Ruby Slipper @ Fiona Hall Big Game Hunting


Earlier in the year I had the privilege of attending an art-after-dark event at Heide MOMA as part of Fiona Hall’s exhibition ‘Big Game Hunting’. I found that I hadn’t yet shared the experience with you, but have convinced myself that it’s ‘better late than never’ when it comes blogging about this show of Hall’s recent works.


So let me set the scene. Reader, the night was dark and stormy. Driving up the Eastern Freeway through the hail and tentatively making my way through the dripping gardens of Heide, I was rewarded with a most impressive spread of champagne and cheese nibblies at Cafe Vue. The gallery and cafe were packed, and I was pleased to see a diversity of age in attendees. Heide even organised an animal handler, allowing visitors to stroke and get up-close-and personal with a friendly reptile. The exhibition IS called Big Game Hunting, after all.


Hall’s body of work is concerned with ecology and humanity’s use of the earth. She creates works which reuse mundane objects – think sardine containers, old uniforms and domestic objects such as toys and glassware. These objects are refashioned into objects with historical and contemporary resonance – powerfully political and beguiling, slowly enticing the viewer into dialogue on a range of difficult topics such as consumerism, colonialism and pollution.


A selection from Portrait of the Victor, a work in conversation with Fall Prey (a 21st century hunter’s den of modern-day trophies) – made at the end of a devastating 30-year-war between the Singhalese military and the Tamil Tigers. The artist first visited in 1999 on a residency, and has subsequently returned multiple times.


Works from Hall’s Kermadec series, following her exploration of the Kermadec Trench on the Pacific Ring of Fire.


For me, Barbarians At The Gate was the most moving of Hall’s installations. Taking up a full room, patterned in confusing bespoke camouflage. This work links the lives of bees (social insects) with the colonial concept of nation-building. Like nation-building humans, bees have spread their way into foreign climes, irreparably changing the ecology of the worlds they enter. Neatly, the term ‘drone’ is used to describe an unmanned surveillance or missile aircraft – as it is to describe the male honey bee.


Each nation taking part in military conflict in the middle east is represented here as totems of nationhood, resting above camouflaged beekeeping boxes.


Fiona Hall speaking on her body of work at the Big Game Hunting exhibition.


Mortality in the mundane is always near.


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