Children’s installation provides froggy insights to waterways and wetlands

A site-engaged work will be landing at the Shepparton Art Museum to invite reflections on our ecosystem, but not without some serious fun.

As the only Victorian regional gallery with a dedicated Children’s Gallery, the Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) is inviting not only the littles ones, but also the young-at-heart to explore, engage and encounter works that combine playfulness with deeper reflections.

Exhibitions Curator Jessica O’Farrell told ArtsHub: ‘One thing we wanted to encourage [with this space] is that kind of cross-generational engagement. You don’t have to have kids to just be in that space.’

This was certainly the case with the Children’s Gallery’s opening project A Call to Echo by Amrita Hepi which activated the space with an irresistible desire to shake, move and dance among her video and wall installations.

Opening at SAM on 14 May is Melbourne based artist Vera Möller’s Liquidarium, an installation that is part research (with her background as a biologist) and part fantasy.

Möller explained in an artist statement: ‘In conceptualising the Liquidarium project, I wanted to create an installation environment where kids and other audiences felt invited to imagine a wetland or a billabong from the perspective of a frog or Rakali.’

She continued: ‘My hope is that in experiencing this installation and taking part in the various imbedded programs and “making” activities, the kids and older audiences will direct their attention outwards to explore and engage with the ecological niches of that amazing biosphere situated right outside.’

Liquidarium encompasses Möller’s creative interpretation of the surrounding lakes and wetlands of SAM on Yorta Yorta country, including Victoria Park Lake and the Goulburn River.

O’Farrell added: ‘What Vera is creating is this space that kids can enter, be inspired and create their own diorama displays. Something like those at natural history museums where you walk in and feel like you’re seeing a version of an ecosystem that exists in the natural world.’

Created from everyday materials including Aldi catalogs, magazines, and recycled paper, Möller’s installation is incredibly accessible for a broad audience. Through a series of activities tailored for toddlers up to teens, the participants will be able to get hands-on and create their own versions of an imagined wetland too.

Möller’s fantastical terrains will include large collages with plant forms and kinetic sculptures hanging from the ceiling – a space constantly in flux through moving and rotating objects just like our natural environment.

Ranging from animal imagery to a series of small collages depicting micro-organisms, visitors of all ages will find delight and wonder in Liquidarium, while the artist extends the invitation for them to step outside the gallery space and continue this exploration.

‘Vera aims to encourage thinking about conservation and engaging with these areas of natural environment that we move through daily,’ said O’Farrell. ‘There’re lots of different ways to engage with these natural world themes, but it’s then about how do you create that next step of encouraging kids to just kind of go wild and use their imagination as well.’

Liquidarium opens on 14 May through October, with full programming yet to be released. Check out the latest updates on Shepparton Museum of Art’s website.

Celina Lei is an Arts Writer at ArtsHub. She acquired her masters 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. Prior to joining ArtsHub, she was an editorial assistant at the Hong Kong based ArtAsiaPacific magazine and is an art host on independent Instagram platform Club Ambroise. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne, Victoria. Instagram: @lleizy_