A program of knowledge exchange and sharing
Arts House, Melbourne and Utp, Sydney collaboratively designed a 10-month long spacious program for a transgenerational cohort of 5 artists from VIC and 5 artists from NSW to share ideas and work nationally and internationally, connect with artistic peers from the Southwest Asia and North Africa (SWANA) region and decentralise shared learnings with their local communities of practice.
Counterflows aimed to recentre the artist’s agency in planetary conversations and empower them to engage with history, alterity, geopolitics and society in their contemporary present through their practice, process, voice and tools.
The program began in Bankstown with a 3-day reflective practice intensive bringing complex questions into focus through critical dialogue and practice sharing around the Sharjah Biennale 15’s curatorial theme, Thinking Historically in the Present. Embedding methods of open inquiry and peer exchange, this intensive harnessed rigour in imagination, practice and relation, and also serve as a preparatory segment for the international trip. Hosted by UTP and guest artists and curators with a grounding in Western Sydney.
In March 2023, the artists spent two weeks in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, for Sharjah Art Foundation’s March Meeting 2023 at Sharjah Biennial 15. The visit included a semi-structured itinerary including guided walkthroughs of Art Dubai and Sharjah Biennial 15 with the curatorial team, participation in a public program with visiting artists and thinkers, studio visits with local artists in the region, walking place and critical writing workshops with Rahel Aima, practice sharing session at 421 Warehouse, networking dinners and allied site visits.
Upon return and with time for the ideas to percolate, Arts House hosted a week-long lab with Australian artists who exhibited at the Sharjah Biennale to discuss their expansive bodies of work through the filter of Okwui Enwezor’s proposition of ‘postcolonial constellations’ and its pluriverse of key concepts. This was an opportunity for the cohort to interrogate, translate and build new solidarities through artistic strategies and radical pedagogies.
Finally, Arts House and Utp will consolidate a distributed learning reader through an open access and interdisciplinary publication with Runway Journal that disseminates the knowledge constellated by the participating artists of this program. This will be launched in May 2024.
Counterflows is an initiative of Arts House’s Equity–Builder.
Top image description: A person standing with their back to the camera addresses a small, seated audience.
Eddie Abd lives on Darug and Gundungurra Country. She is the recipient of the 2021 Blake Emerging Artist Award and has exhibited at Firstdraft, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre and Peacock Gallery. She is an arts worker with a background in broadcast journalism. Eddie studied painting at the National Institute of Fine Arts (Lebanon) and has completed a Bachelor of Digital Media (UNSW).
Akil Ahamat is a Sri Lankan Malay artist, filmmaker and arts worker currently based on Ngunnawal & Ngambri land. Akil’s work across video, sound, performance and installation considers the physical and social isolation of online experience and its effects in configuring contemporary subjectivity. Among their research influences, they draw especially on the use of ASMR in online spaces as a self-administered therapeutic tool, translating its restorative effects into intimate audio experiences.
Tarik Ahlip is an artist living and practicing on Dharug land. He has a background in Architecture and works across sculpture, film and verse. Recent projects include the short film Paradise, commissioned by West Space (Melbourne) as a solo presentation; and Phosphorus, a solo presentation at Verge Gallery (Sydney). He is currently a tenant at Parramatta Artist Studios, Rydalmere and in 2022 was awarded a Creative Fellowship Grant by the City of Parramatta.
Dr Paola Balla is an artist, curator, academic & writer. Her practice-led research situates the ways Aboriginal women artists & activists disrupt artistic terra nullius by speaking back and ‘blak’ to patriarchal and colonial narratives. Paola teaches Indigenous Studies, education & art at Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Centre, Victoria University & co-founded the Indigenous Arts and Cultural Program & Wominjeka Festival at Footscray Community Arts 2010.
In 2022, Paola was selected for Rising Festival Indigenous Melbourne Art Trams program. Exhibitions include; Wilam Biik, (2021), Tarra Warra Museum of Art, Treaty, (2022) Wyndham Arts & Cultural Centre, Sovereign Sisters; Domestic Work, FUMA (2022), Disrupting Artistic Terra Nullius (PhD exhibition), Footscray Community Arts, (2019;) In Character, Verge, Sydney, (2019); Lucky, Bundoora Homestead, (2018); Next Matriarch at TARNANTHI: Adelaide, (2017); Walan Yinaagirbang - Strong women, First Draft, Sydney, (2017); State of the Nation, Counihan Gallery, Melbourne.
Publications include: Artlink Indigenous Kanarn Wangkiny/Wanggandi Karlto (Speaking from inside) (2018) SBS & NITV online (2019) Oceania (2018) Metro Magazine, (2019) Writing & Concepts (Art + Australia), (2017) Cordite Poetry (2017) & co-edited Blak Brow, Blak Women’s Edition (2018) Artlink- Indigenous-Visualising Sovereignty (2021) with Ali Gumillya Baker. She co-authored Community arts for critical community psychology praxis, Towards decolonisation and Aboriginal self-determination (2021) & curatorial projects include Executed in Franklin Street, City Gallery, Melbourne (2014) & Sovereignty (2016) and Unfinished Business: Perspectives on art and feminism (2017) at ACCA.
