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The Water Tower

Water Tower 2

Upstream Public Art Commission

This work was installed with the help of Dave Mitchell and Murray Adams in early October last year. It was a real pleasure to make, and a real treat to finally have a reason to engrave images onto acrylic sheet.

Gene Garden from Corangamite CMA helped me to come up with the short list of creatures to illustrate. They include the River Black Fish, the rare Grayling, Southern Pigmey Perch, a Fat Tailed Dunnart & a Tree Fern, a Spotted Quoll (possibly my new favourite animal) & a Beech Myrtle, a Platypus, an Otway-Yarra Spiny Yabby (an exquisite creature), a Sugar Glider, a Small Burrowing Crayfish and a beautiful Royal Spoonbill. Each of these beings depend of the Gellibrand River ecosystem in the Western Otway Ranges, the same river system that provides water for the townships of Warrnambool and Colac.

Fish Glider QuollDouble Cray DunnartWater Tower Platypus 2

Now when my  kids take too long in the shower I don’t just tell them that they are wasting the water, I tell them that they are wasting the river- it has immediate effects.

 

Water Tower 1

I was invited to make a speech at the opening, the following excerpt gives the best insight into the work. (Photo credits from that evening go to David Owen)

Opening 1

 

I replied to the EOI put out by Heytesbury Landcare in June because I found it’s goal of increasing understanding of where our water comes from fitted with work I had been doing in my own art practice.

In 2012 I began a Visual Art PhD that concentrated on the connection between the individual and the environment.

I spent the first year of my research looking at the landscape around here and around my childhood home in Murray river and Hume Weir country near Albury-Wodonga. I considered ideas about nature, I looked at the ways we have shaped the landscape and how it shapes us.

I spent the second year looking solely at my domestic home, looking at the different habits, interactions and activities that we do to create the dependable routines that produce the stability and security that we generally feel within our homes.

Whilst at first glance it may appear that these two areas of research, the landscape and the domestic home, describe separate spaces, what I actually found was the extent to which these spaces are utterly intertwined, and it was the very simple, very ordinary material of water that gave me the key.

I had drawn a picture of my bathroom basin with water running from its tap and a wave breaking out over the side of the basin- I had drawn the tap water clear and drawn the wave using the colours that we would expect to find out here in the southern ocean. This simple difference gave away underlying distinctions that I had made between my domestic home and the so-called natural world.

Around this time I came across a question posed by Canberra artist Marily Cintra “Do we realise that when we open a tap in Canberra we are diverting the river into our homes.”

I realized that this was a question that many of us here in Warrnambool should consider more carefully, many of us do not even realise that the Gellibrand flows into our homes.

My sculpture, which I have called “The Water Tower” makes reference to the humble domestic shower. Etched into each of the acrylic panels you will find just a handful of the many other species who make their homes in the Gellibrand and its catchment area.

Despite the top paddles looking as though they should move, they do not, in fact there is only one part of the sculpture that does move- the hot & cold taps on either side of the central panel.

When you look at the creatures etched and get that warm little feeling & awe at nature’s beauty this sculpture asks you to consider the primary that way that you already interact with those creatures- and that you please, bare them in mind you use the hot and cold taps in your own home.

skyward

BEAMS Festival 2015

 

It was great to see my work fully installed for the 2015 BEAMS Festival in Chippendale. The very generous residents of this terrace were happy to lend their entrance to the festival for the evening. This space was a perfect fit for my piece, Shower Funnel Wave Form/Standing in this River on its way out to the Sea, it created the sense of enclosure needed to build on the work’s reference of taking a shower.

As the sun went down the street came to life with lights, performance and the hustle of viewers. The light on my work worked brilliantly, helping to generate a sense of an individual space as well as creating a dynamism.

The soundscape was just loud enough to pull people in to listen closer to the work.

I was super stoked to see that my work had been chosen as the face of the BEAMS App too!

