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We’re Ready to Fill the Void Again

By Sinead Stubbins

Thu 5 May

Once upon a time, an Italian man fell down a hole.

In 2018, the Serralves Museum in Porto, Portugal was showing Anish Kapoor’s piece Descent Into Limbo, an installation that involved an eight-foot hole in the middle of the museum’s floor entirely painted in the physics-defying material Vantablack. Visitors were invited to stand around and admire its profundity.

When an object is covered in Vantablack it only reflects 0.035 per cent of visible light, making it difficult to identify its depth. It also makes it difficult to determine whether a hole is a large painting that can be stepped onto, or a literal pit, until you see a middle-aged Italian man tumbling down into its inky depths.

The Italian was largely unscathed (which is lucky; when Alice fell down the rabbit hole, she was never the same again) making this preposterous story excellent for retelling. Absurdity helps in dark times—not as dark as Vantablack, but you get it. Laughter in the face of disappointment is necessary for survival, the ability to shrug after a failure and say, ‘Let’s try again’ is divine. Allowing yourself to hope, even when you can’t process the depth of the abyss that you’re peering into is… well, it’s very Melbourne.

British contemporary artist Anish Kapoor stands next his artwork "Descent into limbo" during the opening of his exhibition entitled "Works, thoughts, experiments" at the Serralves Foundation in Porto, on July 6, 2018.

British contemporary artist Anish Kapoor stands next his artwork Descent into limbo during the opening of his exhibition entitled Works, thoughts, experiments at the Serralves Foundation in Porto, on July 6, 2018. Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

A colour photograph of a person digging a hole. The person is standing in a waist-deep hole, with mounds of dirt around them.
Dig In
After a dress rehearsal period of two years, RISING is once again inviting our city to connect with its curiosity while acknowledging our own descent into limbo in 2020 and 2021. Specifically, they want us to join them to dig a hole.

After a dress rehearsal period of two years, RISING is once again inviting our city to connect with its curiosity while acknowledging our own descent into limbo in 2020 and 2021. Specifically, they want us to join them to dig a hole.

The Hole is an interactive installation created by a collective of six interdisciplinary and experimental artists based across Australia and Canada. For the duration of the festival, punters are invited to join the collective as they quite literally shovel dirt. It’s a pursuit that is futile by nature, except for one simple aim: creating a community around a single goal, no matter how nonsensical. At the end of the festival there will be a ceremonial re-filling of The Hole, burying the remains of the project deep down in the ground, leaving no trace.

The willingness to ruminate on the cost of the last two years—of artists labouring away, their toil often coming to nothing—is bold. But The Hole also offers a catharsis that is more playful than melancholic. There is no Hole without the audience, who the artist needs to complete it. It doesn’t matter if the exercise seems pointless, because it’s our instinct to keep on digging. Who determines what a ‘waste’ of our time looks like, anyway?

The concept of a hole in the ground has great creative promise. It’s not just symbolic of death, but fertility, regrowth and discovery. Acknowledging the void helps us to see new possibilities. The only way forward from uncertainty is to accept it and push on anyway. Even if we don’t know what 2022 will bring, we’ll return to the place, side-by-side with our community, and continue to dig. It’s far better than the alternative.

Just don’t fall in.

The Hole by Bron Batten, Prague. Photo: Lisa Hirmer

The Hole — Thu 9—Sun 12 June

Let’s call a spade a spade. The Hole is a hole. Pick up a shovel and dig. Then fill it back in. Job done.

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THIS PIECE WAS COMMISSIONED BY RISING.

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