Jessica Clark, a palawa woman and curator of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)’s free new exhibition, Between Waves, says the show is about giving form to intangible forces. Guided by “yalingwa”, a Woiwurrung word which can mean “day” or “light”, it sets out to shine a light on things that typically go unseen.

“The exhibition is exploring those energy fields and flows of things you can’t see,” says Clark. “For example, sound waves to light waves and how they interact and affect us, but also our experience of the world. Artists are exploring ideas such as transgenerational communication or body memory, of emotional feelings rippling through the body and how [they] manifest in a physical form.”

It's part of the Yalingwa arts initiative, which sees Creative Victoria partner with the gallery to create a dedicated platform for outstanding First Nations artists and curators from Australia’s south-east. For the third exhibition in the series, Clark has chosen 10 artists and one collective working across mediums, from video, poetry, projection and sound to painting, sculpture and printmaking.

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“The intention has always been to profile contemporary Aboriginal arts practice and emphasise the incredible breadth, complexity and wide-ranging materials and approaches artists are working with in the now,” she says.

The result is a multidisciplinary exhibition, with 10 newly commissioned works exploring connections between material and immaterial realms. Clark encouraged artists to experiment, with many delivering work outside the fields they’re known for. “I think a lot of people got some surprises on the weekend when we opened,” she says.

Gunditjmara and Djabwurrung artist Hayley Millar Baker is best known as a photographer; with her new film recently featuring as part of Rising exhibition Shadow Spirit in the Flinders Street Station ballroom. For Beneath Waves, Baker changes tack with a video work called Entr’acte – a French term for the interlude between acts of a play.

“It’s more a durational performance,” says Clark. “Hayley has cast a female protagonist to convey the moment after action but before reaction, to capture that moment in the in-between space. She’s speaking to women’s role in society, or the expectations and assumptions forced on women to contain their emotions and hold things together.”

Elsewhere, Wiradjuri multidisciplinary artist Jazz Money blends her work in poetry and video to create a projection installation – a series of moving and still images overlaid with randomised lines of text. “At any time in the exhibition, a poem will appear for a viewer,” says Clark. “Neither the creator knows what will happen next, nor the person viewing it.”

Audio is also explored, with Jaadwa composer and songman James Howard capturing soundwaves from deep below the ACCA building in the city. Howard recorded below the Grant Street ventilation stack and turned the site-responsive audio into a 4.1-channel sound sculpture that greets visitors as they enter the gallery.

“It emanates throughout the entirety of the exhibition, connecting works in a really beautiful way,” says Clark. “It [makes] tangible those waves you can’t see.”

She hopes the breadth of artistic approaches in Beneath Waves offers a chance for reflection – on light, darkness and the invisible waves of energy that surround us all.

“Light is often conveyed as having this ability to reveal truth or to shine light in the dark,” says Clark. “But it’s also equally obscuring and can be blinding light. So it’s interesting to think about the darkness and how the truth might linger in those in-between spaces.”

Between Waves runs July 1–September 3. Entry is free.

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