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A Look at Kaldor Public Art Projects' Latest Exhibition: 'Absorption' by Asad Raza

It's taking place at Carriageworks and features scientifically engineered, nutrient-rich soil you can take home with you.
By Hudson Brown
May 02, 2019
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A Look at Kaldor Public Art Projects' Latest Exhibition: 'Absorption' by Asad Raza

It's taking place at Carriageworks and features scientifically engineered, nutrient-rich soil you can take home with you.
By Hudson Brown
May 02, 2019
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Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019, Kaldor Public Art Projects is one of the most renowned in the business, having worked alongside some legendary names to transform drab public spaces into eclectic artistic venues. For its landmark birthday, the arts organisation has teamed up with Carriageworks to take over the site's temporary arts and creative space, The Clothing Store. The space is playing host to a major project by New York-based installation artist Asad Raza — and it's the first time his work has been displayed on Australian shores.

Running until Sunday, May 19, Absorption is groundbreaking in more ways than one. Across his extensive practice, Raza's work has remained highly collaborative. And things aren't any different for Absorption, with a host of scientists and local artists all involved in the work's creation. From installation and performance to music and experiments, the exhibition invites audiences to walk atop the work's foundations and even take the engineered and project-specific soil home with you. Below, we've taken a look at why Raza's Absorption is one of 2019's must-visit exhibitions.

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Kaldor Public Art Project 34: Asad Raza, Absorption, 2019. The Clothing Store, Carriageworks. Image: Pedro Greig.

GET, WELL, ABSORBED BY THE ART

Throughout Asad Raza's acclaimed career, he's continually strived to find innovative ways to directly immerse his audience within his site-specific installations. For Absorption, The Clothing Store simply provides a setting for the work's organic premise, with Raza filling the sprawling industrial warehouse with almost 300 tonnes of soil.

As more and more visitors come to explore the space throughout the exhibition's duration, the artwork is continually shifts and evolves in real time as the soil is flattened and kicked about. Expanding into every crevice of the warehouse, including the kitchen and the bathrooms, the soil has been specially created with a combination of organic and inorganic materials, and with it, Raza asks audiences to question the very nature of the biological world.

Meanwhile, the exhibition's assistants (called cultivators) are on-hand to tend to the soil, run tests and help the audience. Dressed in wearable artworks created by Sydney artist Agatha Gothe-Snape, they're hard to miss.

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Kaldor Public Art Project 34: Asad Raza, Absorption, 2019. The Clothing Store, Carriageworks. Image: Pedro Greig.

A PROJECT BUILT ON COLLABORATION

Absorption explores the intersection of Raza's inspirations, the findings of scientists and the work of the project's varied creative collaborators. Having an informed scientific element was particularly central to the success of the work, with Raza working alongside specialists from the University of Sydney's Institute of Agriculture. Led by Professor Alex McBratney and Associate Professor Stephen Cattle, the collection of experts consulted in the production of the exhibition's base included: soil scientists, microbiologists, landscape architects, organic farmers and brewers.

It wasn't just scientists that Raza approached, but also some of Australia's most talented artists. Having visited Australia many times in preparation for Absorption, Raza uncovered a diverse mix of creatives to perfectly complement his artwork. Featured throughout the public program are the likes of Daniel Boyd, Chun Yin (Rainbow Chan), Megan Alice Clune, Dean Cross, Brian Fuata, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Jana Hawkins-Andersen, Khaled Sabsabi and Ivey Wawn.

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Kaldor Public Art Project 34: Asad Raza, Absorption, 2019. The Clothing Store, Carriageworks. Image: Pedro Greig.

LOADS OF IMMERSIVE INTERVENTIONS

With such an incredible selection of artists involved in Raza's first Australian installation, it's certainly a far cry from your standard public program. The completely free, wide-ranging series of events alternates between the choreographic, the musical and the educational. Highlights include a fresh dance collaboration between performance artists Ivey Wawn, Ivan Cheng, Daniel Jenatsch, Eugene Choi and Taree Sansbury; a reading by feminist group Composting; and a poppy musical performance with sugary synth-driven melodies and bubbly soundscapes by Rainbow Chan.

Other enlightened interventions include a light-based installation by Sydney artist Daniel Boyd; a sound piece every weekend by writer and performer Brian Fuata (the microphone is under the soil); and Jana Hawkins-Andersen has set up a work station for creating clay leeches, laced with nutrients that go back into the soil. With all this and more on the program, this exciting variety show of collaborators takes Raza's work to even greater heights.

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Kaldor Public Art Project 34: Asad Raza, Absorption, 2019. The Clothing Store, Carriageworks. Image: Pedro Greig.

TAKE THE ARTWORK HOME WITH YOU

Once you've wandered through the enormous warehouse space and experienced some of the interventions and played your role in shaping the soil, you can head on down with a plastic beach bucket (or a plain old box) and snag yourself a piece of art history. Asad Raza firmly believes that his work should directly engage with the public and, staying true to this message, he's having the work dismantled by his very own audience. Genius, really.

While you can take a little bit of soil any day of the exhibition, Absorption's final day — Sunday, May 19 — will be the main day for dirt collecting. As the soil has been specifically engineered to be loaded with nutrients, Raza invites you to close the loop on his artwork by taking as much of it as you can carry home with you. Sprinkle the nutrient-rich soil in your own garden and help the artwork live on.

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Kaldor Public Art Project 34: Asad Raza, Absorption, 2019. The Clothing Store, Carriageworks. Image: Pedro Greig.

A CELEBRATED ARTIST

Born in upstate New York in the city of Buffalo, Raza knows how to push boundaries. Always finding ways to turn common objects and spaces into engaging, thought-provoking artworks that come alive with activity, and with many projects being of a highly collaborative nature, Raza's practice is not traditional, to say the least. With the aim of fostering dialogue between audience members and creating a space that shifts as time goes on, Absorption is another work that expands his already stellar international reputation.

His recent Untitled (plot for dialogue) (2017) installation was a radiant orange tennis court within the 16th-century deconsecrated Milanese church of San Paolo Converso, on which visitors, surrounded by ancient frescos, were invited to play a game and rest for a drink at the altarpiece. Another project, Home Show (2015), was held in his own apartment and asked friends, family and artists to intervene in his own life, while Mother Tongue (2017) saw human caretakers look after 26 trees throughout the 2017 Whitney Biennial.

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Running from Friday, May 3 to Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Eveleigh's The Clothing Store, Kaldor Public Art Projects x Carriageworks collaboration, Project 34: Asad Raza, Absorption, is completely free to attend.

Top image: Kaldor Public Art Project 34: Asad Raza, Absorption, 2019. The Clothing Store, Carriageworks. Image by Pedro Greig.

Published on May 02, 2019 by Hudson Brown

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