Governance - group exhibition

Interweaving new with old, artists who have worked at Parramatta Arts Studios respond to and articulate the complexities of the role of governance in contemporary society in the context of Old Government House. In a world saturated with media, surveillance, tracking devices, security, self-absorption, environmental crisis, identity issues and religious intent; these artists explore the idea of governance through systems of power, self-regulatory systems of belief, historical significance, civic pride and locale. Governance forms a unique partnership between three iconic cultural institutions; Old Government House, Parramatta Artist’s Studios and the City of Parramatta. 2017 also marks the 50th anniversary of the National Trust NSW looking after this World Heritage property.

Displayed throughout Old Government House, Governance features work by: Marian Abboud, Liam Benson, Linda Brescia, Fiona Davies, Kath Fries, Nadia Odlum, Naomi Oliver, Abdullah M.I. Syed, Salote Tawale, and Hanna Toohey. Curated by Lizzy Marshall, a broad array of diverse artworks including digital mappings, drawings, iterations of in-situ performances, sculptures, suspended installations and mixed media artworks will be installed in situ amongst Old Government House’s renowned colonial narratives. 

Exhibition invitation

Old Government House is Australia's oldest intact former vice-regal residence and was the residence and offices of prominent governors of New South Wales, from 1799-1856. Here decisions were made about the control and administration of the colony and management of convicts. In 2010 Old Government House was UNESCO World Heritage listed as a unique convict site. The Australia Convicts Sites tell the story of the largest forced migration the world has ever seen, and the development of punishment and reform of criminals during that era. This exhibition will be held within the heritage building of Old Government House with contemporary responses interwoven to the existing objects of the house museum.

Governance Today 
10 March - 16 April 2017
Old Government House
Parramatta Park NSW
OGH entry $16

My work in the exhibition, Reservations, considers issues of containment, control and bio-power governance. In these sculptures, beeswax polyps push up against glass, gazing out at us, trying to escape from orb terrariums. Like micro greenhouses, the glass barrier suggests the imposition of divisions, boundaries and separation, as well as surveillance. Reservations questions the enthusiastic escalation of indoor horticulture, asking if such technical feats of exclusivity will really assist with global food security while the environment outside is exploited and neglected. These spherical forms conjure fortunetelling crystal balls – perhaps predicating future ramifications and distress. A larger standing glass-pane filled with beeswax, is similarly ghostly and prophetic, mirroring the present physical space of a human body.

The title, Reservations, implies the enforcement of limits and containing conditions; having misgivings or concern about a situation; keeping something back; preservation for later; setting aside land or food for specific use; and watching with concern but failing to take action.

Beeswax as a material conjures the necessity of insect pollination for crops and the wider complexities of bio-diverse ecosystems. Western honeybees (Apis Mellifera) play an essential role in global food security, pollinating almost 75% of the world’s agricultural crops. But these bees are in currently in crisis, dying on mass in a decade long global epidemic termed Colony Collapse Disorder. Now honeybees are frequently referred to as the earth’s ‘canary in the coalmine’, their deaths are foretelling our own – as human impact on the environment brings us to the brink of catastrophe.

Historically, the first fleet’s initial attempts at agriculture failed and the colony nearly starved until crops were eventually cultivated at Parramatta. Subsequently western honeybee colonies were imported for crop pollination and they proliferated across the continent. However, today Australia imports more food than is exported, and globally intensifying pressures of worldwide overpopulation, climate change and food insecurity are leading to future predictions of suffering, gross inequality, riots and revolts.

Kath Fries, Reservations, 2017, beeswax and glass, 13cm diameter