NorthSite Contemporary Arts is excited to announce its 2024 exhibition calendar. Next year’s exhibition program celebrates the breadth and diversity of practice in Far North Queensland, in dialogue with artists who have strong connections to the region.
Our first season for 2024 will include the inaugural presentation of ‘Ngurruwarra/Derndernyin (stone fish trap)’, a monumental painting installation by established and emerging artists from Mirndiyan Gununa Aboriginal Corporation, Mornington Island Art, the outcome of a research project led by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH). Alongside this exhibition will be ‘Conversations with my barista (real or imagined)’, a new video installation by Cairns-based Selina Kudo; and ‘Facing Time: 50 Years’ a collaboration between artists and long-term friends Euan Macleod and Cairns-based Geoff Dixon.
Season two will focus on the local environment, with Mossman-based artist Anastasia Klose presenting ‘For thy sake I in love am grown’ an ambitious exhibition of new drawings, video and daily performance, responding to the diminishing biodiversity in Queensland and immanent threats to its unique landscapes. Annika Harding’s ‘Flux and Fog: Landscapes of the Atherton Tablelands’ examines moments of tension between the built environment and agricultural landscapes, the lush rainforest ecosystem and associated intense weather patterns.
Major gallery exhibitions throughout 2024 will be complemented by project shows on the Long Gallery and Foyer walls, with a focus on early career and First Nations practitioners, supported by NorthSite curator Aven Noah Jr and the wider team. Project wall shows will include outcomes from the Spotfire printmaking development program, a jewellery and small object exhibition curated by Lauren Carter, and the ever-popular annual NorthSite Art Market.
In season three, NorthSite will present a suite of exhibitions by Queensland First Nations artists, coinciding with the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) 2024. This will include the premiere of a major new video and sound installation ‘way to be’ by artist Vernon Ah Kee (Kuku Yalanji, Yidinyji and Guugu Yimithirr), harnessing drone footage and data to showcase the Magnificent Gallery of Rock Art in Western Yalanji country as never seen before. In partnership with Gab Titui Cultural Centre, Thursday Island, Aven Noah Jr will profile exciting new developments in practice from leading and emerging Torres Strait Islander artists.
Season Four showcases experimental approaches to the local landscape, through Oak Beach artist Jill Chism’s ‘Remnants’, an exhibition of recent and existing assemblage and installation works that explore our relationship to an increasingly fragile natural world. Topaz-based artist Luke Aleksandrow presents the third iteration of ‘The Break Project’ entitled ‘Sounds of the Tropics’, documenting the breakage of ceramics made by artists from the region, accompanied by an atmospheric soundscape.
For the final season of the year, NorthSite will present the touring exhibition ‘I, Object’ from the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, which considers the many complex relationships Indigenous Australian artists continue to have with cultural objects – from the histories informing their creation to the social and cultural consequences of their collection.
In addition to the onsite exhibition program, NorthSite Contemporary Arts, will present ‘Compositional Utterances’, a site-responsive, collaborative exhibition by Brisbane-based artists Mandy Quadrio, Susan Hawkins and Jan Oliver, whose material-led practices share feminist and ecological concerns. The exhibition is a collaboration between NorthSite and the University of Sunshine Coast Art Gallery, and will be presented at the Court House Gallery in Cairns, supported by Cairns Regional Council. NorthSite will again present an exhibition and art market stall at the Cairns Convention Centre, as part of the CIAF 2024; and is working with artist/curator Taloi Havini to showcase the work of artists from FNQ Sea Country, at Ocean Space, Venice during the 60th Venice Biennale.
I am the jellyfish; I am not the jellyfish
Words: Douglas Rushkoff
By calling this collection of exhibitions “Future Nostalgia”, Charlotte Haywood and her collaborators playfully yet soulfully suggest that we might not realize what we’ve got til it’s gone.
In some cases, a natural, paradisal subject or landscape finds itself intruded with the sounds of civilization, as if in the anticipation of its own demise. In others, the human contribution is no less a part of the landscape as the rest of nature: an equal celebrant and plaintiff at the passage of time and inevitable loss. But these are just the obvious narratives, imposed by an observer’s brain desperate to interpret these emergent phenomena through the lens of a traditional story.
