Between Waves Curatorial Essay

Between Waves Exhibition Page »

Between Waves amplifies concepts related to light, time and vision – and the idea of shining a light on our times – expressed by the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung word Yalingwa. The exhibition presents ten new commissions that variously explore the visible and invisible energy fields and flows set in motion by these ideas. Through a range of contemporary artforms – including video, installation, poetry, projection, photography, painting, sculpture, sound, printmaking, and a digital commission – participating artists have developed reflective and site-responsive projects that explore and experiment with the intersections of material and immaterial realms of knowledge and knowing. Collectively, works of art by Maree Clarke, Brad Darkson, Dean Cross, Matthew Harris, James Howard, Hayley Millar Baker, Jazz Money, Cassie Sullivan, this mob, and Mandy Quadrio, illuminate an interconnected web of shapeshifting ecologies within, beyond, and between what can be seen.

The exhibition has evolved alongside conversations with artists through the development of their new commissions, that centred ideas and reflections on lived experiences and materiality in relation to the exhibition’s key themes of light, time, and vision. These conversations revealed the interrelationships and interactions between the articulation of these things. Light, a natural agent and element that stimulates sight and makes things visible/provides light or lighting to illuminate or ignite; start burning. Time, the indefinite, non-linear and multidimensional durational progress of existence and events in the past, present and future. Vision, the faculty or state of seeing, and the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.

While light can stimulate sight and is said to reveal truth, it can also blind, and obscure. Equally, while darkness can conceal and denote uncertainty, it can also be comforting. Between the light and the dark, in the in-between places and spaces that no one wants to venture, truth seemingly lingers; rippling inward and outward, above and below the surface. In response, the artists’ featured in Between Waves ruminate over notions of light, time, and vision in rhythm with waves of memory and meaning that reflect, absorb and transmit in varying ways. Our yarns also centred Yorta Yorta artist Lin Onus’ ‘hope’ that his contemporary art practice be recognised as a ‘bridge between cultures, between technology, and ideas’.[1] Additionally, underpinning the exhibition is the idea of material memory; how materiality remembers place. This idea also considers the histories, stories and knowledges embedded within objects, the relationship between artists and the materials with which they choose to work, and the meaning ascribed through experience.

Beyond the scope: Maree Clarke and Brad Darkson

The site on which the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) now stands was once host to an expansive wetland ecosystem filled with Phragmites australis, more commonly known as river reeds. This environment has since been replaced by an urban landscape, though the river reeds that once stood here, deeply embedded within the sedimentary layers beneath the surface. In response, Maree Clarke’s new commission navigates intersections and interconnections between art, culture and science. Informed by recent research in collaboration with The University of Melbourne Histology Platform, Clarke has collected thousands of microscopic images – 297 of which feature in Between Waves – that reveal the internal worlds and structures of river reeds, ‘the extraordinary complexity of the micro realm’.[2]

Assembled as a collection of acetate prints en masse, Clarke’s microscopic views of river reeds generate a multi-coloured pattern across the gallery wall in a grided formation that shifts and changes depending on viewpoint.[3] This pattern expands as the intricate and translucent imagery interacts with the light; reflecting the microscopic realm and highlighting their collective presentation within a multi-linear and interconnected network and/or ecology. now you see me: seeing the invisible #1 has also been transformed into an animated projection now you see me: seeing the invisible #2 2023. Featured at Federation Square, the pavement of which rests on a significant sacred ceremonial site for the five clans of the Kulin Nation, now you see me: seeing the invisible #2 expands the exhibition beyond ACCA’s walls.4 The work overlooks the ancient rock remnants of the once free-flowing Yarra Falls that were blown-up in 1883 by colonists to create a turning circle for ships.[4]

‘How did we get here? Rewind to the beginning’.[5]

Brad Darkson’s waiting for kakirra 2023 is a motion-sensor two-channel work that unfolds across two large screens. Projected on the wall is a geographically mapped and 3D animated render of Kangkarratinga (also Congeratinga),[6] a site of Kaurna Country that is host to evidence of an ancient fish trap, now in pieces scattered along a shoreline. This site has recently transformed because of the recent development of a marina, and the fish trap has been destroyed. The physical presence of the audience triggers the work into action; the floor projection gradually re-builds this trap, animating and retrieving one rock at a time and bringing them together again in their intended formation. waiting for kakirra begins and/or continues to build only when people are present because ‘you need bodies, you need many hands to build a fish trap’.[7]

