26 August to 2 October 2022
Free from Wed to Sun
Sunset till 10pm
Abbotsford Convent precinct
World premiere, Interspecies and Other Others will transform the gardens and architecture of national heritage-listed Abbotsford Convent through a dynamic, free program of video and sound art, sculpture, installation and performance.
Curated by Kelli Alred, this exhibition explores the human condition, history and habitat. It offers audiences a unique night-time exploration of the Convent’s outdoor spaces, including dynamic lighting designs, projections and lightbox displays, that transform the Convent precinct into a special place for artistic discovery.
Alongside newly commissioned works from some of Australia’s leading contemporary artists including Abdul Abdullah, Megan Cope, Atlanta Eke and Lyndal Jones, visitors are encouraged to explore and interact with precinct-specific adaptations of existing work, video art screenings, performances and participatory events by an array of contemporary artists.
This rich exhibition of artworks and happenings combined to makes Interspecies and Other Others an immersive nocturnal journey, with surprising and compelling experiences awaiting within gardens, on and behind buildings and throughout the many nooks and crannies of the Convent grounds.
Interspecies and Other Others began as a seed of an idea during the dark wintery depths of Melbourne experiencing the world’s longest COVID-19 lockdown.
We were completely driven by our purpose: to transform people’s lives through diverse arts and cultural experiences and the striking landscape of our place.
There was a real opportunity to embrace the ‘new COVID normal’ and see it as inspiration rather than disruption.
We wanted to create a unique, outdoor experience that would delight and surprise audiences and make the most of our precinct’s 16 acres of green, outdoor arts and cultural spaces.
This exhibition also enables the Convent to play a key role in the recovery and repair of Melbourne’s arts and cultural sector, particularly for independent artists who have been hit hard by the devastating impacts of COVID lockdowns and restrictions.
Interspecies and Other Others brings together all the things people love about the Abbotsford Convent: engaging with nature, rubbing shoulders with artists, experiencing innovative work, freely exploring the Convent’s architecture, gardens and grounds, and learning about other cultures and concepts.
All within a welcoming environment in a unique inner-city sanctuary and arts, cultural and community precinct.
“This exhibition is about relationships. It is about our connectedness and the wondrous, tumultuous complexity of our coexistence.” Kelli Alred
Interspecies and Other Others investigates the human condition, history and habitat through the presentation of artistic works exploring mythological tales, mystical figures and liminal forms. The exhibition proposes a set of alternate imaginaries that consider the entanglement of human beings, other species and our environment. It also asks a set of fundamental questions about how the speculative and often contradictory self builds fluid, non-binary relationships with the other.
The participating artists interrogate human-to-human, as well as human to animal and plant interactions to probe broader environmental and socio-political concerns. Examining how cultural constructs such as language and media influence perception, behaviour and social identity, the artists shed light on how the deconstruction and decolonisation of those constructs may bring new models of reciprocity and accountability to the fore.
Collectively, the artworks introduce a set of uncanny, future pasts by layering the real, hyper-real, fantastic and fake. They disrupt the linear conception of time imposed by colonialism and give voice to Indigenous notions of Country and custodianship. The artworks also explore notions of place and experiences of displacement, referencing instances of racial and gender-based oppression to perform vital acts of reclamation and resistance.
Kelli Alred has over two decades of national and international experience as an artistic director, curator, program manager, executive producer, researcher, consultant and dramaturg.
Kelli Alred was the Artistic Director of Channels Festival: International Biennial of Video Art 2019; Visual Art Associate for Melbourne International Arts Festival 2019 and 2017; Executive Producer for SITUATE Art in Festivals 2015; Digital Arts Program Manager at Arts Centre Melbourne 2012-13; Intermedia Art Curator at Tate Modern 2004-2; Commissioning Producer for Active Ingredient UK 2002-03; and New Media and Live Art Curator at Site Gallery UK 2000-02.
A selection of recent curatorial projects include Temporal Proximities presented at the Abbotsford Convent’s heritage listed Magdalen Laundry 2019; Untimely Geographies at The Substation 2019; a program of video art and lecture performances at the NGV 2019; and the Australian premier of The Exhibition of a Film at ACMI 2017.
International highlights include being Associate Curator for the exhibition Synthetic Times at the National Art Museum of China 2008; commissioning new work for the 2008 Altermodern Triennial at Tate Britain; co-curating an interactive public artwork by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer in Trafalgar Square 2008; and presenting an audio-visual work by Ryoji Ikeda in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall 2006.
Abdul Abdullah and David Charles Collins
Exploring the imposter and outsider, The Interloper (2022) is a photographic series made up of three self-portraits by Abdullah and a collaborative, fourth work by Abdullah and Collins. Featuring a curious fox-headed man and an array of farmyard animals, these works express attitude and humour, and consider how we project ourselves and how others perceive us.
