Since the late 1970s Jill Orr has been consistently honing an idiosyncratic visual language. The key elements she utilises include time, the primal forces of nature, – especially fire and water– and her own body. The Melbourne-based artist’s vision is cinematic with an intriguing post-human edge; she performs coded narrative actions in the landscape and then creates videos that are more than just records.
“The works are usually site-specific where the site infuses the work with its own environmental, historical, cultural and political overlay. In this way the location becomes a conduit for psycho-social and environmental issues to be expressed,” Orr explains. “As a visual artist I place great effort on creating photographic images and videos as works in their own right, rather than pure documentation.”
In 2015 Orr was honoured with an Australia Council Fellowship. In 2012 she presented her work, The Promised Land, at the inaugural Venice International Performance Art Week. This work featured a structure which resembles a small ship stripped to its skeletal remains. This ghost-like vessel also featured in Orr’s recent work, Dark Night, which was showcased in the 2018 Lorne Sculpture Biennale.
This is a busy year for the Australian artist. In addition to the Lorne Sculpture Biennale, Orr’s work will feature in the inaugural Biennale of Australian Art (BOAA) in Ballarat in September, and in The Unconformity Festival in Queenstown, Tasmania in October.
For the BOAA, Orr will present an installation and a live performance, both titled Detritus Springs. Orr describes this project as deliberately ambiguous. As she says, “This will be an evocative work where from a sense of the post-human, a parallel reality will be encountered as if a glimmer into a future, or is it a past?”
In conducting research for The Unconformity Festival, Orr found that she had a familial connection to the old mining town where it is held. “I discovered a distant relative, whose name I share, who was instrumental in financing the original development of the Mount Lyell copper mine in Queenstown 100 years ago,” she says. As a result of this enterprise, Queenstown is now located in an other-worldly, barren landscape.
Describing her new work for the festival Orr says, “against the backdrop of industrial refuse, personal connection and the scarred land that has been poisoned by acid rain drainage from the mines that has contaminated natural water courses, The Town Crier is a performance that puts the ghosts on the street where past meets present and present opens another future.”
Preview by Tracey Clement.