Interspecies and Other Others is a free program of video and sound art, sculpture, installation and performance at Abbotsford Convent. The youngest (13 y.o) and I went to the preview evening and had a guided tour led by its curator Kelli Alred. This exhibition was very different from other exhibitions the 13 year old has seen and it provoked lots of discussions between us about what is art, what we could see in the installations and what the artitsts were wanting to represent with their work.
This after dark exhibition explores the human condition, history and habitat. Alongside newly commissioned works from some of Australia’s leading contemporary artists including Abdul Abdullah, Megan Cope, Atlanta Eke and Lyndal Jones, you are encouraged to explore and engage with precinct-specific adaptations of existing work, video art screenings, performances and participatory events by an array of contemporary artists.
Our favourite work was The Interloper (2022). It is a photographic series made up of three self-portraits by Abdul Abdullah and a collaborative, fourth work by Abdul Abdullah and David Charles Collins. The portraits are set within the arches of the convent building and they are compelling to look at. At first glance they look like quite humourous images but when you look at them longer they tell a much bigger story. The fox headed man doesn’t live up to our preconceived idea of what a fox is like and what does this mean?
We were lucky enough to hear from Abdul Abdullah and David Charles Collins and we both loved hearing about their collaborative process and the inspiration for their work. The Interloper explores notions of the outsider and imposter. Abdullah was a finalist for the 2011 Archibald Prize with his portrait of Waleed Ally and he spoke of how much the aftermarth of this affected him and provided a inspiration for these self portraits.
Another highlight for us was Lyndal Jones’ work Abbotsford Landscape with the fall of Icarus [after Pieter Bruegel the elder 1555] (2022). Lyndal also spoke about her work and she said that it is part of a 10 year project called Gardening on Mars. The work is exploring notions of habitat, survival and colonisation. It will be great to see how the fallen astronaut changes over the exhibition. The astronaut. like all of us will be affected by the conditions and the enviroment it is in. Jones will also be adding mould to it further enhancing the decomposition process.
We spent about an hour walking around the grounds and the artists have done such an amazing job adapting their works to the convent precinct. The installations don’t feel forced on the enviroment and they leverage exisiting elements to represent the entanglement of human beings, other species and our environment.
This is an excellent exhibition to do as a family (older kids only, see below). It is free flowing, outdoors and touches on contemporary issues that make for great conversations.
Interspecies and Other Others – exhibition details
The exhibition is open and free to view Wednesday to Sunday from sunset to 10pm until October 2nd. The grounds of the Abbotsford Convent are beautiful and are located 1 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford. The exhibition is self paced and you can download an exhibition guide and map here.
However, if you would like a guided tour there are options for that too. If like us, you are new to these type of exhibitions I can reccommend taking the curators tour:
Curator’s Walking Tour
Thursdays on 1, 8, 22 September
7pm, 1 hour duration, Convent precinct, Bookings required
There are also a series special performances, workshops, artist conversations which offer further insights into the artists work. You can find the details here (click on the event program tab on the left). Some do require bookings so get in now if you are interested. I think the En Masse Tennis Lesson workshop on the 17th September would be a lot of fun!
The entire exhibition is outdoors so dress for the weather! I also recommend wearing shoes suitable for walking as well, as you do cover some ground and walk across varied surfaces.
In terms of suitability for kids, it is definitely an exhibition for older kids, I would think it is most suited to secondary school aged children. The films shown in the video art lounge do have some adult themes so you will need to make a judgement about if you want to watch all of them.
There is no parking on site at the Convent but there is a paid car park directly across from the Convent on St Heliers Street. ($5 for 90 mins, then $1 per half hour thereafter). Funds from the car park go towards the restoration and daily operation of the Convent, and also support their neighbours, the Collingwood Children’s Farm.