The Federation Square site has long been important as a central gathering place, given its location alongside the Birrarung (the Yarra River). Morris says that once he had the idea of a gathering place and the circular nature of the work, he knew he needed to incorporate water, which plays a central role in First Nations culture. “The idea that we are made mainly of water, which reflects the sky, again that positioning in that space of land, water and sky and its role and responsibility”.
The work is a collaboration between Morris and Studio John Fish, as well as immersive technology studio Phoria and sound artist James Henry. Morris says that Henry’s 10-minute soundscape “takes people on a journey from time immemorial to now.” There’s also an AR filter so visitors can create their own experiences of the work, and a “selfie helper,” which activates a large X shape that moves and transforms into selfies.
Care for Country is central to indigenous thought. Morris says that sustainability and care for the environment have sustained the more than 65,000 years of life of indigenous peoples in this country. “It’s top of the list in First Nations culture,” he says, adding that even now, when it’s so critical, it’s a constant battle to share that knowledge.
“This work brings people together to meet, looks at the spiritual and the physical,” he says. “I want to continue to reinforce this idea: We are here, we have great knowledge and this country is not using it in a way that benefits everyone.”
The unveiling of the sculpture on Friday marks the start of Reconciliation Week and comes at an interesting time in Australian politics. Morris hopes that the newly elected government will achieve great things. The gap is not closing around the health and education of indigenous peoples, he says. “How do we reshape and combine these two diametrically opposed worldviews: one around sustainability and caring for all, as opposed to this futile attempt to control nature and individual activities?”
He says it feels like a moment of optimism for Australia, with broader and more diverse voices in parliament, as well as greater representation of indigenous peoples. “I hope that all the work of people in all disciplines, including creatives, can continue this momentum and finally reach a point of resolution: Truth, Voice, Treaty,” says Morris. “Perhaps this is the time this country will be brave.”
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