Yalingwa: finding meaning between waves

Maree Clarke, now you see me- seeing the invisible #2 2023, Federation Square. Photo credit: Benjamin McCarthy

The latest Yalingwa exhibition is now open at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. It celebrates First Peoples art across south-east Australia.

Large groups come into the space of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, ready to find meaning in its latest exhibition, Between Waves, curated by First Nations wunderkind Jessica Clark.

Between Waves is the third edition of the 6-year Yalingwa exhibition series that supports the development of contemporary First Peoples art and curatorial practice in south-east Australia.

Jessica is a proud palawa/pallawah woman from lutruwita/trouwerner (Tasmania) and showcasing artwork from the south-east region sits close to her heart. She spent time in South East Queensland before making Victoria home.

The south-east reference is broad and is reflected by the artists Jessica has commissioned for this exhibition.

Jessica Clark‘I first looked back to the previous iterations of Yalingwa and was interested in expanding this idea of the south-east,’ Jessica said.

‘I’ve met so many artists along the research journey and it was really tough to choose because there is so much incredible and important work happening here in the south-east.’

Between Waves features 10 new commissions that use a range of mediums including video, installation, poetry, projection, sculpture and sound. Each of the emerging and established First Nations artists respond to concepts expressed by the word ‘Yalingwa’, a Woi Wurrung word which means light, time, vision, or shining a light on the times, alongside ideas of material memory.

It’s a moody exhibition, lit up by the meaning behind each artwork.

Between Waves at first conjures up notions of ocean waves but in addition, the exhibition is also exploring unseen waves in place and at play in the day-to-day such as light and sound waves,’ Jessica said.

‘The title indicates a moment of rest and/or uncertainty between two waves, not knowing what’s going to happen next.’

Jessica mentions the importance of knowledge sharing in reference to ‘creative and cultural practice in relation to place’ and going deeper than the surface level of the every day.

‘Yalingwa means many things and encourages us to think more deeply and beyond what’s in front of us,’ Jessica said.

‘I hope people feel something after seeing this exhibition and that it prompts something from themselves.’

From feeling the floor move to feeling the emotions of visuals on screen to seeing light and shadows dance off a piece of artwork, Between Waves has a lot to say.

The Victorian Government is proud to support the exhibition as part of its work to develop and promote First Peoples in the creative industries.

‘By supporting major exhibitions, curatorial positions and Fellowships, the Yalingwa initiative is helping to build the profile of First Peoples art and artists within and beyond the state,’ Jessica said.

The free Between Waves exhibition is now showing until 3 September 2023.

In spotlight

James Howard, Subterranean frequencies 2023, Between Waves, ACCA

Subterranean frequencies by James Howard (Jaadwa)

The booming sounds of the underground hit people as they walk into the exhibition, with the feeling of the floor moving.

The artwork captures sounds within the underground that go unnoticed during the day. The sounds are recorded from the Burnley and Domain tunnel mezzanine that runs directly beneath ACCA. It’s a reminder to think deeper and overlook what’s just on the surface.

The installation is on a loop covering a period of 4.5 months, which means that visitors will experience different sounds each time.

Now you see me- seeing the invisible #1 2023, detail, Between Waves,

now you see me – seeing the invisible by Maree Clarke (Yorta Yorta, Wamba Wamba, Mutti Mutti and Boonwurrung)

A river reed is put under the microscope showing a different perspective and in another light. The result is 297 photographs of river reeds, a native plant seen in wetlands.

It’s fitting as the native plant once covered the site ACCA is now on. Reclaiming the plant and placing it at a microscopic level emphasises its link to place. The striking imagery is also lit up on a grand scale at Federation Square.

Matthew Harris, Consigned to oblivion 2023, Between Waves, ACCA

Consigned to oblivion by Matthew Harris (Koorie)

Reflective of a museum archive shelf filled with the identities of many Aboriginal communities and culture, this work emphasises the need to control and have ownership over significant culture and the denial of a proper burial for many communities.

The use of ochre is symbolic as it is often reserved for Sorry Business or sacred ceremony. The use of charcoal reflects remnants of fire and rebirth, leading to a sense of hope in reclaiming lost identities.

Hayley Millar Baker, Entr’acte 2023, Between Waves, ACCA

Entr’acte by Hayley Millar Baker (Gunditjmara and Djabwurrung)

The captivating large scale magnetic pull of a woman captures visitors as they pull back the curtain.

The intimate space showcases a moment of intense silent emotion moving through a woman. Sometimes silence speaks louder than words ever could.

Read more on the Yalingwa Fellowship.