fast/Slow/Complex at Spectrum Project Space, Edith Cowan University, Perth (2013). Phillips has also recently taken part in Bunbury Biennale, Bunbury Regional Galleries, Bunbury (2013); Testing Ground, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart (2013); and Yonder, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth (2012). She lives in Perth. Perdita Phillips was artist in residence with The Cross Art Projects as part of the Novel Ecologies exhibition.
Robert Zhao Renhui/The Institute of Critical Zoologists
Under the imprimatur of The Institute of Critical Zoologists, Robert Zhao Renhui has pursued an award-winning inter-disciplinary study of the zoological gaze. Researching alongside eminent leaders from diverse scientific fields, his projects are realised as installations, photographs, archives and expedition reports. His recent solo exhibitions include Living Proof, Bangkok University Gallery, Bangkok (2012) and The Institute of Critical Zoologists, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff (2012). He has also participated in Photoquai 2013, Musée du quai Branly, Paris (2013); President’s Young Talents, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore (2013); and the group show, Beast Bloom for Thee, at Canna Galerie, Jakarta (2013). He lives in Singapore. Zhao is represented by 2902 Gallery, Singapore.
Jasmin Stephens, Curator
Jasmin Stephens lives in Sydney. Her recent exhibitions include Yonder, at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts and Metallic at Spectrum Project Space, Edith Cowan University, WA. She has pursued her interest in current exhibition trends, audience development and curatorship in many institutions including Fremantle Arts Centre, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Artbank and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. She undertook a curatorial residency with The Reading Room in Bangkok (2013) and was Visiting Curator and Asialink Arts Management Resident with Singapore Biennale (2011). She has written for eyeline, RealTime and un Magazine publications.
|Left, Robert Renhui Zhao/The Institute of Critical Zoologists, right, Perdita Phillips. Photos: Oscar Brooks-Luscombe
||Perdita Phillips, work in progress, Cross Art Projects residency with Sydney Harbour’s Little Penguins, September 2013||Perdita Phillips, .--. / .- / .- (penguin anticipatory archive), 2013|
|Perdita Phillips, doing so that (tie a knot in it, the world is a handkerchief, a pile of promises) 2013, individual embroidered handkerchiefs exchanged for ‘covenant’ with Little Penguins
||Left: Perdita Phillips; right: Robert Zhao Renhui/The Institute of Critical Zoologists
||Left: Tori Benz; right: Robert Zhao Renhui/The Institute of Critical Zoologists|
|In conversation led by Jasmin Stephens and Ann Finegan, background Robert Zhao Renhui/The Institute of Critical Zoologists, far right, Perdita Phillips
||Left: George Egerton-Warburton; right: Tori Benz
||Left: George Egerton-Warburton, Dog, mixed media (video, plaster), dimensions variable; right: Tori Benz, Enfold studies, 2013|
For their support, Jasmin and the artists thank Lee Liski and colleagues at dLux media arts; Michael Moran at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation; and Tania Creighton and Holly Williams at UTS Art Gallery. For their initial encouragement, Jasmin also thanks Katie Dyer, Anneke Jaspers and Genevieve O’Callaghan. Discussions with Jo Holder and Perdita Phillips about the project have also been greatly appreciated. Perdita Phillips thanks Jasmin Stephens, Jo Holder, Phillip Boulten, Thom van Dooren, John MacRitchie, John Stockfeld, Belinda Cannell, Lincoln Johnson, Jim Boyce, Director Judy Reizes and the staff at the Manly Environment Centre and Cali Andersen of Andersen’s Bindery.
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