Through consultation, listening and yarning with Elders on Country Darkson uncovered a Kaurna word Kurlannanaintyerlo (pronounced gerlan-anch-elo), translated by Kaurna Elder Aunty Lynnette Crocker to mean, ‘curl up that sea, on the crest of a wave; Creation is in the now’.[8] The resonance between Kurlannanaintyerlo and the exhibition title, as seemingly interlinked and interchangeable terms is serendipitous and emphasises human and non-human ecologies as interconnected and working together. waiting for kakirra foregrounds the community work that continues to rehabilitate important cultural sites like Kangkarratinga. Central to this work is the intention to highlight the significance, complexity and legacy of First Nations aquaculture infrastructure.[9] Alongside this is a critique on ideas of progress, ignorance around ecological catastrophe and humanity’s search for ‘technological collaborations’ to ‘extend our survival’.[10] As Darkson notes, ‘ignore the present. Forget the past. The rocks remain unmoved. Waiting, as kakirra passes overhead’.[11]

Beneath the surface: Matthew Harris and Mandy Quadrio

For Between Waves Matthew Harris has created a suite of seven large-scale white ochre and charcoal paintings, the size and scale of which are reflective of a standard museum storage shelf. Consigned to oblivion 2023 depict a series of shelves filled with rows of white archival boxes, their contents unclear. Harris’ paintings formally reference notions of minimalism and seriality to draw attention to the relentless and repetitive efforts of museums and collecting institutions, and their history of gate-keeping that has denied Aboriginal ancestral remains and cultural obejcts the right to return to home. This new body of work emphasises the role of contemporary art practice in shedding light on this dark and macabre history that has been shrouded in secrecy. It is also important to note that this new work by Harris is a deeply considered and culturally sensitive response to personal experience.

Consigned to oblivion interrogates western institutions and systems that enable the fetishisation, accumulation, control and display of Indigenous sacred art and cultural objects, and ancestors who have historically been (and often seemingly still are) treated as objects; framed as a relic, ‘a pitstop on the road to modern human… a missing link’.[12] Even though there has been an ongoing inquiry into the repatriation of Aboriginal ancestral remains and cultural objects and materials, still there are tens of thousands of Aboriginal ancestral remains in museums and collections, public and private, around the world.[13] They sit and wait in what Harris describes as ‘institutional limbo […] behind layers of impenetrable bureaucratic control’.[14] As an act of reclamation, reflection and care, Harris has gently layered each archival box individually in white ochre – often reserved for sorry business – framing them with a charcoal void; the remnants of a fire that ignite transformation.

‘The ongoing mistelling of Australian history manifests as a cultural amnesia’[15]

Not Gone! 2023 by Mandy Quadrio is a kinetic installation that features three suspended amorphous sculptural forms that billow outward and upward. Quadrio has stretched, wound and layered lengths of steel wire-mesh with varying levels of intervention and material manipulation. The steel wire-mesh forms are each attached to a rotating mechanism that is set in a subtle and slow-moving circular motion. As both light and movement interact and activate the work, the slow and measured rotation generates an intermittent and ever-evolving shadow-world for the viewer to navigate. As the light waves meet the work’s steely fibres, the materiality reflects the full colour spectrum. Presented as a collective, each sculptural form appears to levitate in the in-between spaces – between the gallery walls, floor and ceiling. Having been set in a subtle motion Not Gone! gives rise to a meditative space that moves in and out of focus.

Quadrio weaves experiences, memories and stories that move and change over time. Despite the lightness of being that is inherent to the materiality Not Gone! conveys the illusion of density and draws focus to the spaces between; weight and weightlessness, shadow and light. These material dualities are also innate within the steel wire mesh; although the steel-wire fibres might first appear smooth and sleek, on physical interaction/connection, they are rough and can pierce the skin. For Qaudrio, ‘the harsh and abrasive nature of the steel-wire mesh’, reference the violence inflicted by acts of erasure and unhealed wounds stemming from, ‘mistold and obscured histories’[16] related to her community in lutruwita/trouwerner (Tasmania) and across the country. Not Gone! amplifies notions of adaptability and strength, and affirms Quadrio’s ancestral connections beyond time, place and space.

