french artist JR presets his newest work ‘homily to country, 2020’ at this year’s edition of the NGV triennial in melbourne. the artwork draws attention to the ecological decline of the darling (baaka) river, australia’s third longest river, caused by intensive water extraction due to irrigation, climate change and drought. the work is influenced by an interest in the plight of farmers globally and the tensions that often exist between indigenous peoples, ‘family farms’ and multinational agribusinesses.
installation view of JR’s work ‘homily to country 2020’ on display in NGV triennial 2020 © JR. all images by tom ross
JR realizes his ‘homily to country, 2020’ at the NGV triennial to highlight the human impact on the river’s decline. imagined as an open-air chapel within the NGV grollo equiset garden, homily to country draws on the materiality of JR’s recent projects — a simple scaffold structure with a printed façade — which houses five large-scale stained glass windows. each of these windows features the artist’s photography from a 2020 research trip, and accompanying the installation is a film documenting JR’s field research.
within the NGV grollo equiset garden, JR introduces portraits of delicate stained glass. two images depict orchardists who have been forced to remove and burn their families’ commercial orchards due to lack of irrigation flows, while a third depicts a senior baakandji elder and spokesperson for the darling (baaka) river. for the baakandji, the health of the river is inextricably and directly related to the health of their culture. not only does the river offer food, fibre and shelter, but also a central proposition around which to structure culture. in 2020 large sections of the river ran dry. watch below as the work comes to life in the NGV grollo equiset garden:
project title: homily to country, 2020
location: NGV triennial, melbourne, australia
dates: on view until april 18, 2021
photography: tom ross