Deep listening is strengthening connection to Country


The practice of deep listening is at the foundation of the exhibition NURA—which is also the Dharawal word for Country. Through sound and sculpture, Indigenous artists salllvage (AKA Rowan Savage) and Maddison Gibbs are creating a new engagement with their communities.

For NURA, both artists connected with Dharug Elder Aunty Julie Webb for knowledge sharing workshops, which guided the development of their works. “Both Rowan and Maddie, in their own practices, talk about their connection to Country, but also about the political history and memories and language that has been lost, hidden or removed,” says curator Dennis Golding.

Kombumerri artist salllvage’s work is a multi-sound source installation, blending natural field recordings with distorted compositions. The result is an immersive soundscape that shows how tools of colonisation can be reclaimed to create new connections with Country. Meanwhile Gibbs, a Barkindji artist, exhibits The Darkness which blends wooden, spirit-like sculptures with lighting, bringing out shadows. These shadows become part of the artwork, generating a dialogue about the dark histories of the past that are hidden in everyday life.

“We wanted both components of sound and visual in this show to talk about how the artists are listening to Country, and how they can invite an audience to look at some of the contemporary issues that happen in our community across Australia,” says Golding.

Both works centre on what Golding describes as an “almost post-human, apocalyptic theme”, prompting viewers to contemplate what has been lost over time in a sombre gallery experience. “They’re visualising Country as spirit,” explains Golding. “They’re really respecting the knowledge that they’ve built, but also having a bit of critique on how Country has been disrupted due to the effects of colonisation. There’re many things about sustainability, affecting our waterways, systems and language.”

NURA: Deep Listening
Cement Fondu
15 October—10 December

This article was originally published in the November/December 2022 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen