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Brisbane's GOMA Will Transform Into a Huge Indoor Riverbed During Its 2019-20 Summer Exhibition

The entire showcase is water-themed — including over 100 tonnes of rock that recreates an Icelandic stream, a vivid blue waterhole and a gymnastic sculpture you can climb on.
By Sarah Ward
June 09, 2019
By Sarah Ward
June 09, 2019

Brisbane's Gallery of Modern Art boasts plenty of highlights, including its location right next to the Brisbane River. Art lovers can walk through the venue's halls, enjoy a snack at its waterside cafe and even relax on the grass while taking in the view — but they can't usually walk along a massive indoor riverbed.

'Usually' is the key word, with GOMA due to serve up just that during its huge 2019–20 summer program, Water. As part of an expansive exploration of the titular liquid substance in all of its forms between December 7, 2019 and April 26, 2020, the site will become home to Olafur Eliasson's Riverbed installation. Created by the Berlin-based, Danish-Icelandic artist, the huge piece will use more than 100 tonnes of rock to recreate an Icelandic stream inside the South Brisbane venue.

The artwork has been described as both pre-historic or post-apocalyptic — and, to answer the question that immediately popped into your head, you can indeed walk on it. When Riverbed arrives in Brisbane, it'll be on display to the public for only the second time ever, following its debut at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark. Obviously, that means it'll be visiting the southern hemisphere for the first time as well.

Cai Guo-Qiang. China, b. 1957. Heritage (installation view) 2013, Animals: polystyrene, gauze, resin and hide. Installed with artificial watering hole: water, sand, drip mechanism. Purchased 2013 with funds from the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation through and with the assistance of the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © The artist. Photograph: Mark Sherwood, QAGOMA.

With more than 40 works by international and Australian artists included in the exhibition, Riverbed will have some serious company. Cai Guo-Qiang's installation Heritage will make its return to GOMA, with the piece inspired by Stradbroke Island, featuring more than 40 life-size animals drinking around a waterhole, and appearing at Water in a new arrangement.

Queensland artist Judy Watson will also create a major new work with a local theme, not only drawing upon on the cultural memory of water, but reflecting upon the obvious nearby body — the adjacent Maiwar, or Brisbane river.

And if you're fond of art that you can interact with and learning about the biggest threat facing humanity — and climbing — then keep an eye out for William Forsythe's The Fact of Matter, which is comprised of suspended gymnastic rings. As visitors make their way through the space, they're asked to contemplate the weight and strength of their body, the impact it has on the earth, and the power we can exert if we all come together to combat climate change.

Expect topical pieces all round, with pondering the importance of water one of the exhibition's main aims. Overall, "the artworks featured in Water will make connections with many of the major environmental and social challenges faced by the world today," explains Queensland Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch.

Water exhibits at the Gallery of Modern Art, Stanley Place, South Brisbane from December 7, 2019 to April 26, 2020.

Images: Olafur Eliasson. Denmark, b.1967. Riverbed 2014 (detail). Site specific installation. Pictured: The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark. Photograph: Iwan Baan.

William Forsythe. America, b.1949. The Fact of Matter 2009. Site-specific installation comprising gym rings, fabric straps, gym mat and truss system. Dimensions variable. Pictured: Installation view, William Forsythe: Choreographic Objects, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2018-19. Image courtesy the artist. Photograph: Liza Voll. © William Forsythe.

Published on June 09, 2019 by Sarah Ward
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