And Now For The Weather: Siteworks 2022
January 16th 2023
‘Gutter Phonics’ by Susan Jacobs
Siteworks 2022: From a Deep Valley is a series of talks, workshops and performances taking place across four weekends at South Coast art museum Bundanon. From DJ sets to overnight sonic visual experiences Siteworks 2022 is endlessly innovative.
Situated on Wodi Wodi land of the Yuin Nation, Bundanon is an art museum, wildlife sanctuary and residency program that draws upon its history of artistic expression, learning and connectedness to the natural environment. The museum’s newly re-opened exhibition space feels like a concrete bunker burrowed into the side of a hill, encircled by natural bush and overlooking rolling grassy hillside that opens onto a vast river bend. The hillside itself is dotted with Jacaranda trees in full bloom and kaleidoscopes of white-winged butterflies. The entire setting feels otherworldly.
Bundanon’s natural setting has been a particularly charged subject for the museum which risked going up in flames during the Black Summer fires and being inundated by intense flooding in recent years. The impacts of extreme weather and our changing relationship to the natural environment are underlying concepts for this year’s Siteworks.
View of the Shoalhaven River from Bundanon
The complexities of Bundanon’s relationship to its landscape coupled with the impacts of living through a pandemic are core themes of ‘Inside, Underground’, the new exhibition that opened as part of Siteworks 2022. Materiality is intrinsic to the work of all five of the exhibition’s artists, such as Lucy Simpson’s river mussels recreated from recycled TV glass or Kate Scardifield’s blocks of carbon made from algae biomass and oyster shell waste. It’s hard not to feel intrigued and energised by the artists’ creative responses to questions of sustainability and interiority.
Siteworks 2022 does not stop there! Bundanon is also part of the ‘World Weather Network’, a year long project where artists from across the globe create ‘weather reports’ on local shifts in weather patterns. Bundanon joins this network of ‘weather stations’ with a suite of talks, commissioned poems, interactive postcards, photographs and video works, all of which provide a strong connection to time and place amidst the growing shadow of the climate emergency.
One of the river mussels from Lucy Simpson’s ‘Baayangalibiyaay’
Interwoven into Siteworks 2022 is an awareness that we gather on unceded Indigenous land. The opening weekend begins with Banna Budjaang, an hour-long smoking ceremony and dance performance by South Coast knowledge holders Gadhungal Murring, which teaches audiences stories of the country on which they gather. This is only one of a diverse range of performances, artworks and workshops staged by First Nations artists. You can also catch ‘Hearing Country’, a DJ set by E Fishpool based on the teachings of Uncle Noel Butler that aims to deepen our connectivity to everything we see, hear and feel. Bundanon itself takes its name from the Dharawal word for deep valley, giving Siteworks 2022 its full name.
There is a lot going on at Siteworks 2022: From a Deep Valley. With a merging of digital artspaces, physical exhibitions and four weekends brimming with diverse programming, its hard to know where to start when describing this creative wellspring. What is more obvious though is that Siteworks 2022 is open-minded about what present day cultural institutions can look like and offers meaningful insights into the realities of living through a global pandemic and facing the looming threat of climate change.
Interview with Bundanon's Head Curator Sophie O'Brien
Head Curator Sophie O’Brien sits down with me to talk further about Siteworks 2022‘s innovative programming, themes of materiality and interiority in ‘Inside, Underground’ and the importance of cultural institutions building partnerships with First Nation-led organisations.
0:00 – Importance of including a range of artforms when programming for contemporary art institutions and the significance of Bundanon’s residency program in providing research opportunities for artists.
1:39 – Discussion of ‘Inside, Underground’ exhibition, contemporary art as a problem solving tool and the existential nature of the pandemic.
3:02 – Themes of interiority and extreme weather in Siteworks and Bundanon’s relationship to its setting.
5:08 – Discussion of materiality in ‘Inside, Underground’ and the difference between representation and embodiments of ‘Nature’.
6:09 – Bundanon’s relationship to local First Nation-led cultural organisations and what it means to honour country.
8:24 – Is there a specific role cultural organisations should be playing in terms of engaging Indigenous cultural knowledge to wider audiences.
INTERVIEW WITH ELECTRONIC & CLASSICAL MUSICIAN NICK WALES
Sitting looking out at the Shoalhaven river, musician Nick Wales chats to me about his string orchestra work and headphone guided meditation ‘Cathedral’, the art of non-performance performance and his 20 year creative relationship with Bundanon.
0:00 – Nick Wales and his band CODA’s personal history with Bundanon and significance of the residencies to his creative process in the early 2000s.
1:59 – Nick talks about his string orchestra score Cathedral, a headphone guided meditation that reveals a magical view of the Shoalhaven river.
4:15 – Performing live for Siteworks 2022’s opening weekend and the joys and trickiness of non-performance performance.
5:32 – Music as sculptural and navigating audience expectations.
7:18 – The crossover between art and music in how colour and musical notes are both used to construct harmonies.
7:53 – Nick talks about the centrality of beauty and heightened perception in his creative practice.
INTERVIEW WITH LOCAL KNOWLEDGE HOLDER JACOB MORRIS
Local knowledge holder Jacob Morris discusses his work as part of Gaghungal Murring, a Dharawal cultural learning organisation. Still fresh from leading Sitework’s opening weekend smoking ceremony and dance performance Banna Budjaang, Jacobs sits down to chat the importance of cultural education and working with institutions such as Bundanon.
0:00 – Jacob talks about Gaghungal Murring and the importance of sharing cultural knowledge.
1:46 – The possibilities of cultural organisations in facilitating knowledge sharing of Indigenous culture to larger non-Indigenous audiences and what meaningful partnership looks like.
3:21 – Different perspectives of First Nation practices on Climate Change and our relationship to the national environment.
4:34 – The need for expansion of First Nation cultural teaching across Australia.