Exhibition review: To the Sounds, Josephine Mead

Combining photography, prose and sound, Josephine Mead's solo exhibition creates a reflective haven in the bustling CBD.

Above the hustle of Bourke St in Melbourne’s CBD, Void_Melbourne hosts a transportive solo exhibition of Josephine Mead, with the multi-disciplinary artist turning to sound as medium and mediation.

After entering through intercom and a set of stairs in the historic building (which used to house Bank of New South Wales), the space opens up to a serene landscape accompanied by seashells mounted on fabricated podiums of Tasmanian oak and the flowing sound of chimes.

Surrounding them are blown up photographs of glistening ocean waves as Mead examines water as a metaphor for love, connection and communication.

In a piece of earlier writing (The Debutante Journal, Issue 02, 2020), Mead expressed the urge to heighten the sensual and metaphorical power of water from a femme point of consciousness, and to this end her ocean photographs exemplify colour, texture and perhaps even density – a vehicle carrying the weight of meaning.

‘Water is with us and in us and around us. We exist within the oceans of those who swam before us, buoyed by their potential and power. My gestures of making were attempts to define myself within the salty waters of my own becoming. I was listening intently to the sounds of the waves. Women are fluvial, fluid, flowing, fluctuating, feeling, fostering, falling, fissuring, flickering, flourishing, flooding and fascinating beings.’>Josephine Mead, ‘Working Through Surrealist Score’, The Debutante Journal, Issue 02, 2020

Flowing across themes of love, longing, and family, Mead’s prose serves as lyrics to the exhibition’s visual and audio melody. It is within this space that viewers can turn inward through the guidance of sound and writing, a component that Mead expressed is integral to the exhibition. One part speaks to resonance, but also the way in which the exhibition extends an invitation to its viewers:

‘To resonate: re-sonare. To sound again – with the immediate implication of a doubling. Sound and its double: sent back to use reflected by surfaces, diffracted by edges and corners … But to resonate is also to vibrate with sound, in unison, in synchronous oscillation. To marry with its shape, amplifying a common destiny…’

With this in mind, Mead opens up a different possibility for the audio experience, one that has the potential to block out, refocus and redirect with intent towards an atmosphere of tranquility and care.

Curiously not far over at ACCA, Frances Barrett’s (who happen to be Mead’s Honours supervisor at Monash University) Meatus delves deep into the impact of audio experiences. If the ear is an ‘open wound’, as Barrett cited the phrase from audiologist Myriam Westcott, then Mead’s To the Sounds is a thoughtful remedy to the overwhelming idea that we have no autonomy over the sounds that we consume (or consumes us).

Read: Exhibition review: Frances Barrett, Meatus

Installation view, Josephine Mead, To the Sounds at Void_Melbourne. Photo: ArtsHub.

To this end, the shuffling of feet and the sound of wind from Melbourne’s late autumn sky combined with Mead’s sonic installations all make this exhibition one that needs to be experienced rather than simply ‘seen’, as does Barrett’s Meatus.

This reviewer’s experience was disrupted, or perhaps heightened, when below on the streets, a group of anti-vax protesters shouted their rallies. I quietly retreated to Mead’s oasis, thankful for the opportunity to redirect, with intention, to the sounds at hand.

To the Sounds, Josephine Mead


Open until 2 July; free.

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. She took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs and was the project manager of ArtsHub’s diverse writers initiative, Amplify Collective. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne. Instagram @lleizy_