Anne Noble and the 9th Asia Pacific Triennale in Brisbane

23 November 2018

Anne Noble has created a major installation, including a live beehive housed in a beautifully designed and crafted 21st century ‘cabinet of wonder’, for the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane.

Noble’s bee installation is one of the highlights of the large exhibition which evocatively speaks to the power and poetry of art to act in the world.

Noble’s installation brings together several bodies of work that she has developed since becoming a beekeeper and falling in love with bees several years ago. Her Dead bee portraits, made with an electron scanning microscope, hang in a darkened room – a ‘Museum: For a time when the bee no longer exists’. The series title, of course, alluding to the threats facing bees with numbers declining and colony collapses around the world. The installation also includes photograms, made with wings from dead bees, from the Bruissment series, and a video work Reverie. Inevitably, almost a sense of awe and reverence is evoked for these amazing and threatened creatures.

Curator Zara Stanhope has written of Noble’s installation: Her work abounds with joy, emotion and curiosity, enticing her audience to learn more about the bee and insect world.

As an examination of the threat and consequences of human induced environmental change plays out in the work of several artists across the triennale so too the impact of colonisation and cultural loss is prominent. This is gently and elegantly addressed in the work of indigenous Australian artist Jonathan Jones. Untitled (giran) made of some 2000 handmade traditional tools bound with feathers, hung in the form of a slightly distorted infinity symbol seems to fly across the land and through the ages. Giran means wind, and also fear or apprehension. Jones, of the Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi peoples is quoted in the catalogue as saying, "Winds bring change, knowledge and new ideas to those prepared to listen".

In this work, as in others, the languages of Australia and of the world, those alive and dead, and the voices of individuals, living and gone, come together in a glorious, yet gentle, cacophony of sound and visual image that speaks beyond understood word to emotion and desire – to yearning and longing for better.

Another haunting work is by Indian artist Shilpa Gupta. In her installation, For In Your Tounge, I Can Not Fit, sound moves around the large dark gallery redolent with connotations of a dystopian, surveillance state. Words of suffering, courage or hope, from dissidents and other disappeared people across cultures and time, are transmitted from each of the 100 hanging microphones reminding us that they are not forgotten. The spoken words are also written on paper pierced by stakes under each microphone.

Iraqi artist Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, who lives in exile in the Netherlands, uses drawing – 14,000 charcoal drawings animated on nine screens – as a tool to address loss and dreams of home and what was.  Here too sound is prominent and reinforces the sense of longing.

The experience of watching this work is not dissimilar to that of watching Lisa Reihana’s great magnum In pursuit of Venus - currently also showing in London and Taiwan. In both there is a sense of grand vision experienced in fragments, vignettes, moments happening alongside each and combining to create a complex whole which can’t all be seen at once.

With over 80 artists showing in the Triennale, it is a large event and there are many wonderful, stimulating and expansive works - too many to mention here. Many suggest that pain, loss, fear - political, social and environmental – can be addressed with action, with not forgetting, with beauty even.

The APT runs until late April 2019 and will well reward a trip to Brisbane.

Images: Conversatio: A cabinet of wonder 2018. The small image shows the cabinet closed and the larger shows it open. Bees fly in an out through the patterned tunnel, designed in association with the world-leading Queensland Brain Institute which has a bee laboratory.