A billboard project by Kent Morris is the first in an occasional series of off-site projects to be launched in the lead-up to ACCA’s major exhibition in 2021, Who’s Afraid of Public Space?
For twenty seconds every three minutes, wedged between the usual schedule of advertisements, a digital billboard on St Kilda’s busy intersection between Grey and Fitzroy Streets will offer the words Never alone, projected across a jewel-like geometric pattern, with the recurring image of a soaring native Night Heron emblazoned against the sky.
Created by Kent Morris, a Melbourne-based artist and descendant of the Barkindji people of north-western New South Wales, Never alone focuses on the artist describes as the “First Nations cultural concept of the interconnectedness of all things: people, plants, animals, landforms and celestial bodies."
“During the COVID-19 period, there has been a reframing of how we collectively perceive time,” Morris said. “We have a remembered past, an anxious present and an uncertain future. Never alone encourages a reflective response to our current state of existence and suggests that the incorporation of Indigenous philosophies, knowledges and relationships can reshape and navigate a connected pathway forward.”
Morris’ artworks are constructed from a single photograph taken while walking on Country, and feature the interaction of native birds within the built environment. Never alone features the Nankeen Night Heron Morris encountered most nights during the early isolation period on walks through Elwood, on Yaluk-ut Weelam Country.
“The lack of cars and people on this normally busy thoroughfare offered a new opportunity for the usually elusive heron to investigate new vantage points and feeding grounds. From a First Nations cultural perspective, native birds are our ancestors, protectors, guides and messengers, offering a cyclical time continuum and a connection to deep time knowledge and experience.” Morris said.
Morris is a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts and an alumnus of the Wesfarmers Indigenous Arts Leadership Program. He is also CEO of The Torch, an organisation dedicated to supporting Indigenous men and women in prisons and post-release through arts and cultural programs.
Who’s Afraid of Public Space? continues ACCA’s Big Picture series of exhibitions, which explores contemporary art’s relationship to wider social, cultural and political contexts.
Developed over a two-year period in collaboration with a diverse group of artists, academics and cultural producers, it will culminate in an exhibition opening in the summer of 2021–22, and a series of events and programs, designed to extend ACCA’s programs beyond the walls of the gallery into public space itself.
Dates: 3 - 30 August 2020.
Location: Billboard placed on intersection of Grey and Fitzroy Streets, St Kilda 3182