National Museum of Australia’s collection transformed in evocative new photographic art exhibition

Artist Vic McEwan uses the power of natural elements to reimagine historical objects

Dense fog, shifting mist and the dark waters of the Murrumbidgee River transform objects from the National Museum of Australia’s collection in a new exhibition by contemporary artist Vic McEwan, on display at the National Museum of Australia from 23 February to 30 April 2023.

Touring the country from 2020–2023, Haunting consists of photographic works and videos exploring the complex history of agriculture and land use in the Murray–Darling Basin.

Artist Vic McEwan and National Museum curator Dr George Main created the digital works by projecting images of objects from the Museum’s collection on to the Murrumbidgee’s dark waters and into fog, mist and smoke.

Objects projected include William Farrer’s industry-changing disease and drought-resistant wheat, key collection objects, historic photographs and a time-worn map.

Artist Vic McEwan said the exhibition offers a chance to reconsider the complex histories of Museum objects.

‘To be able to bring the Museum objects out from behind their glass and to reanimate them with fog, mist, smoke and water, was an incredible opportunity. By layering them back into the landscape using light, projection and natural elements, while re-photographing them, we managed to create a series of abstract images which appear as though they were painted with light into the landscape,’ Mr McEwan said.

National Museum director, Dr Mathew Trinca, said the exhibition encourages people to see the Museum’s collection in new ways.

‘Haunting is a fascinating body of work that encompasses photography, video and text. Demonstrating how objects and stories can be brought to life, this exhibition provokes various interpretations of the past and its ever-unfolding consequences in the present,’ Dr Trinca said.

Museum curator, Dr Jonathan Lineen commended the exhibition’s innovative and unique methods of creating new works.

‘Projecting images from the Museum’s collection onto beautiful natural landscapes like the Murrumbidgee River gave the objects a new meaning and brought them to life in stunning and often surprising ways,’ Dr Lineen said.

The photographs and videos included in the exhibition were created in 2015 at William Farrer’s historic Lambrigg property, just outside of Canberra, as part of McEwan’s year-long residency at the National Museum of Australia.

William Farrer is known for producing Federation wheat, the first specifically Australian variety that was both rust and drought resistant.

Haunting will next visit the Narrandera Arts and Community Centre followed by the Burra Regional Art Gallery.

The exhibition has previously visited Warrnambool and Swan Hill, Victoria; Griffith, Tamworth and the Blue Mountains, New South Wales; and Burnie, Tasmania.

Haunting is a travelling exhibition developed by the National Museum of Australia in collaboration with Vic McEwan at the Cad Factory. The Cad Factory is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW, Sidney Myer Fund, Nelson Meers Foundation and W & A Johnson Family Foundation. The project has been assisted by the Australian Government’s Visions of Australia program.

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