Here’s the blurb that accompanied my work:

‘Shower Funnel Wave Form – Standing in this river on its way out to the sea’

Berger’s work seeks to make visible the multi dimensions of time that intertwine with space and matter to create the fullness of reality. The installation consists of a suspended semi-spiral of fleshy storm clouds morphing into a barreling wave from which the resonant sounds of a domestic shower are emitted. “Within the reliable solitude of our daily shower, we are able to turn inward and we are made anew by the washing away of our day and become cleansed; in reality, we are amidst the water cycle, an ancient river diverted into our home. The work recreates and celebrates this daily embrace with nature, and our relationship with the mysterious substance, water”.

Berger has spent considerable time observing domestic space and urban environment looking to pierce the regularity of its stable, constructed surfaces and to coax out both its fluidity and the invisible, over-lapping and coexisting connections that create the spatial-temporal multi-dimensionality of lived reality. In this work Berger uses painting, sculpture and sound to imagine a romantic natural form that sits somewhere between Eugene von Guerard’s gold lit landscapes and James Gleeson’s fresh morphed terrains.

 

Standing in this River on Its way out to the Sea…

Shower Funnel_1

I responded to the artist brief announced as Phenomena late last year. I found that the brief was congruent with my own goals of finding ways to imagine to embodied and material magic that it is to be awake in a living breathing universe. I created this odd, warm form through an intuitive process- I felt the kind of shape that wanted to be made and worked my way through from there.

I laboured over this painterly sculpture through summer and early Autumn and submitted my application to the Beams Festival in March. I was caught by complete surprise when I read an email in early July letting me know that my work was accepted into the festival program, wow!! How exciting to have such a super cool reason to go to Sydney for a complete treat of an art festival 🙂

http://beamsfestival.com.au/whats-on/

http://beamsfestival.com.au/whats-on/artistic-works/becky-nevin-berger/

 

300dpi_Shower Funnel_4_Becky Nevin Berger

I really let my heart and my imagination run free with this work. It is titled Shower Funnel Wave Form/Standing in this River on Its way out to the Sea. It is made form a recycled paper and plaster compound and painted in layers of acrylic polymer paint. Embedded within the funnel is a speaker that plays the sound of a running shower. This work draws out understanding of the relationship between humans and the environment that have emerged through my PhD research.

300dpi_Shower Funnel_5_Becky Nevin Berger

It is a big surreal and romantic ode to water, it is a French kiss to nature.

Tomorrow we hit the road to journey 12 hours to Sydney so that this artwork may meet the world, wish me luck!

 

Playing with space… testing out installation ideas at Scope Galleries

I was fortunate to have a space for a week at Scope Galleries at the start of September in order to test out installation approaches for my PhD Research project entitled Activating Aesthetic Subjectivity in Embodied Environments.  The need to test out ideas in the flesh became apparent after a recent trip to ANU to meet with my supervisors. Pursuing a practice led project off-campus can be a tricky situation. For much of my almost four years of research I have spent time imagining how my final installation will unfold- I am at that point now where I need to begin earthing these ideas out to see what works, how is fits together and what comes next.

Whilst I have presented installation from my research in the last year or so they have been based around a single work that creates a single space. Just as the title of my blog suggests, however, I am interested in processing the multi-dimensionality of spaces: Metabolic Synaesthete… synaesthesia being the cross wiring of the sense that I experience and that so drives my creative practice.

So with this experimental space I am bringing together particular lines of thought/studio practice in order to see a) how to further develop them b) how they interact with the other lines of thought c) to see what kind of spaces I can create d) to see what themes/feelings/concepts/aesthetics further emerge…

It begins with layering the floor with spent town planning maps to play with ideas about constructing spaces. & then laying out two bodies of work: my Watershed Dinner Set; my Orange Photo Boxes

plates

Orange Photo Boxes…

orange

oven

adding domestic furniture to build on the sense of warmth and home….

domestic1

spiral waves, water forms- ebb & flow, entropy & renewal, fluidity, change, cleanliness, clarity…

spiral 1

wave drawing 1

basin

relationships and interplays

orange circles

full 2 full 1

full 3

Using video and sound (audio of a washing machine) to fill the space, and to create movement

full4 full5

Splitting video with mirrors- like a digital sky space… cool as results, definitely further exploration to be had…

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vid1 vid2

Playing with this space was so fruitful, it has left me with a bunch of ideas to develop & plans to set up another experimental space just as soon as I can

Up Stream Public Art Work

Earlier this year the Warrnambool Community Garden put out an Expression of Interest for the creation of an installation/interpretive signage that acts to educate the public on the water cycle and the impact of domestic water use on natural ecosystems. The project is part of a longer term campaign by the Heytesbury District Landcare Group’s “Going Upstream” project.

