Artists’ selected for Cairns Festival ‘Reef Lights’

Part of Cairns Festival 2023, ‘Reef Lights – Where The Rainforest Meets The Reef‘ will illuminate the Cairns Esplanade from this Friday (25 August) until Sunday 3 September showing from 6.30pm – 10.00pm each night.

NorthSite was thrilled to assist in selecting Artists from Far North Queensland to be part of the outdoor light show for 2023. A special congratulations to all the incredible Artists’ involved: Leanne Hardy, Brian Robinson, Billy Missi, Robert Tommy Pau, Gertie Tomsana, Betty Sykes, Elverina Johnson, Joel Sam, Margaret Mara, Matilda Nona and Peter B Morrison.

Reef Lights – Where The Rainforest Meets The Reef‘ is an immersive outdoor light experience inspired by the unique tropical environment of Far North Queensland. Guests will experience a ‘watershow’ with lasers and lights at the Cairns Lagoon, a myriad of artworks projected along the footpaths and enchanting soundscapes.


Reef Lights is a project by Cairns Regional Council and Laservision. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Festivals Australia program. This project was made possible by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund, which supports the arts in regional and remote Australia.

An artwork projected on the floor with a person standing in the background. Projected lights are blue and green.

Joel Sam’s artwork projection for Reef Lights. Image courtesy of Laservision.

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.

Installation of 3 ironing boards with retro irons. In the background is a video projection. Hanging from the ceiling are industrial lights and cords referencing the factories.

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.

A retro iron sitting on an timber ironing board with a video projection directly onto the cloth that is placed on top of the ironing board.

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

Tickets Live Show – $27.50 & $32.50


Tickets Workshops – $15 & $30


Support – $15 can support a scholarship place in the workshop



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


Visit Cairns Indigenous Art Fair
Australian Arts Review
Artist Profile
Tropical North Queensland

An audience looking and listening to a man standing at a microphone.

CIAF Artist Party, 2023, NorthSite Contemporary Arts, Cairns. Photo: Cristian Bevilacqua, The Photo Corner.

Moa Island dancers wearing dari headdress.

CIAF Artist Party, 2023, NorthSite Contemporary Arts, Cairns. Photo: Cristian Bevilacqua, The Photo Corner.

Moa Island dancers wearing dari headdress.

CIAF Artist Party, 2023, NorthSite Contemporary Arts, Cairns. Photo: Cristian Bevilacqua, The Photo Corner.

Two women hug in the gallery surrounded by woven sculptures hung from the double height ceiling.

CIAF Artist Party, 2023, NorthSite Contemporary Arts, Cairns. Photo: Cristian Bevilacqua, The Photo Corner.

Five people stand in the gallery in front of 3 brightly colour monoprints in timber frames. Everyone is looking at the camera and smiling.

CIAF Artist Party, 2023, NorthSite Contemporary Arts, Cairns. Photo: Cristian Bevilacqua, The Photo Corner.

Two women admire the artworks on the gallery wall. There are several others in the background.

CIAF Artist Party, 2023, NorthSite Contemporary Arts, Cairns. Photo: Cristian Bevilacqua, The Photo Corner.

A band performing on stage holding a guitar. There is a purple light behind them.

CIAF Artist Party, 2023, NorthSite Contemporary Arts, Cairns. Photo: Cristian Bevilacqua, The Photo Corner.

An art market stall containing clothing, prints and jewellery. Above the market stand is a sign that reads NorthSite Contemporary Arts.

NorthSite Market Stand at Cairns Convention Centre for CIAF 2023.

Ten works on paper are installed on two white walls.

NorthSite Art Market Stand at Cairns Convention Centre for CIAF 2023.

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/

Illuminate FNQ Indigenous Science Festival

NorthSite recently partnered to support an Art Science Talk event for the inaugural illuminate FNQ Indigenous Science Festival.

The exhibition, Yuk Wuy Min Nguntamp, by Keith Wikmunea and Heather Koowootha produced by NorthSite in collaboration with Wik and Kugu Art Centre was included in the Friday activities of the Illuminate program. Heather Koowootha provided an extremely insightful explanation of her paintings of plants and natural resources that embody deep Wik cultural knowledge.

If you are interested in hearing more about this exciting new festival that drew scientists from across the world to Cairns and celebrated local ancient knowledge systems, check out the link to their wrap-up video, produced by artist and volunteer illuminate FNQ Board Director Dr. Jenny Fraser.

For more information about illuminate FNQ Indigenous Science Festival visit: https://illuminatefnq.org/home/

In other news, Dr Jenny Fraser has recently been awarded the prestigious 2022 Australia Council Award for Emerging and Experimental Arts! Congratulations Jenny!

Dr Jenny Fraser – Australia Council Award for Emerging & Experimental Arts

NorthSite x CIAF 2022 July Program

We’re pleased to announce the release of our CIAF x NorthSite 2022 Program. From Artist Talks to Exclusive Events here are all the dates to save in your calendar for next week. We’ve also extended opening hours in the Shop and Gallery (see bottom of page).

