Indefinite Substitution, 2014

Public participatory actions between four sites: Sorrento, Indented Head, Eastern Beach and the Geelong Gallery; with two wet clay busts, five pairs of wooden platforms, and transportation by boat, ute, custom-made trolley, and hand, conducted over four days, 6 — 9 July.

Commissioned by NETS Victoria for The Cinemas Project curated by Bridget Crone, culminating in the Geelong Gallery.

Exh.: The Cinemas Project, curated by Bridget Crone and also including: Brook Andrew, Mikala Dwyer, Bianca Hester, and Lily Hibberd, at the Geelong Gallery, 6 — 9 July (with the entire project running 12 April — 9 July and taking place at several sites across Victoria), 2014.


Exchange between Sorrento and Indented Head across Port Phillip Bay

Indefinite substitution was a set of participatory public actions involving wet clay busts of two important and singular protagonists in the very early history of Victoria: John Batman and William Buckley. Figured into a number of important sites in and around Geelong, Indefinite substitution centred on the busts Buckley and Batman being exchanged between shifting sites over four days.

Beginning with an exchange between Sorrento and Indented Head (by means of a boat across Port Phillip Bay), followed by exchanges between Indented Head and Eastern Beach in Geelong (by ute), between Eastern Beach and the Richardson Gallery in the Geelong Gallery (by trolley), and, finally between two pairs of platforms within the Richardson Gallery, the repeated substitution of the two busts over four days was marked by the awkwardness of this process, the difficult weight of the wet clay, and the acute sense of encumbrance this weight created in the physical relations between the participants and the busts, and amongst the participants themselves, as they attempted to share the load of these dense forms, often cocooning the bust in a space created by a kind of merging of bodies necessitated by this lugging. This process of repeated movement also slowly re-shaped the two busts.


Transportation between two pairs of platforms within Geelong Gallery

Originally fashioned from a number of pictorial records of the appearance of the two men, these two busts were slowly changed by the touch of the people handling them, by the sheer difficulty of bearing these immensely heavy masses, each bust leaving part of itself on the hands of those who carried them, shifting away a form addressed to the facial towards a form of the manual, away from a resemblance and towards sheer matter. The final state of the two busts were, at the project’s conclusion, cast into bronze.

Indefinite substitution is one of a number of recent works that attempt to figure a new kind of monument, and specifically a new kind of colonial monument. This engagement with the monument gravitates around Buckley and Batman, and the contradictory meanings associated with each man and their contact with Woiwurrung and Wathaurung peoples. Indefinite substitution is an attempt to give form to these histories and their complex meanings, but also to re-think the monument itself, and to re-cast what might be regarded as a constant of the monumental tradition, either overtly or tacitly: to articulate an idea of sovereignty towards a collective future.



Nick Smith, Ella Sowinska, Mira Oosterweghel, Judy Walsh, Sophia Dacy, Rochelle Duke, Soni Kum, Ingrid Novosel, Thea Jones, Ian Stoddart, Luciana Nicholson-Marshall, Shelley Marshall, Lynda Roberts, Ceri Hann, Pooria Sadr, Ann Stephen, Daniel van Cleemput, Stella Gray, Leonora Olmi, Jenny Macaulay, Lorraine Stokes, Robyn Hope, Casey Jenkins, Avni Dauti, Emily Nicholson, Sam Johnson, Mary Nicholson, Bob and Jan Johnson, Jennifer McElwee, Lauren Burrow, David Egan, David Cross, Tim Buckovic, Jacqui Gordon, Nathan Gilchrist, Adele, Michelle James, Emily Gallagher, Sam Nightingale, Mark James, Christian Capurro, Libby Brown, Jimmy Nuttall, Olivia Koh, Therese Keogh.

Project management assistance & carpentry: Therese Keogh; Photography: Christian Capurro and Sam Nightingale; Videography: Mark Walker

Thanks: Ingrid Novosel and the Indented Head Community Association, Judy Walsh and the Collins Settlement Historical Society, Bellarine Bayside Committee of Management. The artist would like to acknowledge the generous input and knowledge of Uncle Bryon Powell. The artist would also like to thank: his children Luci, Jean and Joseph, Clare Land, Shelley Marshall, Mary and Peter Nicholson; Josh Milani; MADA, and in particular Ruth Bain, Kathie Barwick, Dr Stephen Garrett, Prof. Callum Morton, Dr Kit Wise; The Myer Foundation; Lisa Sullivan and the team at Geelong Gallery; NETS; the tireless work of Bridget Crone.



Related work

Towards a monument to Batman's Treaty


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