Reflecting the Melbourne Art Fair theme Ketherba, a Boon Wurrung word meaning ‘together’, five artists use moving image to explore the complexities of human connection, ancestral inheritance, and alienation.

Buhlebezwe Siwani’s Umntuntu (2018) reflects her role as an iSangoma – a traditional healer who performs rituals of transformation –  by evoking Xhosa mythology of nations who are said to have come out of water. Amala Groom, a Wiradyuri artist, returns to Country and draws from ceremonies in The Union (2019) where the artist grasps at a red rope representing spirit as she forges a union between her physical and astral body, on the discovery of pure consciousness, her ‘Amala’.

Two animated works utilise humour to question historical cultural developments. Rebecca Agnew’s Infinite West (2022) is a stop-motion feminist pastiche of Spaghetti Westerns, creating a coming-of-age story navigating imperialism, identity, race and sexuality. Joan Ross’s Let’s Party like it’s 1815 (2022) inverts Australian colonial paintings to question violent legacies which she allegorises as a car crash: ‘you couldn’t stop it, now its left for us to clean up.’

The Name of Gold (2019) draws from Geng Xue’s deftness in clay to create a stop-motion animation juxtaposing technology with primitivity to examine ideas around self-sabotage in seeking wealth and power at the expense of joy.

VIDEO is curated by Tamsin Hong, Exhibitions Curator, Serpentine, London.

VIDEO is presented by VICE.

Amala Groom

The Union, 2019
Single-channel video, 4K UHD video, colour, sound, 11 mins 11 sec, edition of 5 + 1AP

In The Union (2019) Amala Groom draws upon lived experiences and Aboriginal ceremonies. A red rope representing the miwi (spirit) connects a network of gum trees in a forest near Groom’s home in mid-western New South Wales. Adopting the persona of a displaced and distressed bride, Groom uses the rope to navigate and decolonise Country in a performance that reimagines the wedding ritual as a balancing act between the physical and astral body, where the ‘marriage of self’ is the primary relationship.

Daniel Mudie Cunningham

Artist Biography

Amala Groom is a Wiradyuri conceptual artist who employs a Wiradyuri based ontology and embodied research-based methodology that considers traditional cultural practice and academia with formal research as a whole of person approach as both inquiry and investigation in the actual and literal sense. Her practice, as a collaboration with her Ancestors is driven by the philosophies of Yindyamarra, Kanyini and Dadirri which lay the foundations for a feeling centred approach in the delicate balancing act that lies between the physical and spiritual worlds. Groom lives and works on Wiradyuri Country in Kelso, NSW. 

Represented by blackartprojects (Naarm/Melbourne), Booth I2.

Amala Groom, The Union (film still), 2019 single-channel video, 4K UHD video, colour, sound 11:11 mins Edition of 5 + 1AP.

Buhlebezwe Siwani

Umntuntu, 2018 

Digital 4k video, 2 min 40 secs, edition of 4 + 1 AP 

Umntuntu, 2018explores Siwani’s research on Nongqawuse, delving into the myths and stories surrounding the Xhosa prophet, including the split between the amaXhosa people into believers and non believers, those who believed in traditional methods of healing and those who believed in Christianity.

Umntuntu is an ode to all these stories: the people appearing from the water represent various life stages, conveying aspects of past, present, and future, as well as the liminal and ethereal. The child serves as an intercessor, departing with purity, echoing the Nongqawuse myth, and ghostly bodies emerge from water, calling others made from it. The woven basket, “Umntuntu”, symbolizes King Hintsa’s head (the Xhosa king, assassinated by the British settlers and buried without his head), hinting at a return of that which was taken. 

Artist Biography

Buhlebezwe Siwani (Johannesburg, 1987) lives and works between Cape Town and Amsterdam. Siwani works with performance, photography, sculpture and installation, interrogating the patriarchal framing of the black female body and black female experience within the South African context. As an initiated Sangoma, a spiritual healer that works within the space of the death and the living, Siwani focused her artistic practice into rituality and the relationship between Christianity and African spirituality.  

