Sasha Grbich and Kelly Reynolds use art to time travel


For Time traveller for hole, Sasha Grbich and Kelly Reynolds have harnessed the restrictions and limitations resulting from Covid-19 to reassess, reinvent, and re-imagine their practice. The original pre-pandemic plan for the duo’s residency at Sauerbier House in Port Noarlunga, South Australia, was for a series of installations and sculptures exploring the idea of architectural ruin, inspired by damage done by the Onkaparinga River which periodically floods the historic building.

Instead, Grbich and Reynolds have creatively pivoted to embrace their limited movement, and sought out intrigue and charm, as well as aesthetic and philosophical sustenance, in being stuck at home. Their restlessness was made particularly acute by the fact that they had spent plenty of time in Europe during 2019, undertaking residencies in Lisbon and Berlin.

“We found ourselves starting a residency amid lockdown,” said Grbich and Reynolds, who prefer to be quoted as a duo. “We used our residency to employ alternative systems of knowledge to make sense of Covid-19 times. We really wanted to leave the house. Developing alternative ways to travel, we investigated astral travel, psychic connection and time travel.”

As they explained, “We were inspired by a book we found in hard rubbish, The Time Illusion, 1989, by Dennis Wright. We took finding it as a fortuitous sign and began to investigate our own forms of time travel to navigate a world beyond Covid-19. [Our title] Time traveller for hole is a reference to a search for a wormhole that would take us out of this time and our homes.”

The resulting show is a varied assortment of objects and creations that explores these ideas in various ways. One prominent piece, Crickets, 2020, features recordings of the insect emanating from large cardboard speakers on a bike trailer attached to a bicycle. “It is said that crickets bring good luck,” said Grbich and Reynolds, by way of explaining how this work offers ‘travel’. “This belief is widespread and can be found in Chinese, Japanese and American cultures as well as Western dream interpretation and psychic handbooks.”

Another piece, Nettle, 2020, utilises a fireplace and hearth in the Sauerbier House gallery itself, to form a “shrine-like installation that weaves together talismans that we have collected during the residency.” Among the curios that make up this work is a ‘mother dread’ (a large dreadlock) that had been grown by the Sauerbier House director Jaynie Langford, before being woven into a belt and gifted to her father. Alongside this is a pair of false teeth that once belonged to Reynolds’s late grandmother. On the floor are clusters of nettles.

“Stinging nettles are associated with women’s domestic magic, and with strength and fortitude,” the duo explained.

“They are utilised as a tonic to support women’s bodies during menstruation and childbirth. Nettles are also a source of dream power. The stings have been used to prepare dreamers for their dreams.”

The final element of this surreal installation is a video projection that, again, plays on the idea of ‘alternative’ means of travel. It documents attempts by Sasha and her mother to connect telepathically while they were unable to meet up because of border closures.

Above all, Time traveller for hole seeks meaning, and modes of human emotional connection, by investing carefully selected imagery and materials with spiritual and symbolic power.

“Undertaking a residency during Covid-19 was an opportunity for us to think about alternative ways of making, to work quickly, fluidly, and to improvise. It has given licence to experiment and play, leading us to create objects for hope and change in ways we haven’t before,” said the artists. “We have worked more personally, with domestic spaces and personal objects. It has been about finding hope through turning the focus to our private worlds, looking for threads of connection as a way forward.”

Time traveller for hole
Sasha Grbich and Kelly Reynolds
Sauerbier House
27 June – 1 August

Sauerbier House is currently open to visitors. Please note that social distancing and hygiene measures are in place.

Preview Words by Barnaby Smith