I thought that this could be right up my alley and put together a proposal for how I would approach the work. In July I got the phone call to say that my idea had been selected and that the committee wanted me to get started right away…

The idea I put forward was for the creation of an outdoor sculpture that would mimic a domestic shower and convey the interconnection of our domestic life with the ecosystems in which we are situated. This is part of broader conceptual themes that have developed through my PhD Research which began back in 2012. My research is concerned with how we imagine and understand our connection to our environment- I have been looking to find the material basis for this connection which is so readily felt yet much harder to directly see.

In my first year of research I spent a great deal of time looking at and research the Australian landscape around Warrnambool and around my ancestral home near Albury Wodonga. I spent the second year of my research focused on my more immediate environment, the domestic home that I share with my husband and our three children. Through these processes the extent to which these apparently disjointed spaces overlap and permeate each other became more and more evident. Within this context water emerged as an importable symbol of this interconnection and interchange.

In 2013 I visited the exhibition Talking Water at Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre Gallery, Canberra. It was an exhibition of work created through an artist in residency program in which four artists use creative practice as a basis to examine our relationship with water. In the catalogue I found a rather profound and simple question from artist Marily Cintra,

“Do we realise that when we open a tap in Canberra we are diverting the river into our homes?

This question prompts us to reconsider the apparent division between our mundane and ordinary domestic worlds and the natural world which we imagine as being “out there”, beyond our urban lives.

Community Garden_Shower Sculpture

The sculpture that I offered in my proposal is one that hopes to develop this line of thinking, one that hopes to stimulate the realisation that when we stand in the shower, wash our clothes, water our gardens or brush our teeth, we are doing so in a river. The Gellibrand River in the Otway Rainforest provides a large amount of Warrnambool’s drinking water. This sculpture aims to honour that particular ecosystem.

The sculpture is a fairly simple structure that mimics or recalls a domestic shower. It will be made from reclaimed timber- kindly donated by the W’Bool Community Garden, coloured acrylic sheet and metal work created by the very talented local craftsman Murray Adams. The top of the structure will have two layers of metal framed, coloured acrylic paddles into which I will etch the images of different plant, bird, animal and fish species that depend on the Gellibrand River.

I am heading out to Murray’s shed this afternoon to see how the metal work is progressing. I have order my acrylic sheet and commenced the drawings from which my etchings will be made- here’s a sample of my colour scheme:

perspex up stream

I am pretty excited to see what will emerge from this process. It will all be installed and ready for the public by the second weekend of October… what this space

Building Blocks of Memory

Bec_Jules

At the end of last year my frequent and favourite co-collaborator/co-conspirator Julie Poi Kelly and I took on a new participatory art project. An EOI went out via the F Project looking for artists interesting in providing an art program for a memory loss support group. Julie and I decided that this would be a good fit for our collective aims and put together a draft program that was selected to run.

as always you can enlarge these images by clicking on them 🙂

Blocks1

We began with the idea of creating a small series of wooden sculptures. These small objects would have a number of visual and tactile surfaces. They were designed to be handled and could be assembled in various formations. The interconnecting blocks were a metaphor for memories that are held in neural connections and in the connections between people.

The program grew out of the Café Style Support Program provided by Warrnambool City Council for people with dementia and their carers. Our group met once a month from December 2014 until May 2015. Together we would share lunch before setting about creating artworks. Each couple was asked to select a set of six or so blank blocks which would be used as the basis for creating autobiographical, collage based artworks.

