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Curating Contemporary Art (MA)

Pierce Evan Eldridge

Using the ubiquitous and popular mode of commuter traffic advertisements, Both Ways is a First Nations Billboard Exhibition that illuminated First Nations stories of the lands traversed between Warrgamay, Nywaigi & Bandjin Country (Hinchinbrook) through Wulgurukaba of Gurrambillbara and Yunbenun (Townsville and Magnetic Island) to Gudjal Country (Charters Towers).

Both Ways brought together contemporary artwork and archival images to explore the larger narratives of Indigenous Australia, highlighting histories and voices that are often unheard in popular forums in North Queensland. It’s hard to ignore the notion of place without first looking toward First Nations histories, and when amplified on none-other-than a roadside billboard, commuters were destined to take a second glance to understand what stories really exist here. 

Both Ways was designed to disrupt commuter advertising with narratives central and pivotal to the North Queensland region from some of Australia’s most esteemed First Nations artists and figures featuring, Tony Albert, Libby Harward, Bural Bural (Patsy Dallachy), and Gail Mabo, with archival images ‘Circus Act’ from Professional Savages by Roslyn Poignant, designed in consultation with Nywaigi Traditional Owner, Scott Anderson of Mungalla Station and Manbarra Traditional Owner Vicki Saylor, alongside portrait of Jupiter Mosman the ‘Discoverer of Gold in Charters Towers 1871’ attained from the Charters Towers Archive.

Read more about the project via The Guardian Australia article here.

Pictured: Bural Bural (Patsy Dallachy) in front of billboard artwork, Prisoner In Our Own Land, 2006. Image by Sean Davey, 2021.

My practice is deeply rooted in an entangled existence with ecological systems and the knowledges they hold, produce, and share. My curatorial interests evoke a sense of reciprocity, kinship, non-dualism, care, and community – an embodied exploration of new ways of collaborating and new ways to approach and ‘be with’ curatorship and dramaturgy. 

The authenticity with which I step gently through the world resonates with a genuine intention to move towards decentralised ways of working in order to give rise to breadth and spaciousness in co-production, devising, making and creating work. My practice simultaneously spans Australia, with a focus on the regions, and internationally as I am currently living and working in London, UK. 

Ecology is a big influence on my work as I seek to learn from ecosystems that exist around us. One of my desires is to better make tangible the conceptual and natural forms that I am immersed within. I am focused on collaborative dialogue and exchange with artists, art workers, and activists internationally, providing invaluable moments of intersection and insight regarding how others practice; making tangible what might otherwise sit on the periphery of my own curatorial and dramaturgical practice. 

In my graduate dissertation, eco-curatorial, I presented a series of mediations such as rewriting knowledge, ecological thinking, institutional landscapes, sciences inconsistencies, and outlined a set of ethics that challenged human-centric curatorial discourses by linking notions of 'the curatorial' with current ecological concerns. Three tags were attached to the mediations, as to connect them to broader contexts of this emergent field, resembling a network of knowledge that remains activated beyond the format of dissertation.

I am inspired by envisioning ‘the curatorial’ as a decentralised network and seek to cultivate systems and processes enabling multiple threads of engagement between myriad knowledge holders. In this way curatorship and dramaturgy need not take on a hierarchical form but more fluidly resembles an ecosystem, incorporating myriad people with diverse experiences. My vision for the future is founded in the knowledge systems that exist all around, if only we spent a little more time listening, being and learning from, rather than imposing upon. 

I focus toward creating kinship between myself, communities, and the more-than-human species that furrow within the soils all arrows us, to form generative approaches and discourses on closeness, commonality and care. It is my belief that we are akin to ecosystems, and that when we learn more from the natural environments surround us, we can establish new ways of working and being together, so much so, that our thinking and embodied engagement with art and global issues is expanded. 