More than words allow: Dean Cross and Hayley Millar Baker

On who goes to The Gallows 1997-2023 is a sculptural self-portrait that draws on Dean Cross’s personal and family archive of objects and materials collected since birth. Through a process guided by contemplation, Cross has brought together a collection of objects and materials that hold deep personal significance. The artists childhood Yidaki rests atop two ceramic bricks that derive from a now demolished hospital building; Cross’s birthplace on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country.[17] These objects have been arranged on a recently acquired three metre long, three-tier aluminium bleacher; the heart of the work.[18] On who goes to The Gallows reflects on the conflicting waves of memory and meaning ascribed to objects, which are encoded and evolved over time. While the bleacher conveys dual notions of community and competition, reflection and observation, of hiding-out and meeting-up, Cross’s black hoodie ascends as a symbol of resistance.

On who goes to The Gallows centres contemplation, triggered by cycles of memory and grief – the past, present and future colliding in the now. Cross prompts reflection on life, loss and learning. The term ‘gallows’ refers to a medieval apparatus used for execution by hanging. For me, this conjures colloquial sayings and symbols such as ‘hanging by a thread’, ‘meeting your maker’, and the ‘hanged man’. In this work, Cross reflects on life stages, shifts, and changes; we are all experiencing the same time, we all go to the gallows eventually. In doing so, the work navigates ideas of presence and absence, the said and unsaid, the known and unknown, truth and assumption, life and death.

‘Are we the sum of all our experiences? Or are we somehow something more?’[19]

Entr’acte 2023 is a new single-channel video work by Hayley Millar Baker, the title of which refers to an interlude or performance occurring between two acts of a play: in French entre meaning between and acte meaning act. The work centres a female protagonist, presented in portrait view and tightly cropped from the shoulders-up and with the frame encroaching at the edges of her face. This figure has been cast as a ‘vessel’ representative of ‘woman’ and that channels the physical and mental weight of forced emotional containment, and the subsequent build-up of energy suppressed in the body, over time. By harnessing and embodying the in-between internal moments of ‘restrained rage turned to grief’,[20] Entr’acte provides a powerful and empowering means through which to respond to and release these tensions.

Millar Baker’s new commission is at once autobiographical and a social commentary. Presented in silence and at a scale larger than life, Entr’acte evokes and embraces dual notions of intensity and intimacy to examine lived and felt experiences, navigating the self and the world; and the resulting complex anxieties and expectations that stem from this. Over 11 minutes and 20 seconds, Entr’acte holds the moment between an action and a reaction. As the durational performance unfolds, the initial wide-eyed brightness of the protagonist gradually fades; the physical toll begins manifest. By harnessing the strength, power and focus required to navigate these moments with restraint, Millar Baker confronts audiences with an invitation to look and think inward, beneath the surface and beyond oneself.

From one state to the next: Jazz Money and James Howard

James Howard’s Subterranean frequencies 2023 is a generative sound sculpture that explores the intersecting realms of material and immaterial experience through a multi-layered soundscape that responds to place. Howard has gathered a series of field recordings from deep within the dark cavernous space that expands benath the gallery floor; connected to the Grant Street Ventilation Stack located at the back of ACCA’s north forecourt.[21] This ‘Stack’ is a towering bright red structure, masquerading as public art, and is linked to the network of tunnels that funnel a continual day-to-night stream of traffic. By amplifying such spaces, Howard draws attention to the often-unnoticed sights, sounds and structures of the everyday that are hidden in plain sight.

Subterranean frequencies is composed of four layers of audio that invariably rise and fall, all with different durations: 17, 19, 23 and 29 minutes. The layered audio tracks emanate from a series of directional speakers attached to a circular structure that descends from above and casts a shadow that is reminiscent of the structure of the ‘Stack’. While each audio track begins in alignment, by design, it becomes asynchronous over time. Howard has calculated that it would take four months and twenty-five days for the work to complete a single loop and become realigned. By interweaving a mixture of high-pitched noises and subtle sonic resonances that are site-specific, with breaks or ‘breaths’ of silence layered between, Subterranean frequencies highlights how time is malleable, and ever evolving as part of a continuum. In doing so, Howard emphasises the way that sound can elicit emotion, despite not having a physical form itself.

