Collective Polyphony Festival
Seaweed Appreciation Society (SASi), Lichen Kelp, Jess Cockerill, Luna Mrozik Gawler (Cryptogamic Alliance), Collective Agitation, Camille Perry, Luca Zudich, Lara Young, Isabella Ford, Ecological Gyre Theory - Chantelle Mitchell and Jaxon Waterhouse
13 Sep–7 Oct 2023
Art collectives have become a transforming feature of the global art landscape over the past couple of decades, representing a shift towards an alternative way of operating. Diverging from the idealisation of individualism in art and society towards more supportive and collaborative structures, the concept behind artist collectives serves as a powerful symbolic and political gesture.
Collective Polyphony began when artist Nina Sanadze decided to give up her opportunity for a solo show at Gertrude Contemporary, to share the coveted space with members of her collective – Seven – as a way of initiating a positive rejection of the idea of elitism. Knowing that her ongoing move towards peace-building begins with community-building, Nina was creating the conditions for an organic cooperative model that serves as a symbolic action of unity, so desperately needed in today’s political landscape.
Having grown into a festival-like event celebrating and fostering artist collectives, Collective Polyphony will investigate modes of collective organisation and collaboration as a cornerstone and model of peace-building infrastructure and architecture in our polarised society. The event will present a series of socially engaged exhibitions, tiered openings, talks, workshops, performances and public events by various collectives across multiple art spaces in Victoria in September 2023. The project will also be documented in a formal publication and dedicated website.
Each collective will be encouraged to work within their unique themes and agendas to develop new work or show existing projects. With a particular focus on nurturing emerging and lesser-known artists, the event will benefit/present 10+ collectives, consisting of 50+ individual artists, from varying social demographics concerned with the most urgent social-political matters including indigenous, gender diverse and culturally diverse groups. The project will also be celebrating audience contribution and involvement through scheduled interactive activities.
Participating collectives currently include Seven Artist Collective, Parakind Collective, Seaweed Appreciation Society, Collective Agitation, Saluhem Collective, Women’s Art Register, Matter in Flux, Public Assembly and more to be confirmed. Participating exhibition spaces are Gertrude Glasshouse, Blindside, Seventh Gallery, Centre for Projection, Stockroom in Kyneton and Caspa Gallery in Castlemaine. The program will also include interventions in various public spaces.
Growing up within the Soviet communist regime and then living her adult life in democratic Australia, Nina Sanadze is interested in orchestrating an event that goes beyond politics by reconciling and harnessing any positive aspects that can be found in both systems. Other influences include existing examples of community, peer support, mutual trust and creative collaboration that can be seen naturally occurring within Indigenous communities as well as music collectives, among others, each providing an inspirational social template.
As a member of both Seven and Parakind collectives, Nina embraces the major role each has played in fostering and supporting her throughout her artistic career. Evolving naturally from her belief in the potential for creativity-based relationships to remedy problematic interpersonal experiences within politically and socially polarised communities, friend groups and even families, Collective Polyphony will explore ways of re-casting and overcoming points of difference in search of a more collaborative world.
Artistic Director Nina Sanadze
Curatorial Team Georgina Loughnan, Thomas Stoddard, Yu-zhen Cheng, Mia Palmer-Verevis, Xiaolin Chen
Photographer Astrid Mulder
Collective Polyphony Festival is founded upon the central idea of artists supporting artists as well as community and peace-building. Immerse yourself in the vibrant and inclusive event that will captivate Melbourne + Kyneton from 2 September till 28 October 2023. Throughout September 2023, staggered openings mark the launch of all exhibitions.
Modelling peace-building architecture and infrastructure, the Collective Polyphony Festival is a ground-breaking multi-space event that fosters and nurtures emerging and established artist collectives.This extraordinary gathering brings together 10 local and international artist collectives across 7 exhibition spaces, celebrating collective organisation and collaboration.
Collectives: Pitcha Makin Fellas, Gudskul: Ruangrupa, Serrum, Grafis Huru Hara collectives, ShrewD Collective, Chinese Museum Arts Collective, LAST Collective, Saluhan Collective, Collective Agitation, London Alternative Photography Collective, Seaweed Appreciation Society international, In-Kind Collective
Exhibition Spaces: Blindside (CBD), Gertrude Glasshouse (Collingwood), Daine Singer (Brunswick), Stockroom (Kyneton, VIC) , Testing Ground (CBD, Victoria Market), Mary Cherry (Collingwood), Seventh Gallery (Richmond)
For Collective Polyphony Festival exhibitions, each collective is encouraged to work within their unique themes and agendas to develop new work or show existing projects. Just as in music, where polyphony weaves together distinct melodies to create a harmonious whole, Collective Polyphony Festival embraces a narrative and artistic approach that welcomes multiple perspectives, voices, and ideas. At a time when communities are socially and politically fragmented, Collective Polyphony Festival seeks to reimagine the world through a multifaceted but united lens.
This program takes place on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We recognise that sovereignty was never ceded - this land is stolen land. We pay respects to Wurundjeri Elders, past, present and emerging, to the Elders from other communities and to any other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders who might encounter or participate in the program.
Seaweed Appreciation Society (SASi)Seaweed Appreciation Society international (SASi) are a mobile experimental platform dedicated to artistic research into seaweed and marine ecologies.
We host events that enhance appreciation for seaweed as a subject. Together with artists, scientists, philosophers, performers and those with a general interest in seaweed, we explore, query and celebrate interspecies conviviality between human and seaweed.
Through reading groups, residencies, talks, forages, feasts and field trips, SASi connects marine specialists with artists and creatives for open-ended conversations and collaborations.
SASi's work aims to cultivate attention to seaweed as a cultural, botanical and material actor. We explore seaweed itself, as well as its varied ecological, economic and political contexts
Artists Lichen Kemp, Jess Cockerill, Luna Mrozik Gawler (Cryptogamic Alliance).
Lichen KelpSeaweed Appreciation Society (SASi) founder and steward, Lichen Kelp is an artist, curator and DIY marine biologist. Her practice is most often situated in the aquatic realm and encompasses performance chemistry, photography, sculpture and curation. She performs with Kelping and runs Forum of Sensory Motion with partner Dylan Martorell. FSM held artist residencies and exhibitions in India in 2014 and 2016 and Greece in 2017. Lichen curated a trilogy of artist road trips to Whyalla, South Australia in 2018 and 2019 to witness the mating displays of the Giant Cuttlefish aggregation. In 2019 Lichen curated MULCH; a performance event for Ian Potter Foundation and established the Seaweed Appreciation Society international (SASi), a mobile experimental platform dedicated to the artistic research of marine algae. In her studio and live performances, she works with scientific principles of experimentation, colour chemistry and chemical reactions to investigate the materiality of process, replicating changing weather patterns and reimagining nature. Fluid and subversive experiments and performances arise and result in submersive liquid paintings combining bubbling solutions and localised flora. Otherworldly landscapes created by domestic ingredients and a lurid botanical palette disrupt our notions of beauty and the (un)natural.
Jess Cockerill is a multimedia artist, writer and creative producer based in Naarm (Melbourne, AU) whose projects explore the ecstasy and tension of interspecies connections.
Jess grew up near Mudurup (coastal Cottesloe, Western Australia), where their affinity with the ocean and its neighbouring ecosystems began. This fascination with the intertidal zone continues to leak into all aspects of their work.
Jess first became involved with SASi in 2021, creating a new logo for the society to embody the relationship between algae and artist. Their video collage fathoms (chlorophyta / phaeophyceae / rhodophyta) featured in the Ocean Portal group exhibition in August, 2021. Jess has continued to work with Lichen on digital design and writing for SASi.
Jess’s background in journalism, digital media and ecology is reflected in their interdisciplinary approach to creative practice, which spans video, animation, drawing, printmaking, installation, writing and design.
By traversing analogue and digital mediums, Jess disturbs the boundaries between nature and culture, subjects and objects, sea and shore.
Luna Mrozik Gawler (Cryptogamic Alliance)Luca Lana is a registered architect, lecturer and founder of Q Studios with a focus on queer urban spaces. In 2018 he designed and fabricated a portable sauna launched at MPavillion Monash. In 2020 Lichen and Luca collaborated on a design for The Algalsphere; a seaweed bath and public artwork that combines SASi’s algae awareness raising with the alchemical, experiential nature of Lichen’s work and Luca’s architectural investigation of public bathing.
Collective Agitation is a community of artists and chemists researching and sharing alternative photographic techniques that centre ecologically sustainable innovations. We believe that creating interdisciplinary conversations between analog photography and chemistry is fundamental in addressing the ecological concerns which arise with analog image-making. In an environmental crisis it is critical to perceive the toxic traditions of practice as a call to action, in a bid to develop sustainable alternatives. We use local and regenerative native (and also invasive) species to address environmental concerns associated with the use of traditional photochemistry while integrating the ethical implications of photographic practice on situated ecologies.
