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  • WhenAugust 16 – October 20, 2024
  • WhereRiverbend Room, Drill Hall Gallery

Unseeded is very much a reflection on looking. It specifically addresses the archaeological pursuit, and its efforts to locate the presence of past cultural activities and lifeways. Each of the glass forms emulates the physical shape of a boab nut, but they are also intended to act as a kind of lens … A lens can reveal, but it can also magnify and distort; different lenses create different visions.
— UK Frederick, 2021

In late May 2019, artist UK Frederick (Ursula) joined an archaeological field trip to the Ningbing Range, a landscape of ancient Devonian limestone in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Unseeded is the second commission in which an artist works alongside scientists from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH).

The survey team included Sue O’Connor, a Chief Investigator with CABAH based at The Australian National University, Miriuwung Gajerrong rangers and Traditional Owners, archaeologists from the University of Western Australia and volunteer ecologists. The group camped in the ancient, rugged ranges and set out each day on foot, by 4WD or helicopter, searching for sites – caves and shelters – with evidence of occupation by Aboriginal people up to 50,000 years ago. As the team searched, they observed the presence of mature boab trees near the entrances to many of the sites.

Presented in the Drill Hall Gallery’s Riverbend Room, UK Frederick’s Unseeded features a series of 35 hand-blown glass boab nut forms, some of which are etched with the images the artist took on the fieldtrip. The number of glass forms reflects the number of sites with Aboriginal rock art or other evidence of human occupation that the researchers and rangers surveyed, and their colours embody the tones of landscape where the survey took place. The forms emulate both the potential of a seed and the potential of an archaeological site to reveal new knowledge.

UK Frederick brings processes of contemporary archaeology to her art practice. Her approach reflects the methods, analysis and histories of Australian archaeology and how that research is communicated.

UK Frederick is a Canberra/Ngunnawal/Ngambri-based artist whose primary modes of art practice are photography, printmaking and video. As an interdisciplinary researcher, she is interested in processes of contemporary archaeology, interdisciplinary practices, visual anthropology, material culture, cultural heritage and the environment. In 2014 she completed her PhD in Visual Arts at The Australian National University.

CABAH’s research aims to tell a culturally inclusive, globally significant history of Australia’s people and environments over the last 130,000 years. With nodes at eight universities across Australia, CABAH seeks to deepen understanding of this continent’s unique cultural and natural history, informing how we conserve and manage Australia’s biodiversity and cultural heritage today and into the future.

The artwork and the scientific research have been supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council Centres of Excellence scheme (Project Number CE170100015). Views expressed are those of the artists and are not necessarily those of the Australian Government or Australian Research Council.

Image: UK Frederick, Unseeded 2022, hand-blown and etched glass, 35 forms, dimensions variable [from 12cm to 35 cm], CABAH Art Series Commission, University of Wollongong

The Drill Hall Gallery acknowledges the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, the traditional custodians of the Canberra region, and recognises their continuous connection to culture, community and Country.