Kaldor Public Art Project’s most ambitious project to date and the first to be created by an Australian Aboriginal artist is currently on display in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden in its free-to-the-public presentation until 3 October 2016.
Sydney-based Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones created barrangal dyara (skin and bones) for the 32nd Kaldor Public Art Project – inspired by the history of the 19th century Garden Palace building which originally stood in the Royal Botanic Garden between 1879 and 1882 before being burnt to the ground in 1882.
The ambitious contemporary art project barrangal dyara (skin and bones) is expected to attract enormous numbers of visitors and is a major component of the Royal Botanic Garden’s Bicentenary Celebrations. The work includes a vast sculptural installation of 15,000 white shields spanning the 20,000 square-metres of the site, marking the original footprint of the Garden Palace building.
At the heart of the installation, where the Garden Palace’s dome once crowned the city, a dynamic native meadow of kangaroo grass disrupts the garden’s formal European design. Eight Aboriginal language soundscapes developed with communities throughout the southeast of Australia are installed throughout the site.
“barrangal dyara is a response to the immense loss felt throughout Australia due to the destruction of countless culturally significant Aboriginal objects when the Palace was razed by fire on 22 September 1882,” said Artist Jonathan Jones. “It represents an effort to commence a healing process and a celebration of the survival of the world’s oldest living culture despite this traumatic event.”
The project takes its name, barrangal meaning ‘skin’ and dyara ‘bones’ from the local Sydney language on whose country the project takes place, with approval from the community. Kaldor Public Art Projects and Jonathan Jones have connected directly with many Aboriginal communities in Sydney and greater south-east Australia to develop the work under the guidance of an Aboriginal Advisory Board.
The thousands of shields laid across the Garden echo the masses of rubble left over after the fire, raising the bones of the Garden Palace for a contemporary audience. Each shield takes its shape from one of four typical shield designs from the south-east of Australia and speak to not only the significant number of cultural objects lost in the Garden Palace fire, but also the presence of objects on this site, used in ceremonies over countless generations.
The native grassland nods to the long cultural practice of Aboriginal agriculture and management of crops such as kangaroo and wallaby grass, and native millet. The language soundscapes spoken in: the Sydney language; Gumbaynggirr; Gamilaraay; Gunditjmara; Ngarrindjeri; Paakantji; Woiwurrung and Wiradjuri, allow for the project to develop from a state of loss and mourning into a celebration of the resilience of the world’s oldest cultures.
Visitors to the project will be able to enhance their experience by downloading the free Project 32 app – that activates as visitors walk the site, allowing them to hear insights from with cultural leaders, historians, theorists, artists, writers and cultural practitioners as they discuss the ideas surrounding barrangal dyara (skin and bones).
“Our 32nd project created by Jonathan Jones is one of our most significant and ambitious to date,” said John Kaldor, Founder of Kaldor Public Art Projects. “My admiration for Jonathan has grown as the project has progressed, and his great knowledge and compassion has given me an insight into a different Australia.”
“Working with Jonathan has been a privilege, wonderful personal experience for me. It re-tells imperative local history from an Aboriginal perspective, giving new light to the Garden Palace’s history, whilst also speaking to cultural tensions still present in contemporary Australia.”
barrangal dyara (skin and bones)
Royal Botanic Garden, Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney
On display until 3 October 2016
Image: Jonathan Jones, barrangal dyara (skin and bones)