I am actively engaged in the promotion of ecological and cultural discourses and am committed to dismantling the barriers often felt by marginalised communities with arts institutions and experiences. This work has led me to form partnerships with Chiara Famengo and Matilda O’Callaghan resulting in Make Interspecies Relations, an upcoming eight week online residency with Nextdoor ARI of Meanjin (Brisbane, QLD), Australia.

Pictured: Pierce at Bleach Festival 2020 before their performance for Queerstories on Chevron Island, Gold Coast. Listen to the performance here.

Scented dough sculptures made during workshops with Youngsook Choi and Eva Freeman by residents of the Spring Grove Care Home.
Before the 'Circle of Care' performance image of the audience at Camden Art Centre, 13 May 2022.
Youngsook Choi and Eva Freeman performing 'Circle of Care' in the Camden Art Centre's garden, 13 May 2022.
Participant of workshop 'Fold' by Lucy Steggals drawing with charcoal on paper in Camden Art Centre's garden, 14 May 2022.

It Matters What Happens Next was a programme of newly commissioned artworks and events that considered the origins of care and the transition between states of ‘caring’ to being ‘cared for’; hosted in the Camden Art Centre garden on 13/14 of May.

The project brought together individuals, institutions, and the public, intertwining our collective notions of care by looking toward how we maintain ongoing acts of reciprocal care into the future. To ask how do we understand welfare, labour, and communities through the lens of care? And what does it mean to give as well as receive care?

On Friday 13 May, The People Speak hosted a roundtable conversation entitled Talkaoke, which invited audiences to participate in a collective discussion to explore what everyday acts of care look like today.

Following the conversation, artists Youngsook Choi and Eva Freeman presented the Circle of Care. A project centred around knowledge exchange, the sharing of memories and finding intergenerational connections to highlight the importance of everyday care in our contemporary world.

The Circle of Care stemmed from a series of workshops led by Choi and Freeman with residents Linda, Mary, Mildred, Diana, Christine, Pat, Marcelle, Martin, Clive, Nora, Rose, Brian, Alan, Anne, Jean, Eve, and Elizabeth, alongside the generous contributions of care workers Lawrence, Joshua, Michaela, Lucy, Anna, Anne Mary, Delji, and the vital support of the incomparable and caring arts facilitator Odile Kidd of the Spring Grove Care Home neighbouring Camden Art Centre. The creative workshops explored themes of vulnerability, strength, resilience and institutional care. 

The resulting conversations, physical objects, videos and images formed part of the live, multimedia performance and temporary installation presented in Camden Art Centre’s garden, which adjoins the care home.

On Saturday 14 May, visitors were invited to drop into an informal afternoon workshop entitled Fold with artist Lucy Steggals in the garden of Camden Art Centre. Participants were encouraged to make and touch, considering care through the tactility of textile-based materials, to create tender moments for the body and explore our intimate relations with objects, places and people.

It Matters What Happens Next was curated by students from the MA Curating Contemporary Art Programme, Pierce Eldridge, Holly Pines, Yuwei Ren, Yangjie Zhang, Ruidi Sun, Chuhan Luo, and Mohan Shao as part of the Graduate Projects 2022, Royal College of Art in partnership with Camden Art Centre, and the Spring Grove Care Home.

Medium:

Curatorial
SUB, creative development images from March 2022.
SUB, creative development video from March 2022.

SUB is a new experimental contemporary dance work created by independent contemporary dance artist and choreographer, Ashleigh Musk in partnership with GUTS Dance and Tasdance.

SUB explores the effects of climate catastrophe and futuring, focusing on the exploration of the underground as the next frontier, and how we may adapt and grow to inhabit new worlds.

I have supported the dramaturgical and conceptual development of SUB with Ashleigh Musk alongside Collaborating Performers Frankie Snowdon, Madeleine Krenek and Jenni Large, Sound Designer Anna Whitaker, Lighting & Spatial Designer Jen Hector, Choreographic Intern Toni Lord, fellow Dramaturg and Conceptual Developer Léuli Eshrāghi, Spatial and Costume Designer Elliat Rich, Photographer and Videographer Ivan Trigo Miras and Costumes Manufactured by Lizzie Verstappen.

