Hidden depths

• Overload (Photo by Roel Loopers) is one of the thought-provoking artworks in the Fremantle Biennial festival.

A CLEVER swipe at capitalism is one of the thought-provoking art installations dotted around Fremantle as part of the city’s Biennial festival.

Featuring a host of contemporary artworks, the festival brings art to the great outdoors, changing the way we view and interact with the local landscape, and sometimes revealing little-known historical tidbits.

Dr Andrew Sunley Smith’s Overload features a capsized 9.5m boat in the Swan River beside the Stirling Bridge, its bow overflowing with limestone rocks.

“The work is primarily about greed and our continued excessive capitalism – taking too much, consuming out of balance. Tipping points,” he says.

“It’s also purposely linking directly to the colonial history of its site and the removal of the lime and sandstone bar that once existed prior to C Y O’Connor blowing it up to service the Swan River colony and in turn destroying the resources and topography of an area which was vital to First Nations Noongar people. 

“The Biennale has a progressive curatorial brief that engaged many conversationsand rich exchanges with localNoongar elders and artists. 

“Telling some truth about the land we are on was a crucial component and showing necessary respect to its owners and custodians.”

For the installation, Dr Smith undertook a painstaking modification of the five ton moribund Pleasure Cruiser; removing lots of rot and hand-repairing sections so it could withstand the huge amount of limestone dumped in its jarrah and karri hull. 

Tightness Times Toughness. (Photo by Keelan O’Hehir).

Dr Smith is no stranger to getting his hands dirty and going through a bit of pain for his art; he recently lived off-grid, enduring -37C winters in Northern Ontario while doing research for his Carbon Supremacy project.

“Living off grid allowed me to experience more deeply. Find more edges and connect to a lot of things beyond verbal communication,” he says.

“It’s a lot of hard work – in the northern hemisphere its all about planning, knowing and being ahead of the seasons. 

“Wood gathering for warmth and fuel. Also knowing and reading animals – this becomes a real exchange – in many ways far better and richer than most interactions I’ve had with people.”

Intense life experiences also shaped the installation Tightness Times Toughness by Bruno Booth, who has used a wheelchair for most of his life.

Located beside the Swan River in North Worrall Park, the installation features two claustrophobic intersecting tunnels with harsh lighting; poking fun at people’s assumptions of those with a ‘disability’ and giving them a taste of navigating a world that is uncomfortable by design.

“The work is inspired by me knocking things over in shops, scraping paint off door frames and taking the scenic route (usually past the bins) into public buildings,” Booth says.

“Basically it’s a vignette of experiences that people with different bodies face on the daily. The external design is based on the proportions of the old and new traffic bridge, whereas the internal dimensions are based around measurements of my body and my wheelchair. 

“The lighting is on a nine-minute loop which is a subtle reference to the nine per cent of artists that have a disability, despite the fact that nearly a quarter of Australians identify as disabled.

“It’s more about people’s perception of disabled people than having a go at any particular group. Slinging blame only produces more division.”

The Fremantle Biennial is on until Nov 21 and includes performances and events.

For more info go to www.fremantlebiennale.com.au

By STEPHEN POLLOCK

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