The Promised Land Refigured

Jill Orr is one of Australia’s foremost performance artists. Since the 1970s, she has developed a unique language and approach, whereby her performances are captured in photographs, videos, installations, and immersive experiences. Over five decades, Orr has engaged with psycho-social and environmental issues, drawing on land and identities as they are shaped in, on and with the environment, be it country or urban locations.

The Promised Land Refigured
 is an exhibition that revisits and reworks the original project (The Promised Land) from 2012, with new insights that have since emerged. For the original project, Orr performed on a life-size, skeletal boat at sites around St Kilda and along Birrarung (the Yarra River), ruminating on the diverse history of those arriving to these shores by boat. The history of post-war migration is referenced in the performances on the St Kilda foreshore and at Station and Princes Piers, places where thousands of people disembarked post the World Wars seeking a better life. These sites are located close to the mouth of Birrarung, the entry point for colonisers who sailed inland to begin their expansion on unceded lands. Orr’s performance on the river, upstream near Heidelberg, reflects on the impact of this colonisation and the later claiming of the site as part of an Australian nationalism built through the imagery of the Heidelberg School of artists.

The Promised Land Refigured
, a new sculptural and photographic installation, builds on the original, engaging with pressing local and global issues of our time. Cloaked in white, Orr’s persona in the photographs is of the universal traveller and searcher, looking forward, trying to find meaning in the world in which we live. The work ruminates on the lack of progress of Australia reckoning with its colonial history. It references the politicisation of refugees and Australia’s ongoing fear and demonisation of those arriving by boat and engages with the anticipated issue of global homelessness, due to the outcomes of mass destruction of homes and environments resulting from climate change.

Like all of Orr’s work, The Promised Land Refigured asks us to think deeply about complex issues and our shared cultural memory. Reconfigured and represented a decade after its initial creation, it asks us to reflect on our treatment of others, particularly those who have been dehumanised for political gain and expediency, and to contemplate a world that is more humane, kind, and caring, seeing and celebrating our shared humanity, aspirations and hope.

24 February—19 May

Linden New Art

26 Acland Street, St Kilda VIC 3182

lindenarts.org