Interdisciplinary group composed of Camille Perry, Luca Zudich, Lara Young and Isabella Ford.
Camille Perry is a Melbourne based artist whose practice archives the material impact humanity is having on our climate and environment, while simultaneously grappling with my accumulative obsession with the botanic. Perry archives the multisensory renditions of suburban Melbourne's contemporary condition and come home to her hoard of 120 plants. The harsh chemicals intrinsic to the darkroom process grounds her in the hypocrisy of her own practice and the undeniable consumerism that art participates in. Ultimately, using photographic film allows her to step away from the immediate gratification that, as a society, we have become so reliant on. Consequently, I end up obsessively developing negatives late into the evening in my rundown Coburg shed.
Camille Perry graduated from VCA in 2020 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Photography).
Luca Zudich is a chemistry student living in Naarm/Melbourne who holds a BSc in Chemistry and has just begun his MSc, undertaking it in a synthetic organic chemistry group. Luca began working in a photographic lab in the past year, and as such has only recently been exposed to the vast, and confronting world of analogue photography. As a chemistry student, his eye is drawn to the more technical aspects of the work; Luca sees photography as a unique marriage of chemistry with the aesthetic and cultural importance that these processes can wield in the hands of artists. Working in a photographic lab, has exposed him to the ethically dubious side of analogue photography that many users, both past and contemporary, remain oblivious to: the abundance of waste, be it physical and chemical; the industrialisation and commercialisation of what is art and the often-compromising working conditions that laboratory staff are exposed to. As a scientist who has been educated in an ecological crisis, Lucas uses his knowledge and expertise to consider sustainable innovations within photographic practice.
Lara Young is a third-year science student hailing from Ngunawal country/ Canberra. Her studies in biochemistry, ecology and archaeology have consolidated a holistic perspective on the interactions of human scientific innovation with the natural and anthropological worlds. With a special interest in unconventional applications of her formal training in biological sciences and chemistry, Lara has developed a fondness for alternative chemical problem solving in analogue film. With a curiosity for the potential of collaboration in the sciences and creative arts, Lara hopes to develop and investigate further integration through work with others in these spaces.
Isabella Ford is an artist, situated in Naarm/Melbourne. Ford’s practice is founded upon a deep belief in art making as a catalyst for change making, and a vessel for communication, shared experience, storytelling and empowerment. Her practice interrogates the role art has within our current environmental crisis, and questions traditional photographic practices, their environmental impact, and relations to material and toxicity. These concerns inform a practice which seeks to uncover and develop sustainable alternatives to photographic traditions, which instead of polluting our natural environment, provide viable and exciting alternatives in which art making is not only in direct communication with the land on which it is created on, but also protects and gives back to earth.
Ecological Gyre Theory - Chantelle Mitchell and Jaxon WaterhouseChantelle Mitchell and Jaxon Waterhouse are researchers and artists based in Narrm and the Western Desert, respectively. They work across academic and contemporary arts settings through their research project Ecological Gyre Theory. They have presented numerous exhibitions across so-called Australia for universities and artist-run spaces including Watch this Space, Blindside, Spectrum ECU, the University of Melbourne, and Airspace Projects (among others) engaging with the confluence of rivers and tides; earthquakes, landslides and the movement of the earth; historic whaling and future petrocultural industries; communication across oceans and place with semaphore; geologic movement and interstellar matter. They are the 2023 curators in residence for Monash University’s MADA Gallery. Additionally, they are recipients of the 2023 City of Melbourne Test Sites Development grant and guest editors for Swamphen: a journal of cultural ecology, and their work has appeared in un Magazine, e-flux, Green Letters, art+Australia, on_Culture, and Unlikely Journal, amongst others, with chapters for publications with Bloomsbury and Edinburgh University Press forthcoming in 2023. They have delivered lectures and pedagogical programs through academic and arts institutions within Australia and abroad.
Nina Sanadze’s artistic practice is dedicated to peacebuilding, often including narratives built upon personal stories from within the experience of conflict; a wall of remembering that acts as a fortification against repeating histories. Presenting appropriated original artefacts, blunt replicas or films as witnesses and evidence, she seeks to re-examine grand political narratives from a diametric personal position. Deploying any appropriate medium, Sanadze’s work responds to the most immediate socio-economic and political global developments with urgency. Described as “conceptual art dressed in classical form” her projects manifest themselves as sizeable installations and social practice.