From November 1st to November 20th 2011 – Artspace Visual Arts Centre
Water has always been central to me. I grew up on the harbour, learnt to swim when I learnt to walk. I spent entire days in the sea during summer, till my skin crinkled and burnt … I had no idea then that freshwater was so precious. It was on tap – we played under the sprinkler – I remember big rains in the 1970s, in my childhood … Later, the ocean spelt evolutionary beginning. We are born and gestated in water … (Fiona McGregor)
Fiona McGregor’s Water Series is a set of durational performances presented both live and via photography and video. The works are all generated through the artist’s response to the fundamental substance of water, in a time of environmental strife. This response is in part predicated on proximity – an emotional attachment to the ocean as a coastal dweller. More crucially it is generated by issues surrounding scarcity and usage of fresh water in Australia – especially the issue of salinity – deepened by the artist’s recent visit to Lake Eyre, across the outback, along the Murray River. An awareness of water as the main component of the human body then runs consistent across the series, particularly apparent in the endurance elements of the works as the artist enacts extended encounters between water and the body: the body struck by water; the body marked by water; the body consuming liquidity; the body expelling liquidity.
When I see a tap running unattended, I feel like I am watching someone bleed.
Water Series is an accumulative project. A major multi-channel video installation, Vertigo, developed from an endurance performance on the cliffs of Bondi, will show throughout this exhibition, as will photographic work based on the performance Tidal Walk, where McGregor walked up and down Bondi Beach for the duration of a tide cycle as a form of homage to the ocean as life force and farewell to a place where she lived for almost twenty years. McGregor will then undertake three performances over the three weeks of the project, each of which will leave installation traces in the gallery space.
Look out the window when you fly over Australia. See floodplains, everchanging. Not rivers so much as venal systems, which remain dry for decades on end.
For Water # 1: Descent, the artist will lie for twenty-four hours covered with salt as rainwater equivalent to her body weight, collected and suspended in a bladder above, drips onto her forehead.
McGregor will appear coiled in tubing for Water # 2: Passage, one line introducing saline into her body, the other drawing blood from it. This performance will conclude with the artist’s back being tattooed with water.
Water #3: Expulsion is a further twenty-four action during which McGregor will consume large amounts of water, producing urine that will activate a small fountain.
The body as function. The body as factory. The body as filter. The body as alchemical point between water and blood; water and urine.
Fiona McGregor is a Sydney-based writer and artist working across a range of disciplines including writing, live art, video and installation. McGregor’s performance work is body-based, with a focus on endurance. Crucial to her practice are risk and duress. States of stillness are explored in a variety of contexts; time is her raw material. McGregor’s one-on-one performance, You Have the Body, a meditation on unlawful detention, toured Australia from 2008 – 2009 and was voted Show of the Year by critic James Waites. The work was subsequently produced by UK performance artist Michael Mayhew at ART Studio, Manchester. Since late 2008, McGregor has been engaged in this ongoing series concerning the fundamental substance of water. McGregor’s writing is well known, her fifth book and latest novel, Indelible Ink, recently awarded the Age Book of the Year.