On a deeper level, however—on a more daring, dangerous, yet delightful level—Future Nostalgia forces us to transcend the paralyzing dialectic of climate change and the potential horrors of human impact on nature. Instead, we are reminded of the immensity of geologic time, the inevitable cycles of life, and the sweet, silly punctuation that human experience and intentionality interject into the greater swirl of nature.
These works invite us to consider our place among the leaves, shells, jellyfish, plants and seeds. Are we just part of the dance of matter and life, complexity and decay, entanglement and release? Must we accept our essential meaninglessness to achieve a rapproachment with the rest of life? Or do we bring purpose and forethought, design and desire into the mix? What makes wood into “chair,” and who besides a potential human sitter knows this has even happened?
Does our ability to observe and reflect upon the swirl guarantee us unique privilege among the many forms? In spite of our innumerable crimes against nature and pretty much every other living -or formerly living -species, don’t we hold a special place as thinking, observing, singing, and dancing human beings?
Does our need to confess and mourn absolve us of even some portion of our guilt? Or what about simple humor? Doesn’t our ability to identify and laugh, to be silly and clever, to recognize a bunny in woven straw or to re-invent the orchid as mycelia merit some recognition of specialness and selfhood?
How will we be remembered, and how will we remember ourselves? Will we be nostalgic for that moment in evolutionary history when we thought ourselves to be unique among earthlings? Or will we simply be nostalgic for our long lost ability to recognize ourselves in the patterns of nature? Will we remember what it was like to experience ourselves in solidarity with all living things? Or will we be obsessed with our former ability to imagine and believe in our own separateness?
Or given our current trajectory, must we do all that remembering and reminiscing right now, both pre-mourning and pre-celebrating a past we will not live long enough to look back on? Perhaps. But I prefer to take a different message from Future Nostalgia: While times are hard and our separation from the cycles of nature may appear to be irrevocable, we will one day retrieve the social, cultural, and spiritual mechanisms of our indigenous ancestors—finally reconciling our place within nature with our inherent alienation as self-aware beings.
Positive futurism, then, is a practice of looking ahead while also bringing forward the past into that imaginary. And while that would likely induce a sense of vertigo in the time traveller, the grounded human artist experiences it instead as more of an emotional mobius strip: a nostalgia for what has yet to be.
Douglas Rushkoff is an American media theorist, writer, columnist, lecturer, graphic novelist, and documentarian. He is best known for his association with the early cyberpunk culture and his advocacy of open-source solutions to social problems.
Rushkoff is currently Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at the City University of New York, Queens College. He has previously lectured at The New School University in Manhattan and the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University‘s Tisch School of the Arts, where he created the Narrative Lab. In 2012, Rushkoff was declared the sixth most influential thinker in the world by MIT Technology Review.
Planetary Gestures travels to Melbourne
Planetary Gestures was exhibited at NorthSite Contemporary Arts earlier this year. Curated by Tess Maunder, the exhibition explores ideas surrounding ecological systems, ancient knowledge, celestial blueprints and tidal movements across the land, sea and sky known as Australasia, part of the wider Asia-Pacific and the ‘Great Ocean’. The exhibition includes work by artists Amrita Hepi, Susie Losch, Raqs Media Collective, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Jimmy John Thaiday and Trevor Yeung.
We’re thrilled to see Planetary Gestures touring to Walker Street Gallery and Arts Centre in Dandenong, Melbourne. The opening preview is this Saturday, 23 September from 2PM-4PM with the exhibition running until 3 November 2023.
