The Hardest Drought: Mildura Palimpsest Biennale No. 10

Mildura Palimpsest Biennale No. 10 was a complex proposition. Themed Everywhere, all at once… here, it featured the artists’ program Unmapping the end of the world, and a symposium program called Art is a time machine, all designed to open critical discourse on the question of global intercultural contemporaneity. The tension between complication and complexity was an active one across the long weekend experience, with my own response culminating in the extended time I spent with Kyle Walker’s The Hardest Drought (2015).

The Hardest Drought is a playful series of objects that evoke the shapes and lines of rural Victoria’s built forms. Abstractions of irrigation machinery, water reservoirs, silos, flood markers, power lines and all manner of large-scale structures over expansive landscape are presented in materials and a colour palette that suggests clarity, system, play.

Each object proposes a function, a moment, a technique, a distraction, a part to an unknown whole. Set in an entirely reconfigurable plane, these abstractions of industrial objects become objects of curiosity. Every piece is set without any adhesion, bolt or plinth, so that the entire work occupies its space with a glorious tentativeness – in contrast to the great weight with which the masses evoked by each piece rest on their various grounds.

During the opening, I delight in hearing the artist respond to questions about his work. “Is this a grain silo?” / “Well, the lines come from grain silos and other structures…” The refusal to identify particular crafted objects with particular industrial objects is a joy to hear, and I notice my own gaze returning to object after object with new perceptions. Kyle’s position on abstraction is refreshingly clear: “To create abstractly is to admit that one knows very little. It is to submit to something messy and uncontrollable.. [S]olid opinions, both political and aesthetic, seem farcical and outdated.”

At one point I notice that he himself is delighting in a child’s response, wilfully upsetting the finely-set balance of one of the pieces, only to have to sit and watch Kyle painstakingly replace the pieces as she eagerly awaited the next opportunity for disruptive play. Abstraction offers ever-new means for attaining ever-sharper modes of precision.

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Some seventy local and international artists presented work in Mildura Palimpsest Biennale No. 10, with a strong focus on Indigenous art, and there’s plenty of discussion to track back on following #MilduraBiennale.

 

The Hardest Drought (2015), Kyle Walker, mixed media, dimensions variable. Exhibited at the ADFA Gallery, Mildura, as part of Mildura Palimpsest Biennale No. 10, 2-5 October 2015. Photographs by Esther Anatolitis.

Declaration of interest: A project that was presented as part of Mildura Palimpsest Biennale No. 10 was supported by the Regional Arts Fund which in Victoria is delivered by Regional Arts Victoria, of which I am Director. I was not present for and did not participate in any decision-making about this grant, and nor have I mentioned the work that was supported. Arts Mildura, the parent organisation of Mildura Palimpsest Biennale, is a member of Regional Arts Victoria. As part of the symposium program, I facilitated a conversation between Sasha Huber and Petri Saarikko in Melbourne on 15.09.2015.