Collaborative installation with Meredith Hughes in response to the 2019- 2020 megafires
Tuggeranong Arts Centre, ACT
Dark Euphoria 2021
cast ground charcoal dimensions variable
Video and photos:
courtesy of Tuggeranong Art Centre
Video text: written and spoken by Zsuzsi Soboslay
To have and to hold.
Dark Euphoria: an exhibition in homage to the Black Summer bushfires.
SA Adair and Meredith Hughes
Tuggeranong Arts Centre, 14 August- 18 September 2021
Euphoria (n.) 1727, a physician's term for "condition of feeling healthy and comfortable (especially when sick)," medical Latin, from Greek euphoria” power of enduring easily," from euphoros, literally "bearing well".
A room of objects spread across a pearlescent ground. The vessels hold the darkness of the void; the black of old man crow, portal to the spirit world. As in the work of Anish Kapoor, to look at these objects is almost to look through them, into the vastness of time. The carpet of broken eggshells illuminates the life of each cast, but also pays respect to the original object’s demise. The casts are activated mnemonics of events that ravaged the New South Wales south coast, during the Black Summer bushfires.
The exhibition is an experience of contrasts: vases, irons, cooking vessels, coat hangers, hammers, scissors, shampoo bottles: the familiar made strange, the artists moving from salvaging, to repair, to casting, peeling, drying, then re-display. These are transformative acts that journey from recovery through contemplation to conjecture: from domestic space, to exhibition, what have we now?
The exhibition rests on/in several oxymora: the yoking of ‘dark’ with ‘euphoria’, of solace and comfort with nostalgia and loss. This is the work: of our endurance. If archaeology is usually thought of as an uncovering of stories buried in time, then the current exhibition is a kind of reverse archaeology, and enacts uncovering, re-covering, replicating and in the end, transformation via restorying.
The term Solastalgia—a term important to both artists--was first coined by the Australian environmental researcher Glenn A. Albrecht, and refers to the “pain or distress caused by the loss of a comforting place”. It connects to Hippocrates’ notion that human health is closely connected to a healthy environment, and to conceptions of the interrelatedness of land, health and heart. The exhibition celebrates these interconnections but also asks, what are we left with when almost nothing remains?
The glistening fractured eggshells, whilst representing death, also hint to new life, a kind of return. Adair and Hughes talk about the careful tread across ashen ground, the cups of tea, their conversations, the ironing-out of their intentions, and their hope-full call out to members of the community to share their own responses and stories.
The Tibetan Buddhist practice of the Heart Sutra, a prayer on emptiness that is yet a prayer to the fulness of things, is as follows:
Form is emptiness
Emptiness is form
Emptiness is not other than form; form is no other than emptiness
In the same way, feeling, discrimination, compositional factors and consciousness are empty.
As with meditation, the process by which Adair and Hughes have created this exhibition has been a labour, a paying attention to the fragility of shape, the emptiness of form and how we touch it; and an homage to our passions, our need for comfort, the stories in our soils and the hearth that once cooked dinners in our homes. The work stretches across eighteen months of time, but also retains a kitchen-intimacy. Here now, remembering a bowl of food, a pot of tea, a shared activity, a back-fence yarn. The artists invite re-growth in the process of attending.
Zsuzsi Soboslay, Art Doula,
8 August 2021
Heart Sutra, translated from sgrub thabs kun btus (Vol.6), pp 134-136, by Tsharpa Lochen Lama Choedak Rinpoche, Canberra, October 2005