Location: Walker Street Gallery and Arts Centre, Cnr Walker and Robinson streets, Dandenong
Opening Hours: Tues-Fri 12pm – 4pm
Exhibition runs from 26 SEPTEMBER 2023 until 3 NOVEMBER 2023
Claudine Marzik’s Undara Paintings
Words: Ross Searle
The opportunity to write about Claudine Marzik’s impressive art practice is indeed a pleasure. On first seeing her work I was impressed by its refined but energetic gestural mark-making that appeared to contain a language that was both familiar but unique in the way that it responded to the particularities of the ‘northern’ seasonal environment. She is perhaps best known for a series of paintings relating to the seasons which reference the dynamics of seasonal and changing weather patterns from quite subtle shifts to extreme conditions that have major impacts on the land. The sense of ‘familiarity’ I first recognised in her painterly gesture in the early 1990s no doubt relates to the influences of ‘gestural’ abstraction that found its place in American and European painting after World War II. A process and not a movement, it continues to be shaped by European artists such as Gerhard Richter and Australians Aida Tomescu, Ildiko Kovacs and of course, Claudine Marzik.
Her capacity to encapsulate the intensity of the environment of northern Australia has been noted by writers Gavin Wilson who observed; ‘her work reaches deep into her emotional reserves to construct images that suggests states of mind’1 and Ingrid Hoffman who wrote about the impact of knowing the landscape that ‘comes out of time spent discerning the morphology of plants and their distilled colour, their intricate prickliness, their smooth shapes, their grace and vulnerability’.2 This ability to zoom in and out of the landscape to see it not only in terms of its parts but also as a system that communicates an emotional state is intriguing.
Recent projects include The Body Language of Plants which came about from working with materials collected as part of herbarium specimens. The science-art nexus continues with the current exhibition.
This new body of work relates to the Undara Volcanic National Park, a unique geological site she first visited in 2017. ‘Undara’ is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘long way’. The park protects a system of 190,000-year-old lava tube caves, the longest in the world. Located 264 km south-west of Cairns, they are the result of an eruption, spewing molten lava over the surrounding landscape. The lava flowed rapidly down dry riverbeds with the top, outer layer cooling and forming a crust, while the molten lava below drained outwards, leaving behind a series of hollow tubes.
An almost autonomous natural ecosystem, Claudine was captivated by the cave-system of the lava tubes and the depositions on the cave ceilings and walls. Drawing ideas from earlier visits and a recent residency supported by Discovery Holiday Parks through Undara Experience, resulted in a new series of work. With each visit she took photographs and did onsite drawings, made notes, and compiled a visual lexicon of the site – an iterative process that allowed her to hone her ideas and images. In recent years, artists like Claudine have adopted a profusion of methods, practices, and experiences to enhance the interface between the visual arts and environmental-scientific concerns. In Claudine’s case, she has made an especial study of the morphology and topography of Undara.
The sensation of being in a submerged environment with its dark corners and surprising patches of light that break through the ceilings is manifested in the tonal gradients she employs in the paintings on canvas and paper for this exhibition. The palette she employs is influenced by the various minerals in the caves including basalt, iron oxide and calcium carbonate. The underlining minerals reveal tones of red, yellow, and green contrasting with the black rock basalt intrusions, the lighter toned calcium carbonate and richer iron oxide. A recurring compositional device that is used in several of the paintings is a doorway shape, as if looking out from the darkness of the cave into the light. We see this clearly in the large paintings which alternate between looking into the caves and out into the open. Claudine reflects that ‘being inside the cave looking towards the exit which can be seen about 50 meters away, is a captivating view. It releases emotions (and) it’s like a sensation of new life and hope. Back to safety, back to the known from the unknown, back to the light from the dark. Back from the cold to the warm.’3
The exhibition has been grouped to reinforce compositional ideas based on the geological forms, surface patterns, depositions, graffiti, and textures that appear on walls and ceilings. Far from being a static environment, natural formations from the speleothem deposits continue to accumulate to form subtle new layers not unlike some of the paintings which are worked and layered like strata. Some of the artworks are tightly framed views of the deposition of minerals on the tube walls and ceiling as if looking through a photographic lens which at once makes everything equally comparable without a reference point.
