From the architect:
Our installation for Biennale Architettura 2018, curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, invites visitors to look through a series of portals that will transport them from Italy to Australia and back again.
On first sight an impressive concertina structure of timber, overlaid with delicate steelwork, draws visitors in to explore spaces in between mysterious passageways. Five different ‘portals’ invite closer inspection and transport the viewer to ‘somewhere other’. The installation becomes an instrument for seeing, it extends beyond the confines of its place, to connect Venice with Australia.
This vast structure’s sensory nature comes alive in the darkened atmosphere of the Arsenale building. The scent, colour and grain of native Australian spotted gum hardwood evoke the bush, while ambient sounds from mesmerising films combine with landscapes created by the practice’s works.
A series of five portals frame views, playing with perspective and reflection to extend the space of the installation, with a myriad of references that enmesh Venice and Australia. The ‘Venetian portal’ features an embedded chrome cone that tapers outward. Beyond this an enormous mouth-blown Murano glass tube of vivid orange playfully redirects your view. Another portal is inspired by masks; the Venetian mask and legendary Australian bushranger Ned Kelly’s iron helmet, with its horizontal eye slit, to meld cultural references and create something new. In these ways, the visitor is transported momentarily “upside down at the bottom of the world”, as Australia was described by DH Lawrence, a quote that frames the dialogue within Somewhere Other.
For those making our installation ‘Somewhere Other’, the push and pull of our discussions and their constant guidance has created opportunities to both explore and refine. ‘Somewhere Other’ is a work of architecture in miniature, a compression of construction and detail that requires an intense focus of skill and ingenuity to realise in a short time frame. Furniture makers Jacaranda Industries and specialist steel fabricator Derek John worked together to assemble the object.
As it is an instrument for viewing, our collaborating filmmakers Coco and Maximilian needed to calibrate and refine the moments where moving images are revealed. The seamless placement of mirrors and the concealment of their presence was developed by artist Natasha Johns-Messenger.
Meticulously constructed in a factory, the object was then carefully deconstructed for shipping to Venice. A catalogue of pieces within a single container. Having survived the journey, the pieces were then reconstructed in the Arsenale by the original team. This process of making in Australia and re-making in Venice, and the generosity and spirit of the team, ties together both places with human endeavour. The last piece, a blown glass viewing chamber formed on the island of Murano by artisan Leonardo Cimolin, had a shorter journey to make. It is held in place, precariously, by steel rods in a way that is an apt illustration of the reliance of each participant upon many others.