Solo exhibitions include: iYeza, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg (2023);  Amanzi angena endlini, Madragoa, Lisbon (2022); Impilo Inegama, No Man’s Art Gallery, Amsterdam (2022); Dedisa ubumnyama, Cairns Art Gallery, Cairns (2021); ukuqhaqha, Camera Work, Palazzo Rasponi, Ravenna (2021); Inkanyamba, Galeria Municipal de Arte de Almada (2020). Recent group exhibitions include: 14th Gwangju Biennial, Gwangju (2023); Chrysalis. The Butterfly Dream, Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, Geneva (2023); A Clearing in the Forest, TATE Modern, London (2022); Rethinking Nature, Museo Madre, Napoli (2021); Toronto Biennial, Arsenal Contemporary, Toronto (2022); The Power of My Hands, Paris Museum of Modern Art, Paris (2021). 

Represented by Madragoa (Lisbon, Portugal). 

Buhlebezwe Siwani, Umntuntu (film still), 2018  Digital 4k video, 02’40’’  Edition of 4 + 1 AP .

Joan Ross

Let’s party like it’s 1815 [animation], 2022 

High Definition animation with audio, 8 min 12 sec, animation and sound: Josh Raymond, edition of 10 + 2 AP  

Advertisements pervade our lives and our disconnection with nature is like a ravine, my exhibition Don’t let leaves into your house smells the stench of Possession, our latest perfume. We look at false discoveries. 
Ross penetrates the canvas of colonial era paintings. Let’s party like its 1815 is imbued with references whilst it critiques Australian colonisation and its legacies. “I see Australian colonisation like a car crash, in slow motion we watch the lack of regard and insensitivity, the long drawn out slide towards the crumpled heap. You saw it happening but you couldn’t stop it, now its left for us to clean up.” 
Penetrating the colonial canvas, Ross leaves us to watch a tableau of greed. Separation from nature, self-interest, lack of care, false discovering, possession, ownership, mansions, silverware, celebrations for control over ‘their land’, blow flies, bees, fireworks, balloons, lush curtains, fake advertisements for leaf blowers and perfume, native versus non-native plants, pollination, blowing leaves, flowers with the heads of colonists, security cameras, butterflies, superiority, a huge willy willy, with leather lounges, tv’s, lightbulbs, happy couples figurines, pianos, vases, cutlery, paintings etc. all the trappings spin and spin, spitting out and leaving us with the Chesterfeild lounge and the mansion, they sink, taking us back to nature, as it was. 
We set the table … 

Artist Biography

Bold and experimental, Joan Ross’ practice investigates the legacy of colonialism in Australia with a particular focus on reconfiguring the colonial Australian landscape and drawing attention to the complex and ongoing issues surrounding the effects of globalisation and colonisation. 

Since the late 1980s, Joan has exhibited across a range of mediums, from drawing, painting, photography and sculpture to installation, video, and virtual reality. Her experimental works combine colonial iconography and landscape painting with collaged elements of western commodity culture connected to land tenure and Aboriginal peoples’ active presence on the land. 

Joan’s use of fluorescent yellow and high-visibility clothing symbolises colonisation and fear. The act of depicting people in this bright clothing and placing fluorescent objects in the landscape does more, however, than simply illustrate colonisation; it also highlights and exaggerates the foreign or alien aspects of her work and its association with the landscape and the cultural and spiritual connection to place. 

Recent projects include designing the hoarding for The Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Sydney Modern expansion, and illuminating the façade of The National Gallery of Australia during the 2021 Enlighten Festival. Joan was awarded the National Art School Fellowship in 2023. 

Represented by N.Smith Gallery (Gadigal Country/Sydney), Booth L1. 

Joan Ross, Let’s party like it’s 1815 [animation] (film still), 2022 High Definition animation with audio, 8 m 12 s  Animation and sound: Josh Raymond  Edition of 10 + 2 AP.

Rebecca Agnew

Infinite West, 2022
High definition video, 17min 2sec, composition by Daniem Sutton, edition 5 + 1AP

A twilight into Spaghetti Western comedy, Rebecca Agnew presents her long-awaited stop motion animation, Infinite West, 2022. Invisible hands occupy the Death Valley desert, bearers of the devotional and ceremonial raising of the Infinite West. 