Undara is the perfect place for her to test new approaches to the landscape. In Claudine’s hands her artworks possess a tight undulant pattern reminiscent of natural surfaces found in this unique landscape. The effect of this is to make the texture not only closer to that of the actual cave surfaces but also to overcome of what Gerhard Richter suggests is the over importance of edges and borders; to make everything equal and allow the viewer’s brain to impose its own structure on the artwork.4 Her way of working at Undara was to create sets of visual references and once in the studio this material was used to create this series of works that reference her macro-micro responses to surface textures, dramatic geological intrusions, and mineral accretions. Although some works contain a complex layering of paint pattern and form, in general there is a looseness in the shapes and forms and a more free, spontaneous approach.5 It is a thrilling body of work.
Words: Ross Searle
1 Gavin Wilson, Country and western landscape re-imagined, exhibition catalogue, Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, Townsville, 2015, p 40.
2 Ingrid Hoffman, Seed to seed, exhibition catalogue, KickArts Contemporary Arts, Cairns, 2012.
3 Claudine Marzik email to author, 7 August 2023
4 Misha Ketchell, Nature makes abstract visual art more captivating. The conversation, March 25, 2014
5 Claudine Marzik, ibid
Calling all Queer artists | Cairns Pride Art Exhibition 2023
Jamie Cole and Sally Brown are excited to curate the Cairns Pride Art Exhibition 2023 at Tanks Arts Centre. Along with the Tanks Team, they aim to bring together LGBTIQ+ Sistergirl and Brotherboy artists from not only Cairns and FNQ, but from all over Australia.
Artists at all stages of their careers are invited to submit works for the October 2023 exhibition.
Expressions of interest: Email Jamie Cole at email@example.com before August 18, 2023 for a copy of the Artwork Entry Form.
This is an LGBTIQ+ event and works submitted should celebrate and reflect our LGBTIQ+ Sistergirl and Brotherboy communities. This event is kindly supported by Cairns Tropical Pride, 2Spirits, the Queensland Council for LGBTI Health and Cairns Regional Council.
The Ironing Maidens World Premiere in Cairns plus International Recognition at NIME
From December 2023 to January 2024, The Ironing Maidens (Melania Jack and Patty Preece) presented their sound, digital art and projection installation work – Pressing Topics at NorthSite Contemporary Arts. The debut of this work was well received at NorthSite and the workshop presentation explaining the work; Oscillations attracted a huge audience for a Saturday Morning of almost 70 participants. Ironing certainly still resonates with many people, but ironing sound is a unique experience in itself.
The audiovisual installation, Oscillations, turns irons and ironing boards into electronic instruments, in an attempt to deconstruct stereotypical ideas of gender and its assigned roles. The work aims to investigate the relationships we have with domestic objects and ponder their structures and significance through the design and performance of an interactive ecosystem. The project uses a sonic cyberfeminist lens to critically explore aesthetic and relational hierarchies at the intersection of sound, gender and technology.
Three irons and ironing boards have been hacked and retrofitted with embedded electronic instruments that together create a complex feedback network. While the audience is invited to physically interact with the irons instruments and manipulate samples, the sonic state of the installation also changes based on the audio information detected in the environment. Projections onto the surface of the ironing board expose the labor within.
“This opportunity to present the work in Cairns has been so important to the development of the work. Being able to see people interacting and responding to the instruments at NorthSite provided us with an insight into the experience of the audience, and gave us more ideas on how to refine the instruments to improve that audience experience. We are so thankful to NorthSite for this opportunity and support”
– Patty Preece.
The work was then presented at the International Conference of NIME (new instruments for musical expression) in Mexico City in May 2023. Joining hundreds of experimental, digital instrument makers from around the world, Patty and Melania presented their paper – Oscillations: Composing a Performance Ecosystem through a Sonic Cyberfeminist Lens and installed this work in the foyer of the Center for Digital Culture, in La Condessa. The work was recognised through two awards, the paper receiving ‘The Pamela Z award for innovation’, and the installation receiving the ‘best installation award’.
Now the duo bring the ironing instruments back to Cairns in a hybrid band of irons and synthesisers, in the next phase of the project – Hot & Heavy – an immersive experience that is “part gallery, part performance and part banging dance party”. In a World Premiere at The Tanks Art Centre.
