Australian Centre for Contemporary Art opens 'Overlapping Magisteria: The 2020 Macfarlane Commissions'

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Australian Centre for Contemporary Art opens 'Overlapping Magisteria: The 2020 Macfarlane Commissions'
Sam Petersen, Wee, installation view, Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney.

MELBOURNE.- Overlapping Magisteria: The 2020 Macfarlane Commissions is the second edition of a biennial series of exhibitions presenting ambitious projects by contemporary Australian and international artists. Encompassing living organisms, kinetic installations and immersive assemblages, Overlapping Magisteria pays attention to multiple ways of knowing, sensing, feeling and interacting with the world. Newly commissioned works by Robert Andrew, Mimosa Echard, Sidney McMahon, Sam Petersen and Isadora Vaughan draw on various social, cultural, technical and material forms, unsettling the lingering divide between nature and culture towards more complex realms of knowledge and experience.

The exhibition title Overlapping Magisteria suggests a position against historical desires to separate science and religion (or metaphysics) as distinct fields of enquiry into human relationships with the natural world. The phrase “non-overlapping magisteria” was coined by Stephen Jay Gould in an attempt to explain how the domain of science is informed by empirical facts of the material world, while that of religion or spirituality is subject to moral, ethical and emotional influences—and that one does not aid in an understanding of, nor discount, the other.

Curated by ACCA’s Artistic Director & CEO Max Delany and Curator Miriam Kelly, Overlapping Magisteria encompasses works that explicitly imbricate these realms, bringing together material facts and immaterial values, rational and irrational, animate and inanimate forms, without one having dominion or mastery over another. Works in the exhibition are the outcome of astute observations and reflections on language, culture, land use, bodies, architecture and practices that have often been marginalised by historically dominant paradigms. Some explore psychic and social realms, and pleasures inherent in the senses. Others encourage us to learn from non-human organisms, entities and elements. The artists in Overlapping Magisteria layer intuitive and sensory material responses with ideas drawn from across disciplinary as well as metaphysical domains to consider the possibilities of a world in flux, transformation and entropy.

Participating artists
Robert Andrew, Mimosa Echard, Sidney McMahon, Sam Petersen, Isadora Vaughan

The Macfarlane Fund
The Macfarlane Commissions series is supported by The Macfarlane Fund, a philanthropic initiative established in 2017 to honour the life of respected Melbourne businessman Donald (Don) Macfarlane, who throughout his life took immense pleasure in the arts. The Macfarlane Fund’s primary focus is to offer financial support across the career span of artists with programs to support graduate, mid-career and senior artists. Underpinning its development is a rigorous approach to decision-making, and a commitment to being flexible, effective and responsive to artistic practice and initiatives in a way that challenges established modes of giving.

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