Nina Sanadze, Unus Mundus, 2023.
ShrewD Collective, Habitat, Gertrude Glasshouse, 2023. Photo by Christina Capurro.
Chris Fontana • Tracey Lamb • Amanda Laming • Nina Sanadze • Mimmalisa Trifilò
Gertrude Glasshouse is pleased to present the exhibition Habitat by ShrewD Collective, as part of the new Collective Polyphony Festival, founded upon the central idea of community and peace-building.
The Habitat project began with an exploration of the storied “Tower of Babel” concept, in which language is attributed symbolically as the source of division among the world’s people. ShrewD Collective seized the opportunity to build something positive together, a process that embodies the universal challenges of communication and mutual understanding among people.
Bringing together five very diverse visual languages, the artists collaborate to construct a new architectural space using various elements, such as words and conversations, clay, steel, paper, wood, stone, string, fabric, and plants. The resulting Habitat stands as an alternative to the Babel Tower; a porous and visually rich immersive space that entices viewers to spend time exploring, reading, thinking, sitting, or gathering within.
The utopian setting of Habitat serves a dual purpose—it reflects and critiques the current state of the world, while offering hope and ideas for a better society. In this envisioned world, dialogue, communication, and understanding are assumed, challenging the obstacles presented within the Tower of Babel narrative.
Amanda Laming's enormous sphere-shaped sculpture greets visitors at the entrance, overwhelming and confronting them with its size, texture, and smell. It externalizes anxieties, enveloping tension and deep psychological concerns within its ball of nerves and bundled domestic memories.
Moving from this emotional space, visitors approach the cradle of the installation—a large welded piece by Tracey Lamb shaped as a welcoming and functional conversation pit and shelter. It reimagines the foundation of a successful Tower of Babel, providing an idealised gathering place for conversations, contemplation, and storytelling.
Within this space, Mimmalisa Trifilò uses language to transform the abstract into tangible reference points, signs, and symbols. Writing becomes a vehicle for communication with our selves and with others. She also nurtures plants, rapidly growing and transforming within the gallery space, serving as a metaphor for tamed nature, grief, hope, and regeneration.
Nina Sanadze attempts to comprehend, order, and conceptualise the inconceivable vastness, complexity, and diversity of humankind through visual enumeration. Her creation is a book showcasing 4000+ world religions and towers of 8500+ world languages, where endless multiplicity democratically adds up to a common denominator of our similarity.
Chris Fontana's monumental but intricate installation encloses the back of the Habitat space. A richly textured, narrative map reflects upon the contrived and rapid construction of historical Melbourne as an urban habitat. The work critiques the concept of the 'new' city, and the universal[ised] language of capitalism as both a unifying and destructive force.
The genesis of this exhibition developed from Nina Sanadze's decision to share her Gertrude Residency solo show at the Glasshouse with her ShrewD Collective members, shedding light on their artistic practices and fostering mutual support, community cohesion, and collaboration as an antidote to socially ingrained peer competitiveness.
Staying true to her large-scale, peace-building social-practice projects, Nina expanded this concept and orchestrated the ground-breaking Collective Polyphony Festival. This extraordinary event will showcase exhibitions and events presented by 10 diverse international and local collectives, spread across seven established art spaces during September and October 2023. The primary goal of the festival is to celebrate and explore the concept of collaborative organization while nurturing Collectives with their individual agendas.
About ShrewD Collective (est. 2017)
Ladies, release your shrew...
ShrewD Collective is a group of five ShrewD female artists. We assemble, weave, weld, paint, sculpt, draw, and write, maintaining our autonomous artistic styles, and then bring these together to form something entirely unique.
While operating primarily as an arts peer support group, this nurturing intent extends through our work into the wider community. Our collective objective comprises inhabiting various sites and spaces through which we can design and deliver projects that encourage social engagement. Our experience as arts practitioners is enriched through meaningful interactions with the public, encouraging us to consider audience participation as integral to the making of art and community building.
We believe that during times described as "challenging" at best, we each have the power to undertake small but significant positive actions. As one collective of many, we aspire to contribute to a grassroots movement towards building and reinforcing a sense of social cohesion and belonging.
We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Country in which we live and work, the Wurundjeri, Bunurong, and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation and the Brataualung people of Gunaikurnai Country. We admire their resilience and determination as the first artists, changemakers, and caretakers of the land, sea, and waters. As artists who have an intimate relationship with concepts, materials, and culture, we are committed to celebrating the First Peoples' inextricable spiritual and cultural connection to this sacred place.
Literary Recital: Saturday 7 October 2023, 3:30-4.30pm
Join ShrewD Collective’s conversation circle at 3:30pm on Saturday 7 October – the closing day of the exhibition Habitat at Gertrude Glasshouse. Collective Polyphony Festival will host an hour of poetry and creative writing readings by artists presented across the festival.
Collective Recitals participants include:
Chris Fontana (ShrewD Collective)
Josephine Mead (In-kind Collective)
Ben Qin (Chinese Museum Arts Collective)
Sarah Rudledge (In-kind Collective)
Mimmalisa Trifilò (ShrewD Collective)
Mao Zhe (Chinese Museum Arts Collective)