SUB has been developed within residencies: Bath St Residency for Red Hot Arts Central Australia in February 2021, The Makers Program for Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance at Home of the Arts (HOTA) Gold Coast in May 2021, and most recently Creative Development for GUTS Studio / Araluen Arts Centre in March 2022. 

SUB was a Creative Development Fund recipient for Darwin Festival 2022, and as such a final development will take place in July of 2023 before the world premier at the Darwin Festival, Australia.

Medium:

Dramaturgy, Dance and Performance Dramaturgy
Images of Preserve/Conserve by Jill Chism, 2021.

Preserve/Conserve – Invocation #3: Openness – Going with the Flow offers perspectives on human behaviour and attitudes, and the importance of the preservation of marine life and their habitats. Performed over an eight-day period, Jill Chism will move with the tides on Old Jetty (Remains) beach in Pallarenda, printing words in salt directly to the sand when the tide withdraws to its furthest point only to be washed away once the water returns to shore.

Split into two parts, Jill will first perform ‘Openness – Going with the Flow’ which has a double-edged meaning that primarily comes from observing marine creatures, especially dugongs and turtles whose habitats abound within the seagrass meadows off the strand and Townsville port area, and within the Cleveland Bay, Magnetic Island.

Following and during the COVID pandemic shutdowns we were all expected to ‘go with the flow’ whilst becoming more ‘open’ to the myriad of changes experienced within Australia and each of the states. These marine animals embody those characteristics. The other provocation is linked to the preservation of these significant marine animals and their habitats, particularly in a time of ecological degradation. The ephemerality of lasting time in these areas seems limited which draws the direct attention toward the current eco-diverse problems of this area particularly the declining Great Barrier Reef by ‘Giving more Time’, a task which Jill says is ‘both an individual and collective one.’...‘It is imperative that we listen and act.’

The overall work, with its repeated words, also refers to chants and mandalas – an ephemeral way of invoking change right now – in the current moment, reflected in the fact that the work is created repeatedly at a particular time of day according to the tides until the sea washes the work away. These are the words that will be printed during the performances:

Work #1: Preserve Conserve: Dugongs, Sea Grass, Flat Back and Green Turtles, Dolphin Whale and Shark.

Work #2: Preserve Conserve: Acceptance Going slow, Openness, Going with the flow

Medium:

Curation, Site-Specific
Octopus, Stephen Oliver, 2021.
Gecko, Stephen Oliver, 2021.
Emu, Stephen Oliver, 2021.
Shark, Stephen Oliver, 2021.

From the Desert to the Sea is an exhibition that celebrates an extraordinary collection of new work from local First Nations artist Stephen Oliver of Waanyi, Kuku Yalanji and Erub Island decent, represented by Big Eye Arts & Cultural Centre. Big Eye is an Indigenous community run art centre located in Gurrumbilbarra Wulgurukaba and Bindal Country (Townsville) that showcases, promotes and preserves Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art, Culture and Stories.

Stephen is a pivotal figure amongst his community and as an emerging artist his work is fresh and new with the use of pastel colours, in the style from the desert Gecko and the sea Octopus and Squid, which is rarely seen in dot art painting from his Waanyi background.

By surveying the oceans and lands traversed from the Torres Strait to mainland Australia, Stephen reflects and connects with his cultural heritage by painting the stories of aquatic lifeforms and land animals. Stephen also does traditional dance, and through his dance tells those stories of the animals he paints. He has been dancing and painting since a child and caries his lineage on with the development of new skills and knowledge of his culture to share through art and dance with community.

From the Desert to the Sea is Stephen's reflection of–and ode to–the distinct landscapes of the northern tropics, as he believes we all have a part to play in taking care of the environment, its animals, and the Country surrounding us.