Hot & Heavy is an aural, visual and sensory experience that invites you to lose your friends, go deep and shake free. Explore this queer new world where domesticity has been made strange, appliances are defamiliarised, and the casual horrors of human production lines and capitalist consumption are vividly transformed. In a landscape of real world glitches, the lines between performer and audience blur and break, bodies move en masse and the unifying power of a dance floor infects the crowd. Hot & Heavy is the search for multiple new futures, yearning to find utopia within the banging beat of a broken down washing machine.
“In previous live shows we [The Ironing Maidens] have explored themes such as planned obsolescence and domestic labour, but in this new work we wanted the opportunity to really expand, to really push ourselves and the work. We wanted to investigate the kind of world we are living in now; within this capitalist system, and explore what kind of alternatives we could imagine for our collective futures, we wanted to explore what this could feel like, what it might sound like.”
– Melania Jack
“We have expanded the creative team and have been working with international choreographic director Leigh-Anne Vizer and a team of dancers to develop the worlds that the audience will explore. We are also working with the Cairns community, through a series of workshops in the lead up to the performance so that we can skill share in music and dance, and invite people to come and create with us and join us in the live performance”.
– Patty Preece
This event is an Auslan Interpreted Performance. There will be a meeting place on entry for Auslan interpretation during the first half of the show. The second half of the show the interpreter will be onstage. Please contact for more details
Show might include atmospheric haze and strobe effects.
Workshops in the lead up to the show are open to the public and start this week (Monday 31 July 2023). Meet the cast, learn some new skills, and join the community ensemble. There is a fundraiser running to make these workshops free and accessible to marginalised groups in the community. Head to The Australian Cultural Fund website and search for The Ironing Maidens – $15 can support a scholarship place in the workshop. Click here to support.
This new work has been developed in Cairns through commissions from the Local Giants Program; a partnership between Regional Arts Australia, PAC and Performing Lines, and the Tanks Arts Centre and Cairns Regional Council. Development funded by the Australia Council for the Arts. Community engagement funded by Cairns Regional Council through the RADF Major Round. The project is funded and managed by Shiny Shiny Productions, a feminist, queer led, regional production company.
SHOW DATES: Friday 25th August 8pm – Cairns Tanks Arts Centre
Sunday 27th August 1pm
- View The Ironing Maidens previous exhibition at NorthSite
- Visit The Ironing Maidens Website
- Follow The Ironing Maidens on Instagram
- Like The Ironing Maidens Official Facebook page
Recap: Satellite events of Cairns Indigenous Art Fair
NorthSite’s First Nations Exhibition Showcase during the annual Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) 2023 was a huge success for Artists, Curators, Art enthusiasts and the greater community. NorthSite presented four satellite exhibitions and two events at Bulmba-ja Arts Centre, showcased the artwork of local artists Heather Koowootha at the CIAF Art Fair and presented art and design of First Nations Artists at the CIAF Art Market.
Ahead of the opening of CIAF 2023 NorthSite, in partnership with IACA, held the CIAF Artist Party; a celebration for all artists presenting work for CIAF 2023. This event welcomed over 160 guests to our home at Bulmba-ja Arts Centre and included a special cultural performance by the Moa Island dance group, Mualgal Po Gubaw Gizu Kabau Mabaigal. We were thrilled to welcome back Djabugay band The Pad Boys as they delivered a live music set, celebrating their 30th year of music.
At the Cairns Convention Centre, NorthSite presented the major series of watercolour paintings by local artist Heather Koowootha titled ‘The Bush People’s walking path ways of Country’s site and story places’ 2023. This work was commissioned by Carriageworks for The National 4: New Australian Art earlier in the year, curated by Freja Carmichael and supported by NorthSite.
NorthSite represented a multitude of First Nations artists at the CIAF Art Market Stall; presenting art, design, textiles, fine art prints, merchandise, jewellery and much more from the NorthSite Store.
