Dust removal from ‘Flood of the Darling, 1890’ by W.C. Piguenit - Gabriella Hirst - Darling Darling
Stories & Ideas

Fri 30 Apr 2021

Two realms of understanding: Gabriella Hirst on 'Darling Darling'

Art Australia Commission Exhibition Meet the makers
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Gabriella Hirst presents two contrasting visions of the Barka Darling River in dialogue with each other: the detailed work by art conservators to restore a 19th century painting, and the environmental crisis facing the river today.


Darling Darling was commissioned by ACMI and the Ian Potter Cultural Trust under the ACMI Ian Potter Moving Image Commission.

So, Darling Darling is a two screen moving image work. On one side there is a documentary style film showing the careful conservation of a painting in the Art Gallery New South Wales permanent collection called WC Piguenit's Flood of the Darling 1890.

The care for this particular painting contrasts to the film on the other side which shows the same region shown in the painting which has been damaged and mismanaged.

So,' Darling Darling' was filmed on the unceded lands of the Barkandji people, also on the unceded lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.

I was really privileged to spend time with and be guided by Barkandji Elder, artist and activist Uncle Badger Bates who shared with me knowledge of his country. I was guided on where to film and where not to film and was assisted in understanding some of the stories that these images that I'm showing might be also telling.

The Barka Darling region has suffered from the vast quantities of extraction of water upstream for large scale cotton agriculture and other kind of very thirsty crops. This extraction of water deprives communities, the Barkandji communities and small farming communities and has drastic impacts on those regions.

I started to wonder about what it means that certain objects are treated a certain way and cared for a certain way and what narratives that care might hide.

It seems very telling that in so-called Australia we keep paintings of the what is outside of the gallery's walls. We keep them so carefully contained and static considering that everything outside is so dynamic and that distinction seems so clear.

I'm not advocating for, you know, that all paintings should suddenly be let to rot. That's not what this work is by any means about but I'm interested in scrutinising how control and capture function within an art – a Western art – ideology.

This work creates a dichotomy care, lack of care and that would be perhaps your first impression upon seeing this work.

What I hope that viewers experiencing this work will appreciate is that I'm interested in a grey area between these two different realms as well, these two different understandings and these two different treatments.

About the Commission

Australia's most significant commission for moving image art, the Ian Potter Moving Image Commission (IPMIC) is an initiative of the Ian Potter Cultural Trust and ACMI. The Commission provides $100,000 from The Ian Potter Cultural Trust as well as specialised curatorial, production and presentation expertise to an Australian artist. Each commissioned work will also be accessioned into the ACMI Collection, sitting alongside works by major Australian and international artists.

About the Ian Potter Cultural Trust

Established in 1993 by The Ian Potter Foundation to encourage and support the diversity and excellence of emerging and early career Australian artists. About Gabriella Hirst Gabriella Hirst (she/her) was born and grew up on Cammeraygal land (Australia) and is currently living between Berlin and London. She works primarily with moving image, performance, and with the garden as a site of critique and care. Gabriella's practice and research explores connections between various manifestations of capture and control – spanning plant taxonomies, landscape painting, art conservation and nuclear history.

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