The world asunder, thematic narratives loosely follow Hatshepsut’s rise to the throne of Egypt in 1478 BC, and the enchantment with warlike women of nomadic cultures through the evolution of activewear fashion and the divisiveness of sexual wellness in contemporary culture and social media.

A homily to the coming of age story, the vast scenes in fields laden with spaghetti diverge into a complex and world of unconscious imagination; formulating questions of imperialism, identity, race and sexuality in the ultimate release of moral responsibilities. 

Artist Biography

Rebecca Agnew is a New Zealand born Director, visual artist and Stop Animator based in Melbourne. She graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne with an MFA in 2012 and the University of Otago, Dunedin with a BaFA in 2004. In 2019 she was part of the Gertrude Contemporary Studio Program. 
Recent residencies include Desa, Indonesia, Varda Artist Residency, San Francisco, California and Vermont Studio Center, Vermont, US. Agnew has represented exhibitions with Jacob Hoerner Galleries, traveling to Sydney Contemporary 22: International Art Fair, Carriageworks, NSW with her latest stop motion animation ‘Infinite West’, and Australia & Nationalism in the Wake of COVID, Macquarie University Art Gallery, NSW. She had animations in The Magic Arts: Australian Animation from the 1970s to Now, Asia Pacific Triennial Cinema Program, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art. In 2022 Agnew’s paintings were recent finalists in The Parkin Prize, NZ Academy of Fine Arts, Wellington, NZ and KAAF Art Prize Exhibition, Korean Cultural Centre, NSW, AU and she was the recent recipient of Quick response arts grants, City of Melbourne and finalist in the Fisher’s Ghost Art Award 2023. 

Represented by Jacob Hoerner Galleries (Naarm/Melbourne), Booth L2. 

Rebecca Agnew, Infinite West (film still), 2022, High Definition Video, 17 minutes 2 seconds, Composition by Damien Sutton, Ltd Edition 1-5 + A/P.

Geng Xue

The Name of Gold, 2019  

Clay stop-motion film, single-channel, colour, sound, 9 min 27 sec, edition of 6 

In the dual-screen video, The Name of Gold, 2019 characters created with clay forge ahead in the black- and-white world. Presented at the beginning of the video, black and white embodies a world that is both cruel and humorous, real and illusory, secular and sacred. Characters in the storyline are made of clay, whose texture echoes the rough persona, going through traumas, unavoidable difficulties and tribulations, set against the context of numerous problems people have to face. The clay figures are collectively creating a monolith, so huge as to be beyond vision, which is golden inside, emitting the light, color and sound of calling and temptation. People work for it and even offer part of themselves or others as sacrifice, yet the giant in turn continuously devours the assiduous humans. An electronic clock is running backward at full speed, flickering between “mud and meat”. The film still leaves some space for interpretation, for instance, is the giant a Babel Tower? As time flows back at its will, is it a symbol of the past like a dreamy illusion? Is the film a reflection on human collective behavior, or a fable of human life, sickness and death?

Artist Biography

Geng Xue (b.1983, Jilin, China) attended the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing, graduating in 2007. In 2013 she studied video production at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in Germany, and in 2014 she was awarded a Master of Fine Art from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where renowned artist Xu Bing was her mentor. 

Geng Xue was awarded ‘Blanc de Chine’ Interna6onal Ceramic Art Award in 2017. Her works have been widely exhibited internationally, including the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) and the 58th Venice Biennale (2019). Geng Xue’s works are collected by a range of public institutions including Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics, Holland; M+ Museum, Hong Kong; Seto City Art Museum, Japan; National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, Wales, UK; White Rabbit Collec6on, Australia; and Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin- Madison, US. 

Represented by Vermilion Art (Gadigal Country/Sydney), Booth A1. 

Geng Xue, The Name of Gold (film still), 2019, clay stop-motion film, single-channel, colour, sound, 9 minutes and 27 seconds, edition of 6.