Internationally celebrated artist Pilar Mata Dupont returns to Western Australia this February with Undesirable Bodies, a major exhibition installation exploring colonial legacies and ecological conservation at Millstream Chichester National Park.
Filmed in the hauntingly beautiful Pilbara region, Undesirable Bodies challenges Euro-centric notions of beauty through striking images and a three-screen video. Using invasive flora species as her primary subject, Mata Dupont explores conflicting contemporary issues at Jirndawurrunha, a natural freshwater spring in Millstream Chichester National Park sacred to the Yindjibarndi people.
This contended site, now a popular tourist destination, was a pastoral station homestead in the 1920s. During this period various species of lilies, date palms and vines were planted here, creating a bucolic desert oasis. Though aesthetically appealing, these invasive species are unsustainable and cause ongoing damage to this environment. Mata Dupont’s exhibition explores the contemporary tensions inherent in this place – competing priorities of ecological preservation, the needs of tourism markets, and respect for the deep and sustained cultural importance of Jirndawurrunha are evident in her artworks.
“Planted through this sacred site by a British settler family in the early 20th Century, these persistent weeds evade total eradication, creating a pervasive ‘colonial garden’ visited by numbers of tourists every year,” Mata Dupont said. “ I explore notions of ecological imperialism and the picturesque in my new body of work through a meandering narrative depicting the contemporary, routine removal and management of invasive flora at Jirndawurrunha”
Undesirable Bodies has been commissioned through FORM’s residency program in which the not-for-profit arts organisation invites artists to explore distinctly Western Australian narratives. The program brings artists to often remote parts of the State to create new works which challenge and expand notions of Western Australia.
“As a Western Australian living internationally, Pilar Mata Dupont brings a unique sensitivity and vision to this project,” Curator Mollie Hewitt said “She has worked carefully with Yindijibarndi Aboriginal Corporation in order to ensure that her work, while not dealing directly with Aboriginal cultural narratives, is informed and respectful of them. As a result the work in this exhibition offers a complex ethical consideration of the different and often competing ways in which we value our natural environments.”
Undesirable Bodies opens at FORM Gallery, Murray Street on Thursday 1 February as part of the 2018 Perth Festival visual arts program.