‘Stories and histories still waiting to be heard. Is anyone receiving them?’[22]

infinite iterative piece 2023 brings together the three strands of Jazz Money’s practice: poetry, installation and film. Presented across three adjoining screens, the work features an evolving poem with infinite possibilities; what Money describes as a ‘digital exquisite corpse’.[23] The three visual portals that Money opens work together to connect a range of land, city, and sea scapes that collectively form an ever-evolving horizon line that is multifaceted and multidimensional. Incorporating still and moving images collected and shared throughout infinite iterative piece, Money reflects on lived and felt experiences travelling across the country at home, and throughout the world.[24] While the screens have been positioned alongside one another, infinite iterative piece generates a series of juxtaposing compositions that are ever-changing and interlinked.

Money’s imagery and footage is interwoven with a series of black voids, each screen overlaid with a line of text, sometimes two, resurfaced from her personal archive of ‘lost lines’ from previous creative writing projects that hadn’t yet found a ‘home’. The layers of still and moving imagery with transitioning text appear randomly, ‘neither creator nor audience know what will be revealed in any single moment’.[25] Paired with an ambient and ethereal soundscape, infinite iterative piece creates new experiences, that will grow and expand as more lines are added over time, repeated and replayed in an infinite loop. This approach reflects on the immense output and overload of information in the everyday, and the human desire to attempt to make sense and meaning out of it all. Within Between Waves, Money’s new commission provides a moment of respite amidst the chaos, to slow and stop.

Beyond time and space: Cassie Sullivan and this mob

Cassie Sullivan’s new commission wayi (to hear) 2023 includes a series of large-scale monotypes presented as a collective; a family. Each imprint is soft and subtle having been overlaid on clouded acrylic, the translucency of which conjures the mist that gathers and disperses across Country in lutruwita/trouwerner.[26] The muslin fabric that features, known as tarlatan, is an everyday malleable material of care typically used as a gauze, or to swaddle babies. Prior to printing, Sullivan has pushed and pulled large swathes of this fabric across melukerdee and nuenonne Country, across grasslands and shorelines, sandy beaches and deep within the bay where the salt and fresh water meet. Along the journey, the tarlatan has collected and embedded ‘knowledge of place’ within its delicate fibres, ‘the language of salt and blood-stained water.’[27]

Through process and outcome, the weight of Sullivan’s body, and the traces and gestures of her movements now held within the materiality, meld place-based memory, blood memory and corpereal remembering.[28] In doing so, wayi (to hear) conveys a deeply personal somatic language that explores the ways in which transgenerational communication and trauma moves through and is held in the body and mind, and is brought into physicality. Installed in a panoramic formation, suspended from the ceiling, wayi (to hear) invites moments of pause, and slow movement through; to be able to see each impression clearly the viewer must move around the edges of the installation. This visual and material ambiguity creates a network of ancestral imprinting for the viewer to navigate.

‘Positive, negative

present, missing

floating, bound’[29]

For Between Waves this mob members Moorina Bonini, Maya Hodge, Jenna Lee, Jenna Rain Warwick and Kate ten Buuren highlight the breadth of their individual and collaborative practices through a new digital commission. Taking form as an interactive digital zine that centres notions of interactivity and connection, Black Wattle Volume II 2023 gathers a collection of thoughts and reflections on what it means to be connected with a blak collective and community. this mob weave conversations, experiences and memories that unfold through a considered process of deep listening and collective making, to map connections and disconnections with one another and the self, across time, place and space.

Black Wattle Volume II establishes a dynamic platform for connection between members, community and the world beyond the borders of the studio, state and country. Creative contributions include a new photographic series by Bonini and Lee, a short horror film by Rain Warwick, collected and collaged photographs, a new series of cyanotypes by ten Buuren, shared recipes and cook-ups by Hodge, and an interactive crossword puzzle by invited collaborator Alice Skye.[30] Bonini explains, ‘the digital space becomes the interface between ourselves; a space where we can speak from’.[31] Like this mob’s shared studio, Black Wattle Volume II carves-out time and space for listening and yarning, and for rest – to be together, to connect and make without the external pressure to produce or present.

Between Waves navigates ideas of presence and absence, the known and unknown, and transgenerational and collective consciousness. The ten ambitious new commissions traverse internal and external worlds, embracing the sensory and cyclical rhythms of light and sound, thinking and feeling, listening and seeing, alongside ideas of material memory, and forms of meaning that influence encounters with self, each other and the world. The participating artists employ a range of technologies to reflect on life cycles and shifts, to emphasise cultural, personal and social histories, which are invariably entwined with acts of remembering, rehabilitation, regeneration, and reclamation. Together, their new commissions resound a collective call for relational accountability and ethical responsibility that locates individual experience not at the centre of the world, but as an inherent part of its fabric. By embracing the push and pull dynamics that build beneath the surface, Between Waves reflects on the interrelationship between life, materiality, people and place, and resounds a need to find balance.

