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Experimenta Make Sense’ is back on the road, presenting from 12 December 2020 – 14 February 2021 at Benalla Art GalleryWe spoke to their gallery director Eric Nash about the exhibition and what else to see in Benalla.

Why did you decide to program Experimenta Make Sense at Benalla Art Gallery?

On taking on the role at Benalla Art Gallery in late 2019 I was excited to see plans for the staging of a major Experimenta exhibition. I’d long admired the insightful and incisive triennials Experimenta had delivered, and had also had the pleasure of seeing some major projects by the exhibition’s co-curator, Lubi Thomas, come to life when working in Townsville, North Queensland.

It goes without saying that 2020 has presented everyone with a host of challenges, and in the gallery sector part of the difficulty has been adjusting exhibition schedules in a constantly changing environment. It’s been wonderful, when doing this dance, to have a partner as flexible, understanding, professional and collaborative as Experimenta. Their team has worked closely with us to make the show available for our end-of-year re-opening, and also to consider any adjustments that would be required for its first presentation in a COVID-Safe environment.

While it’s been touring since 2018, it just makes good sense to present Experimenta Make Sense against the backdrop of our communal experience of COVID19. The exhibition takes as its leaping off point the question, ‘how do we, or indeed can we, make sense of today’s world of accelerating change?’ I don’t think we, as individuals or as a society, have ever been challenged to make sense of as much change as we have this year.

It never ceases to amaze me how truly impressive exhibitions such as this can be at once reflective, ahead of the curve, and exactly of its time.

Is there a particular artwork in the exhibition that you are excited to present to your audience?

I really can’t wait to experience the power of Scale Free Network’s A Hierarchy of Eddies in our space. In preparing for exhibitions you engage so regularly with still image documentation, but to experience this work in person I think will be something else completely. I’m also greatly looking forward to our visitors not only being mesmerised by, but also interacting with, the swirling white lights of the particle chamber. As Andrew Melatos noted in his essay about the work, “where chaos is anticipated, order emerges.” I expect, following the chaotic year we’ve had, our audience’s control of the work will be masterful!

What other local attractions and events might visitors to Benalla enjoy?

There’s always more to see at Benalla Art Gallery, and during the presentation of Experimenta Make Sense, visitors can also experience Kirstin Berg’s timely and poignant installation Still in Love with the World, and a series of portraits and figurative works from both the Benalla Art Gallery Collection and RACV Art Collection.

The Gallery is set on the picturesque Lake Benalla, which can be explored by foot on a tranquil 4.25 kilometre traversing not only the serene lake, but also meandering rivers, the manicured Botanical Gardens, remnant river red gum forest, the Gaudi-esque Ceramic Mural, and Jaycee Island with its towering Moreton bay figs and exotic Bunya Bunya pines.

The North East Artisans are also a major driving force of the local art scene, and it’s well worth paying them a visit in their new premises in Carrier Street.

With Benalla being the home of the Wall to Wall festival, an impressive collection of street art murals has also built up over recent years. There’s a city-wide collection of over 50 works by artists such as Adnate, Sofles, Fintan Magee, Elle, and many more. It makes Benalla the perfect first stop on a drive around the broader North East region, with silo art in Goorambat, Devenish, St James, Tungamah, and Winton Wetlands providing perfect stops.

Beyond the silo art, Winton Wetlands is a site of particular interest; the largest wetland restoration project in the Southern Hemisphere, it is a project of national scientific, cultural and environmental significance.