One of the most exciting things about the studio practice at the Goldberg Aberline Studio is the extraordinary collaborations that we have been part of over the last years. We love all of our collaborations, but one of our all time favourites was with the Warrie sisters from the Yindjibarndi Nation in the Pilbara. This project presented us with a very special and unique opportunity to combine our contemporary art practice with the art making techniques of an ancient culture.
Matthew Aberline, our creative lead, actually did part of his growing up in the Pilbara, and so was delighted to develop an idea with sisters Sharon and Kaye Warrie from the Cheedith Art Centre that explored the landscape of his childhood with First Nations artists.
“We wanted to create something very ancient, but something very modern. We wanted it to be as much about the past, as the future of Australia. In many ways, the work became a dance between our studio and the Warrie sisters, with our work responding to their paintings in a call and answer way. We wanted the work to ask - what will our national identity be in the future?" says Matthew.
We decided to create our own paintings that responded to Sharon and Kayes artworks. Four sets of eyes, painting the spirit of our land from different cultural experiences. We then pushed the colours and textures to create intensity and contrast through the wonders of digital technology and the printing process. Finally we knew we wanted the inflated forms to capture the grasses and seed pods of the landscape and cut a strong sharp silhouette during the day, and become enormous lanterns as night.
The finished work featured a collage of the Warrie Sisters and GAS’s works, imagined into impossibly large shapes across four inflatable artwork forms. The work premiered at the Enlighten Festival in Canberra - a test flight in which over 80,000 people interacted with the work in a two week window.
“We always learn immensely about how viewers interact with the work in real time, how families with children interact is very different to how an older couple might interact. We try and create works that give space for different types of interaction,” says GAS Director Maurice Goldberg.
The work has toured a range of capital cities in Australia - but one of the most memorable installations was in the Pilbara desert for the Karijini Experience, where the engineering of the work was put to an extreme test. We create everything in our studio ourselves and thanks to Maurice's background in architecture, we paid particular attention to the engineering and safety of the sculptural structures. Typically the works are all rated by an external engineer to 60kmph winds, with a complex internal webbing system that has an inbuilt high breaking load - but we were never expecting what would happen in the desert...
“We were warned of Willi Willi’s in the Pilbara - small tornadoes that are an expression of the resident spirits. One day, a Willi Willi hit the festival hub - and literally lifted up the enormous weighted marque before moving onto Red Air. It was incredible seeing the dust spiral up into the blue sky, and it took a moment to play with the inflatable forms of Red Air. Miraculously there was only the smallest tear in the biggest work (which was easily repaired), and the local community took it to be very auspicious. It meant the spirits were interested in what we were doing," says Matt.
The evolution of the work has included new architectural pieces created for Stonnington’s Glow Festival in Melbourne, and a gorgeous sound track of a First Nations woman gently singing with clap sticks - sung by Josie Alec, and produced by Richard Starr, a music producer based in Darwin. In the future, we’d like to return to Sharon and Kaye’s home in the desert and create a series of digital-add ons showing their lives in that specular landscape. We’re looking forward to exploring the ideas of language, their sister hood, and the idea of nations in a deeper way in the next development of the work.
Photos of the Warrie Sisters by Chris Gurney Courtesy of Ngarluma Yindjibarndi Foundation