Jagath Dheerasekara is an Amnesty International Human Rights Fund Grant recipient. He was granted political asylum in France in the early 90s when he had to leave Sri Lanka due to his activism in human rights and politics. He settled in Australia with his family in 2008. Jagath’s interdisciplinary work is informed by his personal and collective memory, incidents of fragility of the principles of humanity and colonisation. He has presented his work in a number of solo and group exhibitions. Jagath lives and works on Gundangurra country in western Sydney.
Samira Farah is a creative producer and broadcaster. She hosts a weekly show on Melbourne radio station Triple R that focuses on the intersection of pop culture and media, through gender and race.
Jody Haines (tommeginne/palawa) is a contemporary artist based in Naarm/Melbourne who combines elements of social practice, photomedia, and public art in her work. She is known for her large-scale public activations or “big face in public space” work, which is deeply rooted in Indigenous feminist new materialism and explore themes of identity, representation, and the female gaze. Jody has collaborated with local communities on various projects nationally and has received commissions from organisations such as Creative Victoria, Collide &Hickory Group, Horizon Festival and Women of The World. Her work has been featured in key exhibitions and is included in public and private collections. Additionally, Haines is a PhD candidate at RMIT School of Art, a committee member of Arts West Alliance and a board member of Composite: Moving Image Agency and Media Bank.
Gillian Kayrooz is an artist based in Sydney; between unceded Gadigal and Dharug land, whose practice reflects her personal experience and ongoing engagement with local communities. Kayrooz’s work is collaborative; she invites members of the community to contribute authentic impressions, in a bottom-up rather than top-down conception of history and place. In 2018 she was awarded the Create NSW Young Creative Leaders Fellowship which led her to exhibit internationally in the Asia-Pacific region and complete residencies in both China and Japan. Her installation, video and photographic work has been shown extensively in solo and group exhibitions across Australia, including spaces such as Firstdraft, UTP, The Powerhouse Museum, Casula Powerhouse and Artspace. She was appointed Co-Director of Firstdraft in 2021 and most recently concluded a summer solo exhibition at the Murray Art Museum in Albury.
Eugenia Lim is an Australian artist of Chinese-Singaporean heritage who works across body, lens, social and spatial practice to explore how migration, capital and encounter cut, divide and bond our interdependent world. Based on unceded lands in the Kulin Nation, Lim has shown at the Tate Modern (London), LOOP (Barcelona), Recontemporary (Turin), Kassel Dokfest, Museum of Contemporary Art (Syd), ACCA, Next Wave, FACT (Liverpool), and EXiS (Seoul). She co-founded CHANNELS Festival, co-wrote and hosted Video Becomes Us on ABC iView and is a former co-director at APHIDS. Lim has been artist-in-residence with the Experimental Television Centre (NY), Bundanon Trust, 4A Beijing Studio, and Gertrude Contemporary. Lim is a 2022 Sidney Myer Creative Fellow and winner of Charlottenborg Spring’s 2022 Deep Forest Art Land Award.
Roberta Joy Rich
Roberta Joy Rich is an African-Australian multi-disciplinary artist based in Narrm (Melbourne). Raised on Wathaurong country, she often references her diaspora southern African identity and experiences, drawing heavily on storytelling with a focus on oral connections through communal knowledge systems. Utilising language, archives and sometimes satire in video, print, installation and mixed media projects, her practice draws from various epistemologies to engage with notions of “authenticity”, with the aim of deconstructing colonial modalities and proposals of self-determination.
Since completing an MFA in 2013 at Monash University, Roberta has exhibited widely in Narrm, interstate and across South Africa. Recent exhibitions include WE KOPPEL, WE DALA; Metro Arts (2019), The Fairest Cape? An account of a Coloured; Firstdraft (2019), a finalist in the Incinerator Art Award (2020), her most recent solo exhibition The Purple Shall Govern; Footscray Community Arts in partnership with the Australia Centre for Contemporary Art (2022) and co-curated And she was wearing trousers at Arts House (2022) that presented the work of local and internationally based African artists. Roberta participated in a creative development grant supported by Ian Potter Cultural Trust and ACMI (2021) towards an new moving image work underway and will be participating in an upcoming residency at Cemeti in Yogyakarta, Indonesia as part of the Debra Porch Award (2020).
Rahel Aima is a writer, editor and critic based in Dubai. She is editor of BXD: The Postwestern Review, a consulting editor at Momus, and was the founding co-editor of THE STATE. Her writing has appeared in 4 Columns, Artforum, Art Agenda, Art in America, Artnet, Artnews, ArtReview, The Atlantic, e-flux architecture, Frieze, Harper’s Bazaar Art Arabia, The Nation, New Republic and Vogue Arabia, among many others. She regularly contributes exhibition texts, catalog essays and book chapters. Rahel was a recipient of the 2018 Creative Capital Arts Writers grant. She is currently at work on a collection of essays about the Khaleeji Ideology, techtopian environmentalism and where oil meets water in the Arabian Gulf.