A large-scale art installation, created by Alice Springs-based artists and Visual Arts Lecturers at Charles Darwin University (CDU) Melanie Robson and Dr Kate Murphy (who exhibits as Ellis Hutch), was one of ten installations showcased in a premier outdoor art exhibition in Brisbane.
The canopy of a sacred Bodhi tree, blessed by the Dalai Lama, was the stage for the artwork, which was one of ten installations shown as part of the Botanica: Contemporary Art Outside exhibition at the City Botanic Gardens.
There, the ‘Flow States’ artwork co-created by Ms Robson and Dr Murphy – a fusion of sculpture, visual projection, live performance and interactive experience – came to life in the branches of the 140-year-old fig tree.
It featured 2000 suspended porcelain leaves, woven together to form screens for the projection of video showing microscopic aquatic organisms fished from transient creeks in Alice Springs, the Brisbane River and Botanic Garden pools.
The screens also provided a platform for a performative component of the work that created a sense of interactive play between the artwork and its spectators.
This saw performers, with mini-projectors attached to their heads, control and direct the changing vision of the micro-organisms onto the suspended screens, the tree architecture, the audience and each other.
Flow States co-creator Ms Robson said the installation encourages moments of quiet contemplation and wonder.
“It provides a chance to notice the fascinating, mostly invisible micro-worlds that are crucial parts of our everyday lives,” Ms Robson said.
Echoing this outlook, Flow States co-creator Dr Murphy said the “gentle and meditative” work is a shared response to the ‘tread softly’ theme of the exhibition, which considers a millennium of human influence on our natural environments. Botanica is presented by Brisbane City Council and produced by the Museum of Brisbane.
But the installation is also a reflection of the kinship and collegiality the two artists have developed while working together for the past year as Visual Art Lecturers at the CDU Alice Springs campus.
“We bring our shared interest in handmade processes, materials and the layered relationships between humans and the natural world to this work,” Ms Robson says.
“Our multi-disciplinary approach to this collaboration is a way of having a conversation with each other in the process of making the work, that then becomes a wider dialogue with the audience,” Dr Murphy said.
Ms Robson and Dr Murphy deliver a range of Vocational Education and Training (VET) and short courses, such as Certificate II and Certificate IV in Visual Arts through CDU’s Academy of the Arts in Central Australia.
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