One of the things I most valued about this program was the space it created for carers. People whose worlds were in a state of immense transformation due to the effect of dementia upon their loved one were able to find companionship, and a voice, alongside others who knew, all too intimately, the experience and heartbreak brought by this disease. We began this project with about eight couples. We lost one or two because they found that our art program wasn’t what they were looking for, we sadly lost another because the disease claimed the life of one partner and ended the carer role for the remaining party. We were given privileged insight into these people’s worlds- and the compassion, frustration, despair  and love their journeys of transition inspired.

The Exhibition

Five couples completed their artworks and agreed to exhibit in a group show at The Artery in July 2015. The exhibition was titled “Glancing at Glimpses“, a titled coined by one of our talented participants Lyn Turner- she said that this captured the experience of both the carers and their partners. We thought that it was also a perfect description of the artworks.

Installation2

Julie & I had wanted to present these artworks as an interconnected installation. Des & Helen Bunyon of Customs House  Gallery kindly lent us plinths which we used as the base of the work. We spent a fortnight working in Julie’s shed to create the finished work. Altogether the work is an ensemble of the five participant’s blocks and two other sets of blocks- one made for Julie & I, and another set made by the Carer Respite Officer who managed the program, Tina Larden. We arranged each set of blocks together and then created connecting pieces to create an intertwining artwork that captures ideas of relationships, community and memory.

Here’s an excerpt from our catalogue:

“Despite our lofty artistic ambitions this project was not about the nuances of fine art. It was not even especially about the artworks made or the exhibition that follows. This project was about people coming together, to share their experiences and to support each other. While participants crafted wooden blocks with their own images and memories they formed connections between one another. Life is about connections: the connections between ourselves and our loved ones, with community, with places and experiences, and the neural connections through which we form our sense of self.

This installation invites you to glance at these glimpses of life, to contemplate the layers of rich connection, to imagine the connections yet to be made and to recognise the potential connections that are left unmade.”

Installation1

This project worked as a participatory art program and it also operated to create a very special space that was essentially a gift to the community. I have contemplated the function of art a lot over the last few years. While projects like this have therapeutic outcomes they are not art therapy in the strict sense. Art therapy is rightly concerned with the process and the impact on the individual participants. Whilst these concerns are central in projects like ours it is also the other dimension of exhibiting the work, creating the space which is vitally important- and very much a community service. Art gives forms to complex feelings and experiences, it provides insights into worlds which are otherwise “other”, obscured and unknown. Glancing at Glimpses was a very personal offering that promoted understanding and empathy for those able to contemplate it.

Feild Research 2014

journal

to enlarge the images just click on them

This trusty book was my precious companion for my amazing, month long overseas adventure last year- I have filled it with sketches, reflections, ticket stubs, maps, gallery fliers and of course, photographs – I think it has become one of my most treasured possessions.

After spending considerable time researching artists, galleries and sites I put together an application to undertake Field Research as a part of my Practice Led PhD Research at the Australian National Uni. Luckily for me that application was successful and on August 23rd last year I jumped on a big jet plane headed for America. I spent 8 days in the U.S. before heading to Japan for three weeks. For a chicka from country Australia who never expected to go overseas (does a 36hr round trip to NZ count as overseas?) this was a pretty precious experience.

I have meant to write a post about this field research since I returned home last September- there was so much to talk about that the task has just seemed way too daunting…. so I figure that instead of trying to capture my trip in words, I will give you the abridged version via a story in pictures…

Fallingwater, Pennsylvania

fw1

My first point of interest was Fallingwater in Pennsylvania. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wrright & constructed in the 1930s, this iconic home is built atop a waterfall in a woodland reserve. It was commissioned by the Kauffman family as a replacement for their humble wooden bungalow which had been their weekend retreat from the industrial city of Pittsburgh where they ran a very successful business. This house embodies my concept of aesthetic subjectivity- it has been designed to wrap around the needs, and the better self, of each of the occupants (Mr & Mrs Kauffman and their adult son).

