In Embedded, Australian artist Craig Walsh takes everything we don’t know about the Murujuga Aboriginies, iron ore and the Australian land, and places us right in the middle of it.

Last year, I was walking through Hyde Park and accidentally found myself inside Walsh’s 2012 exhibition, Emergence. The video-projected faces against trees took me by surprise – especially when they started talking. I ended up staying for an hour and was late for dinner.

 

This is where Walsh’s exhibitions usually exist; the artist’s work doesn’t hanging on walls, but rather realises itself within the environment – in the trees, on the water and against buildings. With Embedded, however, Walsh brings the environment into the gallery. Literally.

 

Twenty-one industrial bins, over-flowing with iron ore from the Pilbara in Western Australia gridlock the floor like caskets. Yellow and blue walls wrap the room like the safety jackets of the Rio Tinto miners that partnered the exhibition. And taking centrestage are two moving image works and a series of photographic portraits of the local Aboriginal people projected onto landscapes – like the faces in the trees – in what has become Walsh’s signature style.

 

The visuals are scored by atmospheric layers of crickets and the spiritual narrations of the Pilbara people. The result is immersive and interactive as we confront the dual notions of land as a spiritual and an economic commodity. But Walsh is not on a soapbox. He’s smarter than that. He understands the complex relationship our country has with mining, and uses Embedded to explore the even deeper connections with indigenous Australians. It’s complicated, it’s beautiful, and we’re right in at the core of it.

 

4/5 stars

 

BY CAMERON JAMES

 

Embedded is currently showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art and runs until November 24.

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