Take Hold of the Clouds – Open House Melbourne Weekend centrepiece makes an exhibition of the city

Cauleen-Smith Sojourner-2018-(still)When Open House Melbourne launches the popular July Weekend this year, there will be a special new addition to the program – one that turns the city into a living exhibition space.

Take Hold of the Clouds is a curated exhibition featuring two key works by renowned international contributors – Forensic Architecture’s Cloud Studies (2021) and Cauleen Smith’s Sojourner (2018) – along with six, newly commissioned, responsive works from local and national creative practitioners.

Embedding the works within Melbourne’s most treasured architectural spaces, rather than a traditional gallery, the exhibition models best practices for high-impact yet sustainable and resource-sensitive exhibition-making.

The experimental exhibition will be distributed across seven of the city’s most significant and iconic buildings and urban spaces and is the flagship of the first physical Open House Melbourne Weekend in two years.

Take Hold of the Clouds complements and responds to the program of over 150 buildings and events that reconnect the public with the city’s beloved spaces and showcases the best of its architecture, design and social history.

This year’s event theme, Built/Unbuiltcelebrates the contribution and impact of good design on the city while also exploring diverse scales and systems – the urban, civic, public, landscape and interior, as well as those spaces that are ‘unbuilt’ and in-between – the unseen, porous, and inter-connected.

Created in partnership with Monash University, Take Hold of the Clouds navigates Built/Unbuilt through a series of thoughtful encounters in which artists reveal the invisible stories and issues in corners of the city.

Take Hold of the Clouds is conceived by Tara McDowell, Director of Curatorial Practice at Monash Art, Design and Architecture, and co-curated with Fleur Watson, Open House Melbourne’s Executive Director.

The exhibition features two major works making their Victorian debut by renowned international practitioners:

  • Cauleen Smith, whose video Sojourner (2018) imagines the possibilities of a deeply generous, feminist, and Afrofuturist community through a tour of utopian architectural sites in America, on view within a site-specific installation at the Melbourne Quakers Centre designed by Nervegna Reed Architecture.
  • Forensic Architecture’s Cloud Studies (2021), which draws attention to architecture’s gaseous state by investigating different chemical compounds released into the air by manmade events and will screen in The Capitol RMIT’s multi-coloured crystalline cave along with archival films displayed in the iconic foyer.

Joining them are five newly commissioned works:

  • Ying-Lan Dann’s Circular Temporalities (2022), which brings together audio and video field recordings with live performance to consider the Mission to Seafarers’ iconic Norla Doma in relation to global seafaring – and gestures to the experiences of mariners stranded at sea during the pandemic.
  • Alicia Frankovich presents The Eye (2022), a live performance at the Brunswick Baths’ indoor pool that considers rising sea levels and the nebulous spaces in which bodies dwell.
  • Julia McInerney’s Joanna (2022) includes photographs, sculpture, video and film unfolding as a series of reparative acts in the rooms of the heritage-listed Villa Alba Museum, inspired by the oft-forgotten or unrecorded work of women, including the artist’s mother, Joanna, and Melbourne’s first female landscape architect, Ina Higgins.
  • Kent Morris, an artist of Barkindji and Irish heritage living on Yaluk-ut Weelam Country in Naarm Melbourne, has selected the St Kilda Foreshore Vaults as the site for a major new public artwork in his Unvanished series – a four-panel photographic installation of local rainbow lorikeets transforming from black-and-white to full colour.
  • Snack Syndicate (Astrid Lorange and Andrew Brooks) will inhabit the Victorian Trades Hall & Literary Institute to revive the historic 3KZ radio station for These Thoughts Large and Public (2022), a series of readings and public programs with collaborators, friends, and comrades around the history and future of labour.
  • Integral to the exhibition is a research-led access project titled Open House/Open Access created by artist and writer Fayen d’Evie along with a publication and microsite designed by Luke Rigby and Yue Yang.

“The exhibition takes its name from Cauleen Smith’s video work Sojourner, which explores visionary world-building in the face of profound challenges,” said curator Tara McDowell.

“Take Hold of the Clouds asks us to rethink our relationship to our city, to consider unbuilt or unseen aspects of the built environment, from the prehistories and afterlives of buildings to the encounters between bodies and spaces to the atmospheric effects of the manmade,” said Mc Dowell.

Beyond simply placing artworks in buildings, each temporal creative work adds a new layer to how we understand these spaces in relation to the world around us and draws our attention to previously invisible connections, stories and issues implicit in these much-loved spaces of the city,” said Co-curator Fleur Watson.

“We’re so pleased to offer a new experience to the public this year as Open House Melbourne Weekend returns to its eagerly anticipated live form.”

Open House Melbourne Weekend takes place 30 – 31 July and features walks, tours, talks, presentations and speeches. The full program of buildings and events will be announced on Thursday 30 June 2022. For more information, visit: www.openhousemelbourne.org for details.

Image: Cauleen Smith. Still from Sojourner, 2018. Single-channel HD video projection with sound, 22.41 min. Courtesy the artist and Moran Moran, Los Angeles