I was completely rattled from my travels- I spent the first night after a long journey in a dodgy as motel, I was commanding a hire car on the wrong side of the road & had to venture into the world of Walmart before getting to Fallingwater- I stayed nearby (at a much safer motel) and spent two days at Fallingwater, and took three guided tours of the home. It restored me, it was magic – an utterly indulgent, idealised building – but magic nonetheless, go there, you’ll love it…

here’s a link to the website: http://fallingwater.org/

Here’s the money shot:

fw2

The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Here’s a link to there website http://mattress.org/

I came here primarily to see Chiharu Shiota’s installation Trace of Memory. It was meant to be a site specific installation in an old “Mexican War” House, a three story terrace just down from the Mattress Factory itself. I am not sure exactly how site specific it was but it was definitely a good example of the things that Shiota does well. It was a rather compelling space to spend time in, especially in the third floor where the summer heat filled the air and created the overbearing sense of memories presence.

shiota1

shiota2

Jame Turrell Sarah Oppenheimer

I also got to see work by Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

This crazy trippy tube by Sarah Oppenheimer

Sarah Oppenheimer

And early works for James Turrell which gave me a really useful context for later parts of my field research which sought him out with more focus.

Jame Turrell

New York

In fact the very next part of journey was to New York City to meet with Guggenheim curator Nat Trotman who worked on James Turrell’s 2013 retrospective at the Guggenheim, including the creation of the new work Aten Reign- created specifically for the Guggenheim’s atrium. Nat was so generous with his time, speaking with him really deepened my appreciation of Turrell’s processes. I wish I had’ve been able to see Aten Reign, the photographs of it look compelling- I met a woman at Fallingwater who had seen it for herself, I asked her what it was like, she replied with such a smile “Light, Oh! It was All Light”

James-Turrell-Aten-Reign-2013-Guggenheim-Museum-4

check out this link too… http://www.guggenheim.org/video/james-turrell

I spent three nights in New York and I feel in love just a little bit… My first night was in Harlem and my other two nights were a little lower, West 72nd St, just near Central Park and a short walk from the Hudson River. While I loved the bustle of the city it felt as thought it pushed me out of itself, into green spaces – such as the park & the river. After spending time in the dense summer forest at Fallingwater and contemplating the pull of the natural world in the work of both Frank Lloyd Wright and James Turrell I felt kindred with their sense of connection to the natural systems that exist over and above our urban worlds.

central park

I visited the Guggenheim purely to experience Wright’s architecture- it really helped me to develop some of my field questions around how and why we construct different spaces, and how human life can be enhance through spaces that service and enable particular needs and activists.

gugg

high line

Oh the High Line… a reclaimed stretch of elevated railway line in the old meat packing district in Manhattan’s Lower West Side… great example of a civic space that is able to enrich community life  …it also creates a much needed strip of organic life in a very dense concrete jungle

highline2

And a site that I found quite profound to visit was the 911 Memorial. I visited twice. The first time I did not take any photographs. I walked around, I watched, I observed people, I observed my own responses to the site. I was taken by the size of the pits which are now deep granite memorial pools with water endlessly disappearing down into the earth.

911_2

I thought they would be smaller somehow, they were massive, imposing. Standing beside these massive slippery, deep black holes I had the strongest sense of my own need for caution. Watching small children reach up and attempt to climb the name imprint edge I felt an embodied urgency to scoop them away in case they toppled over and fell into the pit.

Compared to the skyscrapers around it, it is clear that this site is about absence. An absence that is surreal when set within the relentless noise of new construction just nearby and the colour and movement of the thousands of visitors to the site.

911_photos

You can’t help but notice the spectacle of the site. We have become so accustomed to relating to novel, significant and compelling moments through our cameras. We photograph the present in order to preserve it, to process our feelings towards it whilst in some way deferring these same feelings for some later contemplation.

Every now and then I would notice people who clearly were not mere tourists to the site. A husband and wife stopped at the edge of one, he tenderly touched a name that was cast into the steel rim. He looked reverent and solemn. She motioned to take his photograph.

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Well that’s the first part of my journey & it’s all I have time for for now… I’ll share my thoughts & images from Japan as soon as I get a chance to 🙂