Medium:

Curation

Ecological spaces inspire us to deepen our breath as we traverse new landscapes. On inhalation, new knowledges become embodied as fauna, animal life, and microscopic species breathe with us. In this way, we create a reciprocity of connection through the breath; and it’s with this breath we intrude the digital by recognising online spaces as living and breathing environments. 

A longing to connect to ecological spaces, across borders and within the digital, has informed this residency; bringing Venice, Australia and the United Kingdom together to build an online environment focused on ecological practices, theories and pedagogies. We will present sound, imagery, written work and interactive artworks from artists of each region as a way to build connections between ecological spaces and places. 

As we journey through these spaces, spanning across different regions, we have looked to the potential of creating companion networks, envisaged as a digital library of interactive resources and shared relations.

Make Interspecies Relations acts not as a simple resource centre, but instead as a platform where the entanglement of people, places and practices can come together to grow and connect. We aspire to create a platform that has accessibility options integrated for a myriad of users to interact and exchange at their preferred visual audio settings. 

Considering the importance for new languages that move beyond colonial constructs of the nature-culture divide, we will invite participants to submit words and definitions that occur in their own engagements to natural spaces, forming a rich, diverse, ecological vocabulary available online. Inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer who centres the language of animacy, we hope to bridge the gap between discourse and practice. In the nature of breathing connections, an accessible form online will be designed for people to share contact information so a larger ecological network can be maintained on-going following the project. 

During the two week presentation, we will activate the webpage with a focus on breathing together in a series of live performances and participatory meditative workshops with artists whose work is featured on the Make Interspecies Relations platform. 

We will invite participants to come to the digital world embodied in their own experiences, language and place. Through this, we recognise the diversity of bodies and from our own experiences of queerness and chronic pain, starting from the body allows people to be rooted in their present while expanding out to connect and heal together in this entangled eco-digital web. 

This project is curated by network Chiara Famengo, Matilda O’Callaghan, and Pierce Eldridge; curators addressing ecological uncertainties by forming meaningful and joyful relations across earthly networks. Working with the land as a starting point, this network challenges traditional ways of creating and embodying knowledges, moving beyond institutional settings towards spaces such as community gardens and activist-led initiatives. 

Rooted in their localities of Venice, Australia and the United Kingdom, the network grounds itself into the communities they are a part of, spending time and building relations centred around care for local people, creatives and ecologies. With this grounding they are better able to share local knowledges into global networks, building interconnected spaces of celebration and collective solidarity toward the current eco-social urgencies we all face. 

To be presented with Nextdoor ARI, 29 Aug — 9 Sep 2022, online at: https://nextdoorari.com/events

The Nextdoor Artist Run Initiative exists to champion the experimental practices of early career contemporary artists. Founded in 2020 by five emerging Meanjin (Brisbane) and Yugambeh Country (Gold Coast) based artists, we endeavour to be the 'next door' for aspiring artists, providing opportunities for artistic development and personal growth. With a current focus on South-East Queensland artists, our aim is to generate new and authentic art experiences, by facilitating the creation, exhibition and discussion of contemporary art.

Medium:

Online Exhibition, Curatorial

Size:

Make Interspecies Relations
Professional Savages by Roslyn Poignant, p. 18. The seven survivors to reach Europe were (l to r): Billy, Jenny, her son Toby, her husband Toby, Sussy, Jimmy and Bob (reclining). Negretti and Zambra, Crystal Palace, London, claimed the copyright, although, in fact, R. A. Cunningham registered copyright in his name, 1884.
“WRONG WAY GO BLACK”, © Libby Harward.
Tony Albert, Alien, 2019, acrylic and found vintage objects applied to plastic-polyester, powder-coasted aluminium, 40.5 x 50.5cm, © Tony Albert.
Jupiter Mosman the ‘Discoverer of Gold in Charters Towers 1871’ attained from the Charters Towers Archive.

Medium:

First Nations, Curatorial, Billboard Exhibition