Sounding Histories Exhibition

Opening hours: 12th to 27th October   11am – 6pm daily

In 2017, the Mission to Seafarers celebrates 100 years of service in the heritage-listed building at 717 Flinders Street, Docklands. Serving a special place in the life and community of those who live and work at sea, the dedicated team of staff and volunteers have provided comfort, a friendly face and sense of community to the thousands of seafarers who visit Port Melbourne annually.

To mark the date this architectural treasure was opened on September 11, 1917, historical research and art will merge when a group of artists presents ‘Sounding Histories’- a site responsive mixture of performance, video, archival, installation, sound, participation and text launching on Monday September 11, 6pm- 10pm.

A joint research initiative with Deakin University, the exhibition is curated by Anne Wilson and Cameron Bishop and the participating artists are Maree Clarke, Bishop and Reis, Catherine Bell, Michael Needham, Michael Greaves and The Rogue Academy. The artists have connected with the building and interpreted a unique aspect by drawing on the Mission’s rich and diverse history. “The project aims to draw attention to its possibilities as a cultural centre and its significance as one of the few historic building/facilities in the Docklands area,” Anne Wilson said.

Maree Clarke’s ‘River Reed Canoe’ celebrates a much older history and references the water of the Yarra before it was altered to bring the large ships into dock.

My work is about regenerating cultural practices, making people aware of our culture, and that we are really strong in our culture, identity and knowledge. We haven’t lost anything; some of these practices have just been laying dormant for a while.

Bishop and Reis are public art collaborators whose work injects humour into the historical references of ‘Sounding Histories’. Using bespoke design modules, video, live feed and greenscreen, their project will link the viewer with unsteady spaces, conveying a sense of dislocation.

Artist Catherine Bell has created a site-specific installation called “The Seafarer Sex” (2017), which consists of a bookcase with 26 coffee mugs, each telling the story of a female seafarer. Located in the Flying Angel Club, seafarers and all visitors are encouraged to use the mugs throughout the duration of the exhibition.

Generated specifically for the chapel at the Mission to Seafarers, Michael Needham’s work consists of two sculptural components: a pile of cast-lead rocks in the centre isle on the floor, and a large floating anchor suspended from the ceiling. The work is a response to the function of the chapel as a sanctuary for nomadic workers of the sea.

Michael Graeve is drawn to the contrasting interplay of sea/land, movement/stillness, adventure/safety, work/pleasure and has built on these poetic tensions to guide the composition of a spatialised sound installation and performance. These new sounds will briefly inhabit the Norla Dome and ricochet around the curved walls during his Opening Night performance.

The Rogue Academy is a social and participatory agency run by artists Amanda Shone and Fiona Lee that is working with the Mission’s volunteers to rethink the capacity of volunteering as a form of social engagement and unpaid labour in the 21st century. For Opening Night, they will host a casual dinner for Mission volunteers and their families, offering a hearty meal that would be the envy of the Ladies of the Harbour Lights Guild. As seats become available seafarers and members of the public will be invited to join in the conversation, and adding to the atmosphere will be three seafaring knotters.

Finally, the iconic Painters and Dockers will also perform on the night drawing attention to the labour and struggles of those who made up the foundational industries and seafarers.

A Deakin University and Mission to Seafarers Victoria research initiative and public art event.

You are invited to attend to view the site responsive artworks and performances.

Entry is by donation.

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