On Saturday (15 July) at Bulmba-ja Arts Centre, visitors gathered in the NorthSite gallery for a unique opportunity to meet the artists and curators of the four exhibitions and listen to them speak about their exhibitions. First up was Solomon Booth (artist) and Aven Noah Jr (curator) speaking about the exhibition Malu Bardthar Dapar | Sea Land Sky, next was Kim Ah Sam (artist) with Hamish Sawyer (Acting Director, NorthSite) speaking about the exhibition Woven Identity “it’s not only me”, Keemon Williams (artist) with Hamish Sawyer (Acting Director, NorthSite) spoke about the exhibition KAIKAI, followed by Sheree Jacobs (artist), Nicole Enoch-Chatfield (artist) and Jamaylya Ballangarry-Kearins (curator) spoke about the exhibition, SOVEREIGNTY.
The four First Nations exhibitions at NorthSite Contemporary Arts will be showing until late August. For more information visit: Exhibitions On Now.
NorthSite Contemporary Arts
Free Entry. Bulmba-ja, 96 Abbott Street, Cairns City
Monday-Friday: 10AM-5PM | Saturday: 9AM-1PM
Group Exhibition coming to Cairns
Last weekend (Saturday 22 July) NorthSite’s Acting Director Hamish Sawyer headed to University of the Sunshine Coast Art Gallery for a conversation with Mandy Quadrio, Susan Hawkins and Jan Oliver about the exhibition Compositional Utterances where they also release the exhibition catalogue.
- Compositional Utterances: Discover the exhibition
- University of the Sunshine Coast Art Gallery: Compositional Utterances
- Lemonade: Letters to Art
A Glimpse into the First Nations Exhibition Showcase
A Glimpse into the First Nations Exhibition Showcase
Northsite Contemporary Arts is excited to share the upcoming First Nations Exhibitions Showcase during the annual Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) 2023. Four exhibitions will be on display within the NorthSite galleries at Bulmba-ja Arts Centre accompanied by events and artist talks throughout the week of CIAF.
The exhibition ‘Malu Bardthar Dapar | Sea Land Sky’ by senior and emerging artists at Moa Arts Centre (Ngalmun Lagau Minaral) will showcase a range of printmaking and weaving artworks that investigate and reinterpret Melanesian mark marking, explore political and sociological storytelling related to Torres Strait culture, history and identity. “NorthSite continues to present culturally engaging and high quality First Nations showcasings. Malu Bardthar Dapar curated by Aven Noah Jr will be a popular CIAF Satellite exhibition choice”. said Francoise Lane (Artistic Director, CIAF).
Among ‘Malu Bardthar Dapar | Sea Land Sky’ are three exceptional exhibitions including ‘Woven Identity’ by Kim Ah Sam, ‘KAIKAI’ by Keemon Williams and the group exhibition ‘SOVEREIGNTY’ curated by Jamaylya Ballangarry-Kearins.
To celebrate these exhibitions and the artists presenting work for CIAF 2023, NorthSite in partnership with the Indigenous Art Centre Alliance (IACA) is hosting the ‘CIAF Artists’ Party’ on Tuesday, 11 July from 6PM. For tickets and more information visit: https://northsite.org.au/event/ciaf-artists-party/
‘NorthSite Open’ will take place on Saturday, 15 July from 2PM and guest will have the opportunity to engage directly with the artists from these exhibitions during the Artists Talks. For tickets and more information visit: https://northsite.org.au/event/northsite-open-ciaf-2023/
Minister visits Exploring Giant Molecules
It was a pleasure to host Queensland’s Minister for the Arts the Hon. Leeanne Enoch MP last week at NorthSite Contemporary Arts. Acting Director, Hamish Sawyer, delivered a curators talk on Sandra Selig’s exhibition ‘Exploring Giant Molecules’. The exhibition is showing in the NorthSite gallery at Bulmba-ja until 17 June 2023.
‘Exploring Giant Molecules’ was developed by University of the Sunshine Coast Art Gallery in partnership with the UNSW. This project was supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.