Contemporary art meets the bush at Siteworks 2014

Chloe Wolifson

Siteworks, established by the Bundanon Trust, is a celebration of contemporary art, science and the environment.
Contemporary art meets the bush at Siteworks 2014

Innergarden, De Quincey Co. Image: Wendy Kimpton

As the weather warms, the thoughts of urban-dwellers turn to that much-needed weekend getaway. Those in the know have long enjoyed taking the short drive out of Sydney to visit Bundanon, Arthur and Yvonne Boyd’s beloved gift to the Australian people, whose treasures include the Homestead and its gallery, nestled among pristine bushland near Nowra, NSW.

Bundanon has long played host to artists-in-residence. Now, for the first time, savvy visitors can make like the artists themselves and stay onsite at Bundanon during the Siteworks festival over 27-28 September, to experience the launch of new site-specific works by esteemed practitioners across the creative fields.

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Siteworks, established in 2008, is a celebration of contemporary art, science and the environment, bringing new work created on and for the Bundanon site, to audiences annually. Bundanon Trust Chief Programs Officer John Baylis explained that 'it’s a unique event that could only happen at Bundanon, one of the few places where artists, the environment and the scientific community can connect.'

During the day, while the adults are immersing themselves in the conversation series led by ABC Science’s Robyn Williams, kids can enjoy science and artmaking activities, or join their parents at the ‘citizen science’ event BioBlitz. The spectacular site-specific artworks, which will come alive on the Saturday evening, promise to appeal to young and old alike.

Baylis explains that most of the artists’ works were developed with the night-time environment in mind. 'We wanted to enable the audience to experience that without having to worry about driving home. We’ll have a bar and café so people can eat, have a drink and experience the night sky and the artworks.'

For one such work, the Bundanon Homestead will play host to an interactive live projection piece, Creature, created by Stalker Theatre. The company have animated imagery which they gathered from the site. Local inhabitants such as insects and the ubiquitous wombat will play a starring role alongside viewers themselves. 'By moving their bodies in front of it, [audience members] will actually affect the projection. As well as being a beautiful work to look at … the interactive aspect will make it quite magical,' Baylis said.

Artistic Director of Stalker Theatre, David Clarkson enthused: ‘Being able to use Arthur Boyd’s house for our work is a great privilege. Its sandstone wall creates a wonderful canvas for us to bring together Bundanon’s natural wildlife and the latest technology.’

Creature promises to foreground notions of biodiversity and connectedness to place, as do works in the program by De Quincey Co. The respected dance company have developed the twin works Mountain, featuring performer Victoria Hunt, and Water, with Peter Fraser. Baylis explains that Hunt and Fraser will place themselves in a tree and lake respectively for the performances, 'making work that is both human artefact but also resonant of the natural environment.'

Back on solid ground, Janet Laurence, celebrated for her public artworks around Australia and globally, will unveil a new site-specific work, Treelines Track. The work is a result of collaboration with workers involved with reclaiming the local bushland from the scourge of lantana through the Living Landscape project. Tracing the outcomes of this project, Laurence’s track leads the audience on a walk through the landscapes of Bundanon, highlighting the ways the site has changed over time.

Baylis explains that Laurence 'has planted a number of trees along this walk, so the work itself will change and develop over the next 10 years as the trees grow. At Siteworks Janet will introduce the work to audiences, walk with them and talk about the work. It’s a great opportunity to get an insight into one of the country’s greatest artists in this field [as well as being] a great way to see the site.'

Black Nectar has been created by artists Keith Armstrong and Lawrence English and their collaborators, ecologists Peggy Eby and Heidi Millington, and sound designer Luke Lickfold. The artists will lead the audience through the moonless night up beyond the ridgeline behind the Homestead and deep into the bush. The work itself takes place in a clearing, and Baylis explained that 'the artists have created an environment which depends on the audience having very keen senses, they will be very attuned to the smallest amount of light and the smallest sounds, and the artists will be using that to present … the natural environment that they’re experiencing with the artists' own small interventions.'

On the Sunday of Siteworks Arthur Boyd’s studio will be open to the public as it is every Sunday, while throughout the weekend the Homestead Gallery will play host to Rosemary Laing’s photographic suite The Paper, which was created at Bundanon and has since been exhibited internationally. This cohabitation of contemporary work alongside Boyd’s own artistic legacy injects a special dynamism into Siteworks.

And if that weren’t enough to convince you, allow Baylis the last word: 'Siteworks is a mixture of an arts festival and a family day out. It’s a chance to get out in the open air, with good food, good wine, and have great art around you and the stars above you.'

Siteworks 2014
Bundanon homestead and grounds
27-28 September
For details, visit here.

About the author

Chloe Wolifson is a Sydney-based independent art writer and curator who works across artist-run, commercial and public domains.

chloewolifson.com