29 March–17 May 201429 Mar–17 May 2014
The Pilbara is a place of extreme contrasts. Here, the idea of land as a source of spiritual and cultural identity and the idea of land as commodity co-exist.—Craig Walsh
Craig Walsh is renowned for his site-responsive artworks, which are often developed in collaboration with communities to express their perspectives. Over the last twenty years, he has worked across a range of contexts from museums to biennales, public-art commissions to music festivals and theatre, and across a range of media including sculpture, video, photography, and performance.
The IMA has joined forces with Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) to present Embedded, a major new installation by Walsh. The show’s genesis lies in a commission from the mining company Rio Tinto and MCA that allowed Walsh to undertake a four-week residency with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation in the Murujuga National Park and the whole Burrup Peninsula (Murujuga), near Karratha, Western Australia. The brief was to raise awareness and celebrate the exceptional cultural heritage of the National Heritage Place and the rock art it protects.
Walsh worked with the Circle of Elders (the traditional custodians) and the Rangers of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation as well as Rio Tinto staff. In a makeshift studio in Dampier, he interviewed Elders on video. He then projected the videos onto the rugged landscape, in locations that were particularly important to the individual subjects. From documentation of these projections, Walsh produced photographic portraits and video works. Walsh also produced Standing Stone Site (2012), a video-wall work depicting shifting light on a sacred site that features ninety-six standing stones, the largest concentration of standing stones in Australia. Co-curator Judith Blackall comments: ‘The physical profile of the horizon remains fixed and monumental, unmoved as it has been for thousands of years, while the spectacular transformation of colour from deep purple to orange red is rendered visible through a technique of high-resolution interval photography.’
The Pilbara is, of course, iron-ore mining country. All Australians are touched by mining. On the one hand, we benefit from it through employment and infrastructure, through our strong currency and healthy stock exchange; on the other, we are faced with its related ecological impacts both real and potential. Industry is transforming life in the Pilbara, especially for Aboriginal people. In Embedded, Walsh presents his Murujuga videos and photographs in an immersive environment, with fifteen industrial bins brimming with iron ore and walls painted in the colours of the safety clothing mining workers wear. Inviting the landscape inside, bringing outside in, Embedded juxtaposes ideas of land as country and as commodity—ideas that, out of necessity, co-exist in the Pilbara.
Embedded is organised in association with the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney. The MCA and the IMA have published a new monograph on Walsh, which we will launch at the opening event on Saturday 29 March. Richly illustrated, it features essays by Michael Fitzgerald, Judith Blackall, and Robert Leonard, and an interview with the artist by Annemarie Kohn.
- Judith Blackall and Robert Leonard