9 May 2024

Future Remains

The 2024 Macfarlane Commissions

Artists explore myriad ways stories from the past can shape and impact present realities in Future Remains: The 2024 Macfarlane Commissions, the fourth edition of a multi-year partnership supporting ambitious new artworks by emerging and mid-career artists.

Future Remains presents major new projects from seven contemporary artists from across Australia who variously reclaim, restage and reframe specific material, cultural or ideological inheritances in an effort not only to better understand the past but also to open up new possibilities for our current and future worlds.

Engaging a broad range of historical reference points, from idiosyncratic personal and familial chronicles, cultural and artistic lineages, to more official archives and collections, Future Remains reflects on the ways that the past reverberates in the present. The exhibition invites us to contemplate the gifts and burdens of these inherited legacies, alongside the promise of their reconfiguration for the future. 

Curator Dr Shelley McSpedden said theworks presented in Future Remains stage material and conceptual explorations of historical narratives, ‘grappling with knotty notions of truth, authenticity, imitation and desire. Ranging in tenor from humorous and poetic to bitingly satirical, these works explore how the stories told about the past are fabricated and perpetuated, and how they shape the contours of our personal and collective lives,’ she said. 

‘At an historical moment when we are collectively grappling with contested histories and their profound impact on our present reality, the artists brought together in Future Remains not only probe the veracity of personal and social historical accounts, they attempt to rework them into something productive for the future.’

Future Remains features seven new artwork commissions, including:

  • A sprawling, multi-part weaving by Kim Ah Sam, in which she employs her innovative, improvisational textile techniques to map her life story, with a focus on connection to her grandmother’s Kuku Yalanji Country, and her father’s Kalkadoon Country.
  • A major moving-image installation by Andy Butler that irreverently responds to the Henry Otley Beyer archive held by the National Library of Australia. Filmed on location in Canberra, the three-channel work sees Asian-Australian actors recreate selected movie scenes referenced in cinema programs in the Beyer archive from the early 1930s, when Hollywood films were being screened in Manila during the height of the American colonial period.
  • A large-scale installation by Teelah George that brings together a new iteration of her celebrated embroidery and bronze work, alongside experiments with other materials, including cardboard, Blu Tack and discarded truck vinyl, to mediate on the workings of time, and the unstable and constantly evolving nature of material cultures and historical narratives.
  • A two-channel moving image installation by Wiradjuri artist Joel Sherwood Spring that adopts the language of a tech pitch and the infrastructure of gaming engines and AI technology to satirically probe the heightened desire for and framing of Indigeneity as a panacea for contemporary social ills. The work lambasts historical representations of Indigenous culture, while subversively speculating on new configurations from the future.
  • A towering sculptural installation by Salote Tawale that appears like supersized beaded jewellery composed of culturally specific materials, including tarps, corrugated iron and patterned textiles. Expanding on her previous work with wearable adornment, the exuberant sculpture is designed as a fantastical talisman, spreading positive energy and protection in a moment of heighted social fracture and crisis. The work is conceived as both a self-portrait of the artist as a queer Fijian woman with settler-colonial heritage living in Australia, and a joyful monument to the collective energy that sustains us during difficult times.
  • A tactile sculptural installation by Nicholas Smith in which large-scale hand-built ceramic vessels appear like strewn bodies within an elaborate stage-set. Intersecting domestic materials and palettes drawn from his own regional suburban upbringing, with references to 20th century décor and design, and religious iconography, this luscious installation draws out and plays with repressed desires and libidinal drives.

  • An immersive installation by emerging Melbourne artist, Alexandra Peters, incorporating large-scale prints and sculptural objects that draws on the materiality and methods of both high art and mass industry to interrogate and subvert notions of individuality and authenticity. 

Developed in partnership with ACCA, The Macfarlane Commissions is an initiative of the The Macfarlane Fund designed to encourage the production of ambitious new work by emerging to mid-career contemporary artists. Each artist is offered a generous artist fee and production budget, with the intention of commissioning a major new body of work especially for the exhibition. To date, the series has supported the creation of almost thirty major new works, with significant impacts for the careers of the artists involved.

The Macfarlane Fund is 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 developed to support graduate, mid-career and senior artists. Underpinning the development of The Macfarlane Fund is a rigorous approach to decision-making, and a commitment to being flexible, effective and responsive to artistic practice and initiatives in a way that challenges established modes of giving and serves as a role model for contemporary art philanthropy.

Artist bios are available here.

Future Remains: The 2024 Macfarlane Commissions
Exhibition dates: 29 June – 1 September 2024
Artists: Kim Ah Sam, Andy Butler, Teelah George, Alexandra Peters, Nicholas Smith, Joel Sherwood Spring and Salote Tawale
Curator: Shelley McSpedden

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art 
111 Sturt Street, Southbank VIC 3006
Melbourne, Australia
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 10am–5pm, Weekends 11am–5pm, Free entry
#accamelbourne #artstartsatacca

For further media information:
Katrina Hall
0421 153 046

ACCA acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woiwurrung people as sovereign custodians of the land on which we work and welcome visitors, along with the neighbouring Boonwurrung, Bunurong, and wider Kulin Nation. We acknowledge their longstanding and continuing care for Country and we recognise First Peoples art and cultural practice has been thriving here for millennia. We extend our respect to ancestors and Elders past and present, and to all First Nations people.