Repurposing Abbotsford Convent roof slate originally chiselled from a Welsh quarry for this new installation, Cope continues her interrogation of exploitative mining practices. She draws attention to the impact on native wildlife and Indigenous communities as well as the loss and reclamation of language, through text written on the slate in a phosphorescent mineral that is only visible after dark.
Exploring the erosion and embodiment of history, The Sacred Heart Real Tennis Court (2022) is an architecturally designed installation for public use, performance, projection and sound. Eke takes a deep dive into the process of familial inter-generational transfer, using movement, costume, tennis paraphernalia and robotic musical instruments to distort her body into an absurd, hybrid species.
Abbotsford Landscape with the fall of Icarus [after Pieter Bruegel the elder 1555] (2022) is part of a long-term project titled Gardening on Mars, which explores notions of habitat, survival and colonisation. This works focuses on the mystery of an anonymous cosmonaut having fallen from the sky. Jones reflects on a long history of human overreach and the cataclysmic environmental impact, which may result from an unchecked colonisation of space.
Award-winning filmmaker, Sarah-Jane Woulahan has created a series of online films which responds to the artistic and curatorial concepts explored within Interspecies and Other Others as a visual accompaniment. Interweaving artist interviews, found and stock footage as well as performative actions within Convent grounds, Woulahan’s work takes audiences on an otherworldly, yet informative journey that reinforces and enriches the curious, nocturnal world that the exhibition inhabits.
No place (2009) is a photographic series exploring identity from the perspective of the artist and Girramay people. Adorning his subjects with Lucha Libre masks traditionally used in Mexican wrestling, the artist presents striking portraits of the warriors in his community. Referencing the multi-faceted nature of identity within contemporary culture, No place speaks of Indigenous empowerment and pride.
Sonaflora Drift Yarra (2019-22) is a sound art installation highlighting a set of existing musical compositions based on plants from the Convent’s Heritage Garden, first developed in 2019. Martorell has created a visual score by mapping the anatomical geometries of these plants onto a scaled grid of pitches and durations. These exploratory plant-based melodies, combined with nearby field recordings produced in local areas around the Convent site, will create a musical rendition of human-flora interaction of the Convent’s habitat. A live performance will expand this repertoire with gum tree leaf, wattle flower and bat colony scores.
Pretty Valley, Bogong High Plains, June 2013 / Abbotsford Convent power supply, August 2022 reimagines a previous work involving field recordings undertaken in Victoria’s Alpine National Park. As a development of the original concept, Robinson has transposed the sonic ecology he mapped there to situate audio and sculptural components next to electrical outlets around the Abbotsford Convent.
Edge Of The Garden (2020) conjures a set of nocturnal figures captured between dusk and dawn. During COVID isolation, Turner-Carroll spent several months making wearable sculptures and photographing members of his family on the property where he grew in regional NSW. By reimagining the use of these everyday items, Turner-Carroll both un-earths and repositions his familial history.
Projected on the St Euphrasia wall, watch this series of curated short films which explore and articulate the themes and ideas of Interspecies and Other Others.
Reimagining a 2000-year-old story about a young woman forced into exile by the misdeeds of her husband, Stories of Kannagi (2020) examines the impact of colonisation and civil war on Tamil communities living outside of Sri Lanka.
Karrabing Film Collective
The Mermaids, or Aiden in Wonderland (2018) is set in a not-so-distant future, when Europeans can no longer survive outdoors in a land and seascape poisoned by capitalism, whereas Indigenous people are unaffected. Stylistically combining documentary filmmaking and science fiction, this film presents views on climate change, extractive capitalism and industrial toxicity from the point of view of Indigenous communities’ perspectives.
Transoxiana Dreams (2011) is a mythological narrative staged in the vast landscape of Menlibayeva’s native Kazakhstan, which has been ravaged by 60 years of Soviet occupation and irrigation politics. Previously the site a thriving fishing community, these now arid plains are home to an Indigenous population struggling for sustenance.
Marianna Simnett’s dark and quirky film The Udder (2014) is a magic-realist tale of a young girl’s coming of age against a backdrop of industrial agriculture and examines the relationship between gender stereotypes and identity.
Yeo Siew Hua
This mystical and acutely haunting tale, An Invocation to the Earth (2020) confronts the subject of climate collapse through the lens of pre-colonial folktales and animalistic rituals. It pays respect to a community of fallen environmental defenders, who dedicated their lives to the protection of a region riddled with ecological threats.
Interspecies and Other Others is possible with Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund – An Australian Government initiative