[1] Lin Onus, ‘Language and Lasers: Urban Aboriginal’, Blacklines: Contemporary Critical Writing by Indigenous Australians, Michele Grossman (ed.), Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2003, p 92-96.

[2] Maree Clarke, Artist Statement, 2023.

[3] Ibid.

4 The Kulin Nation consists of five language groups who are the true custodians of Naarm, what is known as the Port Phillip Region of Victoria. Kulin Nation territories extend around Port Phillip and Western Port bays, up into the Great Dividing Range and the Loddon and Goulburn River valleys. See: ‘Traditional Owners & Languages of our Campuses’, Victoria University, Melbourne Australia,

[4] The Yarra Falls used to stretch across the Birrarung (Yarra River) where Queen Street is located today. It was demolished through the use of dynamite by colonists in 1883 to make way for ships to turn. See: Museum of Lost Things, The Yarra Waterfall,

[5] Brad Darkson, Artist Statement, 2023.

[6] Kangkarratinga or Congeratinga is a Kaurna word that means, where the river meets the ocean. Brad Darkson in conversation with author, 29 June 2023.

[7] Brad Darkson in conversation with author, 29 June 2023.

[8] Aunty Lynette Crocker in conversation with Brad Darkson, 5 June 2023.

[9] The process of making Brad Darkson’s new commission has been informed by Community consultation with Narungga and local Kaurna community members including ngangki burka senior Kaurna woman Aunty Lynette Crocker, Aunty Merle Simpson and Uncle Jeffrey Newchurch.

[10] Darkson, 2023.

[11] Ibid.

[12] The trade of Aboriginal ancestral remains was fuelled by scientific racist theories, that appropriated Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to justify Western (white) society’s hierarchical position as the most evolved. In an attempt to prove, that Aboriginal people were the least evolved, this macabre and deluded theory was used to justify the theft, abuse and sale of Aboriginal ancestral remains to museum collections and private collectors in Australia, and around the world.

[13] Bob Weatherall, in conversation with Warraba Weatherall, keynote, ‘Purrumpa: First Nations Arts & Culture Gathering’, Adelaide, 31 October – 4 November 2022.

[14] Matthew Harris, Artist Statement, 2023.

[15] Mandy Quadrio, Artist Statement, 2023.

[16] Quadrio, 2023.

[17] Dean Cross in conversation with the author, 23 May 2023.

[18] Bleachers such as this one, typically function as seating for spectatorship, often encountered in school yards, at community and/or sporting events.

[19] Dean Cross in conversation with author, 23 May 2023.

[20] Hayley Millar Baker, Artist Statement, 2023.

[21] The Grant Street Ventilation Stack is located at ACCA’s north forecourt. It is a functional tower structure that only activates when an accident occurs in the Burnley Tunney network to release smoke build-up and ensure visibility for drivers.

[22] Jazz Money, Artist Statement, 2023.

[23] James Howard, Artist Statement, 2023.

[24] Photographic images and video footage from Jazz Money’s recent travels in Australia, USA, Lebanon, Palestine, India, and Italy feature throughout infinite iterative piece.

[25] Money, 2023.

[26] Cassie Sullivan, Artist Statement, 2023.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Blood memory relates to intergenerational trauma stored and experienced in the body through DNA; having been passed on and transmitted across time and space. Body memory can be understood as the sum of all past bodily experiences that are stored in memory and influence behaviour. See: Antje Gentsch and Esther Kuehn, ‘Clinical Manifestations of Body Memories: The Impact of Past Bodily Experiences on Mental Health’, Brain Sciences Journal, Michael Schaefer (ed), Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, issue 12.5, 2002, accessed 28 June 2023,

[29] Sullivan, 2023.

[30] Moorina Bonini, Jenna Rain Warwick and Maya Hodge’s creative contributions were developed during this mob’s recent residency facilitated by Agency AiR in collaboration with InPace, the Garambi Baan/Laughing Waters Residency Centre that operates in partnership with the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation and Parks Victoria to support culture, arts, research and science.

[31] Moorina Bonini (this mob), Artist Statement, 2023.

Between Waves Exhibition Page »