The Visitors is a powerfully evocative exhibition by long time Alice Springs based artist Franca Barraclough that grapples with the conundrum that living in the desert throws into high relief but that is also in play across the nation. She refers to it as the ‘dancing duality’ of living on Country, of reconciling the push and pull of people and place, of belonging and not belonging, of a landscape that simultaneously repels and holds, emotionally and psychologically. Core to her enquiry is the quest to make sense of where and how we live, wherever we live.
Well known and much loved for her performance-based community engagement projects, here Barraclough turns her inimitable creative energy to the realisation of a series of monumental photographic images and immersive audio-visual experiences. Created over three years and enlisting countless community members in the staging and production, the resulting works combine humour with serious intent in a compelling and reflective way, drawing our attention to prescient global issues through a potent local prism.
There is a fascination with the Central Desert as the mythologised spiritual centre of Australia. It is a place both alluring and alienating in the popular imagination and pivotal to a sense of national identity. Barraclough plays with some of these stereotypes and clichés and encourages us to reassess our connection to and impact on place.
The art is all about scale, the scale of the country out here, the scale of the issue, the role of us all as human beings in what can be an overwhelming task redressing the past, assessing the present and planning the future.
Kieran Finnane, journalist and art critic
Reflective of specific places and experiences the exhibition has struck a deep social chord that resonates but its thought-provoking perspective operates on an equally universal level. ‘The Visitors’ is about taking stock of the social and environmental impacts of settlement and, hopefully, about becoming more accountable. This has a local, regional and national relevance while also speaking to global environmental and cultural issues.
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ABOUT THE ARTIST
Franca Barraclough has been actively and influentially engaged with the local arts community of Alice Springs for over twenty years. Her practice is marked by its diversity, with memorable achievements in performance, installation and photography, each medium overlapping the other, and drawing on the strength of previous explorations.
Barraclough’s performance-based work is solidly grounded in community engagement which has made her a go-to person for inclusion in diverse artistic events, festivals and projects as well as within organisations seeking to engage audiences with a range of content in meaningful ways. She has worked with and mentored successive waves of practitioners within the dynamic artistic community of Alice Springs and has delighted and moved audiences consistently.
In recent years Barraclough has turned her hand to creating photographic imagery engaging, choreographing and co-opting a diverse range of local community members and fellow creatives, drawing participants into her collaborative projects with a sense of purpose amongst the joy of art making. While her work is often tinged with humour she is an artist that works with serious intent to comment on the world around, highlighting the idiosyncrasies, absurdities and profundities of human relationships to each other and to the environment.
‘The Visitors’ project enables the Australian audience to have a real glimpse into the majesty and beauty of Central Australia. But it goes beyond that, it goes into the process of colonisation and how that impacts land, country, and people. That’s such an important topic that we really need to address here in the 21st century.Nicole Pietsch, performer and social activist
The scale of the image allows the viewer to grasp the magnitude and complexity of the ecological change that we, collectively, have allowed to seize hold of the landscape … It is a critique and a truth telling in these anxious times of environmental change on a global scale.Kieran Finnane, journalist and art critic
I think Franca’s capacity to see the multifaceted layers of what it means to be here and of this place are at the forefront of the exhibition. There is endless beauty but where we are butting up against what was and what is, is quite clear. It makes my heart break, and sing, at the same time.Frankie Snowdon, dancer and choreographer
The Visitors has provided audiences much food for thought on so many issues, including the serious threat of invasive species to the central desert ecosystem and its threatened species, the environmental footprint we continue to leave on this stunning landscape, and the beauty of outback Australia.
It has been an honor to take Franca’s vision of The Visitors to galleries and their audiences across Australia.
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