Bonita Ely: Future Tense explores dystopian futures wrought by environmental degradation and genetic engineering.
The major survey exhibition brings together several of Ely’s major works imagining an impossible future where nature has adapted with the assistance of science, and flourished despite the devastating effects of pollution and climate change.
Shown in Australia for the first time since its debut at documenta14 in 2017, Plastikus Progressus 2017/19 parodies natural history displays. Set in 2054, it features genetically-engineered creatures that consume plastic and, in the process, clean up our mess in the streets, oceans and rivers. The installation includes a new section examining the plastic pollution of the Brisbane River.
We Live to be Surprised 1989/2019 is Ely’s latest installation of ‘snabbits’ – half snail/half rabbits. Engineered as a food source for an over-populated planet, these creatures have evolved into an ominous feral monoculture.
The exhibition also includes a major 1973 painting by Ely, The Locust People, which shows Ely’s interest in environmental issues since the earliest years of her practice.
‘A major figure in contemporary art’
Director of Griffith University Art Museum Angela Goddard, who curated the exhibition, said Ely was a fascinating artist whose practice blurred the lines between art and science.
“I like her intuitive way of working and projecting ideas, and how she imagines the future and how we might adapt to it,” she said.
“Bonita is a major figure in contemporary art and her work has great currency, as evidenced by both installations having recently been shown in Europe—Plastikus Progressus in Poland and We Live to be Surprised in the UK—we are fortunate to be able to see these works here in Australia.”
Griffith University Art Museum acknowledges the generosity of exhibition partners Lock, Stock and Barrel, Shut the Gate Wines and Solver Paints.
The exhibition runs until 8 February 2020 at Griffith University Art Museum, South Bank.