Outer Space plays a central role in the Meanjin’s (Brisbane) arts community, platforming diverse perspectives and experimental practices. The gallery was founded in 2016 by two graduates from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Llewellyn Millhouse and Caity Reynolds, and has grown profoundly since then, transforming from an ARI into an organisation that hosts two galleries, five studio spaces, and a community space. Their exhibition program is known for being critically engaged and community focused, providing artists and artworkers with professional development opportunities to ambitiously develop their practice.
Their recent exhibition, Intimate Organisms, by open-disciplinary artist Bianca Tainsh functions at the intersection of art and science to activate a human and more-than-human collectivism. Tainsh has an organic approach to materiality, with a focus on creating social projects and transformative experiences. Their research-led practice explores themes of ecofeminism, consumerism, and microbiology, subverting systems of control and creating experimental spaces that inspire reflection and connection.
The powerful impact of Intimate Organisms is visually immediate. At the heart of the exhibition is Myc-a, a large terrarium housing a collection of living organisms that illuminate the gallery. The surrounding space is decorated with framed prints and suspended fabric banners showing microscopic images of fungi. These thoughtfully compliment the colours and textures of Myc-a. The energy in the space is palpable, with the uncanny and obscure eco art creating a powerful sense of connection between art, audience, and living organisms.
Making my way around the gallery, I observe intimately-detailed images of fungi, their tender nature and ethereal presence. At the rear of the gallery, I was met with the largest banner, which hangs centred behind Myc-a. This banner differs from the others, with a large circular microscopic image positioned above a poem, reading: “This eternal body needs you. We invite you to intimately intwine with us. Flora, fauna, fungi and human coalesce. Your voice will inspire this transaction of kinship.” This work has a godly presence in the gallery, with the image of fungi appearing as a watching eye over the exhibition. The poem invites the audience to join the artist on a quest to explore this abstract ideal and cultivate sentient biomes.
As part of the exhibition’s opening, Tainsh presented a collaborative performance work—A Ritual for Entanglement—with live sound by Tim Tainsh. Performers slowly entered the space and walked ceremoniously around Myc-a, their movements guided intrinsically by the rhythm of a synth soundscape that radiated from gallery speakers. The synth sound further blended harmoniously with the artist’s spoken word poetry, reminiscent of the large-banner text. The audience was then invited to hold hands with each other and breathe. This created a physical connection between the audience and Myc-a that established a human and more-than-human network. The sonic sensations of the music amplified the feeling of connectedness between the humans and artwork/non-human entities in the space. Throughout the performance, spoken word poetry highlighted that the aim of this interactive process (or “more-than-human network”) was to activate Myc-a, cultivating the sentient biomes within the work into being. Participating in this live performance was profoundly grounding and immersive.
The complexities of Intimate Organisms are fascinating. Tainsh’s unique approach to art making, through their use of scientific processes and living materials, produces a multilayered amalgamation of art and science. The work also powerfully addresses ecofeminism by flattening patriarchal/humanist hierarchies. This was particularly evident in A Ritual for Entanglement, a performance connecting human and more-than-human beings, acknowledging the interdependence of varied forms within and surrounding Myc-a. Intimate Organisms further showcases how Tainsh’s works operate in symbiosis with one another, as they transform Outer Space into a rejuvenating site for reflection and connection. Regardless of the audience’s knowledge of art, science, or fungi, Intimate Organisms is transformative, creating a space where human and more-than human entities connect and share. Attending this exhibition is a spiritual, humbling, and deeply rewarding experience.