Upending | Mending [2022]

Curated by Vahri McKenzie, UK Frederick and Katie Hayne, the University of Canberra’s Faculty of Arts and Design annual exhibition presents diverse creative responses to the inspiration, and provocation, of the theme Upending | Mending. Our artists, designers and creative educators brought together a variety of approaches to their practice – recuperating found materials, collaborating with communities, using art to focus attention on ugly matters – but share a sense that creative expression is central to their ways of reflecting, repairing and questioning the world.

John Dahlsen’s mapping of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch recuperates unlovely materials – found plastics collected from Australian coastlines – into engaging formal patterns. We are invited to contemplate both the rapid accumulation of microplastics in our oceans as well as John’s acts of restoration when he picks up the tiny pieces. Place-based restoration runs through these works as one connecting theme: it is no coincidence that creative responses flourish where damage is great. Other works upend any rush to repair that may paper over damage that needs to be dwelt with. This collection mends and upends, often together, with slow-going practices of repair keeping company with exuberant explorations of breaking and unmaking.   

Vahri McKenzie launches Upending | Mending, 20 May 2022, Belconnen Arts Centre. Photograph by Gemma Fischer Photography.

Below: Upending | Mending installation views. Photograph by Gemma Fischer Photography.

An exhibition workshop, ‘Exploded View’, relating to UK Frederick’s work ‘The Disassembly Line’, invited us to consider the life and afterlife of our objects and their component pieces, to reimagine redundant fragments as blue-prints for a new suite of objects, and a different working model. ‘Exploded View’ draws upon practices of assemblage, collage, and 20th century art histories of Dada, the Situationists, and Warhol’s pop art Factory to explore how things are made and unmade, what works and what doesn’t, and how meaning and value can operate, be dismantled and re-engineered.  

Left: Cyanotype print on calico by ‘Exploded View’ participants.

This project was supported by:

Public talks:

  • Launch event and short talk, ‘Temporary assemblage amidst change’
  • FAD HDR Creative Crit special in-gallery walk & talk creative crit session