Bonita Ely - We Live to Be Surprised
From the Kitchen Table, Drew Gallery Projects 1984-90
Brewery Tap UCA Project Space, 53 Tontine Street, Folkestone CT20 1JR
Thursday-Sunday, 16 November - 9 December 2018
Bonita Ely in conversation with Jennifer Thatcher on 15 November, 5-6pm
Followed by PV, 6-8pm
Throughout the 1980s Australian curator Sandra Drew staged a series of ground-breaking exhibitions in locations around Canterbury, inhabiting unusual public sites such as the cathedral crypt, theatres, empty shop units, the bustling high-street and a graveyard; all orchestrated from the epicentre of Sandra’s kitchen table in her family home, under the guise of Drew Gallery Projects.
In 1989, In Transit: Australian Sculpture, Video and Performance took place for which 11 Australian artists were invited to create new works in the streets of Canterbury. Amongst these artists was Bonita Ely who produced ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘We Live to Be Surprised’; a fictional and dystopian scene of plaster rabbits amongst industrial debris. Over the last 30 years, these rabbits have mutated into snabbits, half snail-half rabbit, and now find themselves in the Brewery Tap UCA Project Space, re-examining the same yet ever-important issues of climate change and genetic engineering. Raised in agribusiness regimes, her snabbits become a feral monoculture embattled in the extremes of global warming. This new site specific work will be shown alongside documentation of Ely’s recent work for Documenta 14 Athens in 2017, ‘Plastikus Progressus’; a futuristic museum display featuring the history of the development of the solution to plastic pollution of the trans-ecology of water looking back from the year 2054.
The exhibitions across Canterbury, Folkestone and London during 2018-19, their expanded public programme and accompanying publication, celebrate Sandra Drew’s visionary legacy to a whole new generation, a career that has remained modestly observed and yet passionately championed by those artists, students and communities who directly benefited from Drew’s revolutionary curatorial spirit during the 80s and 90s.
Bonita Ely has a diverse practice, her methodology based on the premise that a particular idea requires the deployment of particular mediums, contexts and technologies. Her artwork of the 70s was a warning of environmental issues that now are in full focus, and continue as the focus of her practice as one of Australia’s important artists concerned with environmental, socio-political issues.
In 2017 she represented Australia in the international art event, Documenta14 in Kassel, Germany and its second iteration in Athens. Ely has exhibited in institutions such as Chisenhale Gallery, London, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Harbourfront, Toronto, and the 18th Street Arts Centre, Los Angeles, USA. Ely’s experimental artwork is in international collections, such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and has been selected for significant contemporary art events such as Fieldwork, the opening of the Ian Potter Centre for Australian Art, Federation Square, Melbourne.
Image Caption - Photographer: Katie Jolin
Work: Bonita Ely, We Live to be Surprised (detail), 1989