4 Dec 2020

ANNOUNCING – Overlapping Magisteria: The 2020 Macfarlane Commissions

Five new works draw on material facts and immaterial values to unsettle the divide between nature and culture, science and metaphysics.

Overlapping Magisteria is the second edition of The Macfarlane Commissions, a biennial exhibition at ACCA supporting ambitious projects by emerging and mid-career contemporary Australian and international artists.

Participating artists Robert Andrew, Mimosa Echard, Sidney McMahon, Sam Petersen and Isadora Vaughan present ambitious new works encompassing living organisms, kinetic installations and immersive assemblages, paying attention to multiple ways of knowing, sensing, feeling and interacting with the world.

While the inaugural Macfarlane Commissions exhibition The Theatre is Lying (2018–19), brought together artists who were interested in creating alternative narratives and worlds through illusionary, cinematic and theatrical devices, artists invited for Overlapping Magisteria each layer intuitive and sensory material responses to consider the possibilities of a world in flux, transformation and entropy.

The exhibition title is drawn from the phase ‘non-overlapping magisteria’ coined by biologist Stephen Jay Gould in an attempt to argue that science is informed by empirical facts in the material world, while religion and spirituality are subject to moral, ethical and emotional influences, and that neither aids in an understanding, nor discounts, the other; that is, they do not overlap.

Developed collaboratively by ACCA’s Artistic Director/CEO Max Delany and Curator Miriam Kelly, the curators say the title Overlapping Magisteria instead asserts a position against “historical desires to separate science and religion (or metaphysics) as distinct fields of enquiry into the human relationship with the natural world.

“Works included in the exhibition bring together material facts and immaterial values, rational and irrational, animate and inanimate forms, without one having dominion or mastery over another. These projects are each the outcome of astute observations and reflections on language, culture, land use, bodies, architecture and practices that have been marginalised by historically dominant paradigms,” they said.

Artists and projects in Overlapping Magisteria include:

Robert Andrew is a decedent of the Yawuru people from the Broome area in the Kimberley, Western Australia, and lives and works in Brisbane. Andrew’s sculptural installations explore the dialogue and tensions between Indigenous and European forms of knowledge, new and old technologies, organic and inorganic materials. Combining highly refined, programmable technology with natural resources such as minerals, pigments, ochres, rocks and soil, Andrew’s works reflect stories of deeply embedded and personal relationships to land, culture and language. Andrew has exhibited widely in Australia and internationally, including most recently in Afterglow, the 2020 Yokahama Triennale.

For Overlapping Magisteria, Andrew has developed a new electro-mechanically driven Cartesian plotting system and robotic mechanism that will control the movements of a multitude of strings, each tied to ochre and oxide-dipped branches. Words in Yarawu language are entered into the plotting system, to emerge as large scale abstracted drawing across ACCA’s gallery walls. As Andew notes: “The word is no longer recognisable. This creates spaces for the Yawuru words to have the freedom to move and to be unconstrained by the inadequacies of literal, linear, written, English word translations”.

Mimosa Echard lives and works in Paris, France. Her works combine natural and artificial elements and biological and pop-cultural artefacts which are convened in unpredictable mutating hybrid paintings, sculptures and immersive environments and membranes. Carrying inside them materials ranging from medicinal plants to beauty products, printed magazine images to the fluids that circulate inside and outside human bodies, Echard’s works harness personal knowledge and collective memories, and offer alternate perspectives of mainstream culture. Echard has exhibited widely in France and internationally, with recent projects in France, Italy and Japan, and also runs the Kombucha Project Center or Project Kombucha with Michel Blazy.

For this exhibition, Echard has worked with family and members of her home-town community in Allègres, southern France, to bead a series of suspended sanguine, illuminated sculptures. Flanked by membranelike paintings and curtains, and accompanied by soft sculptural floor works, Echard’s new commission revels in the fugitive beauty of inside and outside, wet and dry, natural and unnatural.

Sidney McMahon is a Sydney-based interdisciplinary artist working across sculptural installation, video and performance. Often bringing together industrial, organic and unexpected materials, McMahon’s practice is richly informed by the compelling intersection of an agricultural upbringing in regional Queensland, the corporeality of minimalist sculpture, and personal queer narratives that inform their contemporary identity. McMahon has shown widely nationally and internationally, with recent projects in Goulburn, London and Tokyo.

For ACCA, McMahon has developed a project titled Sorrow and release that addresses the complexities of processing experiences of loss. A large-scale kinetic sculptural installation, comprising air and black sails, the project operates on two thematic registers: the public sense of sorrow spurred by the climate crisis; and the very personal experiences of mourning following major life and gender identity changes.

Sam Petersen lives and works in Melbourne. Petersen makes art about her experiences of living with disability, including navigating public space for acts such as public urination to mistreatment and misconception. Working in sculpture and performance, Petersen has become known for her use of plasticene as a sculptural medium which bears an intimate relationship of the body and architecture, and for performances and written works that she describes as ‘rants’. She has recently presented major installations and minor interventions in solo and group exhibitions in Sydney and Melbourne.

For Overlapping Magisteria, Petersen will take on the demanding architecture of the ACCA building and toughness of the Corten steel entrance to the ACCA galleries, with a flesh-toned plasticine installation clearly marked with records of the artist’s touch, this work reflects on Petersen’s experiences of visibility in the public realm, the tactile relations of hard and soft materiality, as well as more intimate considerations of touch, sensuality and female sexuality.

Isadora Vaughan is a Melbourne based sculptor with a process-based and research-driven practice informed by interests in biodegradable materials, biofuels, algae and permaculture, as well as material intelligence, and the interdependence of human and non-human life. Vaughan’s immersive environments, and stand-alone sculptural works are characterised by the tension between materiality and form, and often bring together ready-made and industrial objects with rich organic matter. Vaughan has exhibited extensively in Australia in state, regional, university and independent galleries and museums.

For this exhibition, Vaughan is creating a dynamic, multi-sensory installation, Ogives, that will bring together new ceramics and cast forms, with various agricultural and protean, biological materials. This project is an ambitious new undertaking, underpinned by Vaughan’s considerations of the ways in which material technologies inform our engagements with the world around us. Through sensory and olfactory provocation, and sculptural forms which enfold the body, Vaughan’s works encourage audiences to reflect on and foster a deeper sense of connection with the natural environment.

Overlapping Magisteria: The 2020 Macfarlane Commissions
5 December 2020 – 15 March 2021
Artists: Robert Andrew, Mimosa Echard, Sidney McMahon, Sam Petersen and Isadora Vaughan
Curators: Max Delany and Miriam Kelly

The Macfarlane Commissions is supported by The Macfarlane Fund, a philanthropic initiative established in 2017 to honour the life of respected Melbourne businessman Donald (Don) Macfarlane, who throughout his life took immense pleasure in the arts. The Macfarlane Fund’s primary focus is to offer financial support across the career span of artists with programs to support graduate, mid-career and senior artists.

Further information and updates regarding forthcoming ACCA programs are available via

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
111 Sturt Street, Southbank VIC 3006
Melbourne, Australia
#accamelbourne #artstartsatacca

For further media information:
Katrina Hall

Presenting Partner