Lauren Berkowitz, Antony Hamilton and Janet Laurence - artists whose
practices engage with the environment in distinctive and fascinating ways -
have been commissioned by the University of South Australia Art Museum to
each create a new, major work for the exhibition Eden and the Apple of Sodom.
These renowned and exceptionally inventive artists have responded to broadly
suggested themes of ecological sustainability and the environment. The
exhibition consists of three discrete installations, each employing uniquely
different sensibilities, yet resonating and intersecting with one another at
a variety of levels, creating a powerful physical and sensory presence.
The exhibition is an independent initiative of the Art Museum, funded by the
University. However, curator Erica Green says she is delighted that the
project has been embraced by the Adelaide Festival, pointing to the
festival's importance as a partner for large projects. We had extremely
successful collaborations with the Festival in 1998 and 2000, she says,
with the result that Adelaide audiences got to see ambitious international
visual arts projects which would not otherwise have been possible. With a
new, state-of-the-art University Art Museum gallery currently in its planning
phase, we hope to be in a position - at future festivals - to showcase the
very best Australian and overseas art.
Building on one of the themes originally proposed by former Festival
director, Peter Sellars, Eden and the Apple of Sodom endeavours to heighten
awareness and appreciation of our vulnerable and sensitive environment, a
future shock issue affecting us all, but which is still to register in our
minds with the urgency it warrants. Nowhere is this issue more manifest than
in the arid landscapes and river systems of southern Australia.
Eden and the Apple of Sodom is also richly laden with archetypes and the
stuff of biblical mythology: the exhibition title deliberately invokes the
primordial vision of earthly paradise and God's later retribution for human
wickedness and recalcitrance.
A curatorial starting point for the exhibition was provided by an exotic
plant species listed in the Sydney of 1802 - Apple of Sodom, (Solanum
linnaeanum) - one of the earliest introduced plants identified in the colony
and now, in 2002, a weed found growing throughout Australia. (The common
name refers to the ancient city of Sodom, where it is claimed there were
certain plants which produced an extremely bitter, but attractive looking
fruit). Weeds are the number one land degradation problem in Australia, one
of many looming environmental crises we face. God's retribution, perhaps.
Eden, another image rich in biblical mythology, is also a persistent
contemporary idea. It is a vision fundamentally of beauty, order and ease,
which exemplifies our most persistent collective longings and utopian dreams.
And perhaps also, our deepest guilt and fears.