Location: NorthSite at Bulmba-ja, 96 Abbott Street, Cairns City 4870

Tuesday, 5 July | $15 Tickets
6 PM CIAF x NorthSite Exclusive Preview
Get Tickets

Wednesday, 6 July | Free event
1 PM Artist Talk: Keith Wikmunea & Heather Koowootha
2PM Artist Talk: Grace Lillian Lee & Dr. Ken Thaidau Snr
Come Along

Thursday, 7 July | Free event
1 PM Artist Talk: Repatriate
2 PM Artist Talk: Bana Yirriji Art Centre
Come Along

Friday, 8 July | Free event
1 PM Artist Talk: Teho Ropeyarn & Mr Graham Brady
Join the Talk

Saturday, 9 July| Free event
11 AM Designer Talk: IndigeDesignLabs
Join IndigeDesignLabs

Sunday, 10 July | Free event
1 PM Artist Talk: Grace Lillian Lee & Dr. Ken Thaidau Snr
Join the Talk

Extended Opening Hours

Monday, 4 July: 10 AM — 5 PM
Tuesday, 5 July: 10 AM — 9 PM
Wednesday, 6 July: 10 AM — 5 PM
Thursday, 7 July: 10 AM — 7:30 PM
Friday, 8 July: 10 AM — 7:30 PM
Saturday, 9 July: 10 AM — 7:30 PM
Sunday, 10 July: 11 AM — 2 PM

Take a look at all the exhibitions showing in the NorthSite Gallery at Bulmba-ja Arts Centre: See exhibitions

NorthSite x WOW Cairns

WOW Cairns 2022 was a huge success providing a strong local program that heard the voices of many women through entertaining and conversation-provoking events. In the lead up to WOW Cairns, held at Bulmba-ja Arts Centre from Friday 13 to Saturday 14 May 2022, NorthSite assisted in the development of 2 spectacular exhibitions which will be running until June 2022.

The WOW Cairns Women’s Show is a celebration of women painters from across Far North Queensland curated especially for WOW Australia by NorthSite. The exhibition features the work of Janet Koongoteema, Jean Walmbeng, Julie Poulsen, Margaret Upton, Maharlina Gorospe-Lockie, Hannah Murray, Anne Nunn, Betty Sykes, Lenore Howard, Agnes Wotton, Claudine Marzik, Netta Loogatha, Nickeema Williams, Kim Marsden, Bernice Burke, Hannah Parker, Philomena Yeatman, Paula Savage, Laurel McKenzie, Fiona Elisala-Mosby, Matilda Aidan, India Collins, Tia Adoberg, Matilda Nona, Caroline Mudge, Tamika Grant-Iramu, DOULA, Margaret Mara, Rhonda Woolla, Melissa Waters, Delissa Walker and Mersene Loban. This exhibition is showing until 25 June 2022.

Gathering is a culture-based community collaboration, led by leading local artists Elverina Johnson of Paperbark Arts and Francoise Lane of Indij Design. During WOW Cairns the artwork was built upon with themes inspired by the waterways weaving through Country; nurturing and sustaining life. The final sculptural form which looks like a paperbark bulmba is currently on display within NorthSite at Bulmba-ja Arts Centre.

WOW Cairns Women’s Show
Gathering event

Look Back Lab — 30 Years of Contemporary Art

2022 ​will mark 3 decades of innovative, independent and contemporary practice through KickArts in Cairns.

NorthSite is going back through the archives and working with key writers and artists to collate a major publication and exhibition series to mark the occasion.

We are attempting to contact all 5000+ people who’ve shaped the organisation and been part of this history. That’s right every single artist, board member, staff, volunteer and supporter…

You can update your contact details using the online form below and signup to our mailing list here.

If you have stories and social images that you’d like to contribute, please also get in touch: connect@northsite.org.au

    By submitting this form you agree to be contacted by NorthSite Contemporary Arts.


    NorthSite Opening Artists Party Invite

    Following 18 months of renovation and transformation, we’re home!

    The Board of Directors, invite you and your friends to join the celebrations.

    New spaces and fresh faces with an everlasting commitment to creativity and community.

    The NorthSite Artists’ Party brings the arts community together under this one roof again.

    In recent years, the Centre of Contemporary Arts has been transformed by the State Government into Bulmba-ja – an inclusive new incubator of contemporary art, theatre, dance and performance.

    Hear from the NorthSite Director Ashleigh Campbell and meet the current artists as we come together to celebrate the next wave of contemporary artistic practice in the North.

    Come and enjoy an evening of art and festivities.

    Tim Ellis | Tracey Moffatt Gary Hillberg | Olivia Azzopardi | Darren Blackman

    When: Saturday 28 March 2020
    Doors 6pm. Cash Bar. Dress: Shiny!

    Free Event – bookings through Eventbrite. Secure your ticket now!