Running until April 2018, this edition of the NGV Triennial will feature the work of more than 100 artists and designers from 32 countries, exploring cutting edge technologies, architecture, animation, performance, film, painting, drawing, fashion design, tapestry and sculpture.
Visitors to the free exhibition will have the opportunity to look at the world and its past, present and future through the eyes of some of the most creative minds of our time.
Among the talent participating in the Triennial is internationally acclaimed artist Louisa Bufardeci, who hones her creative skills to transform statistics and data into captivating works of art.
Ms Bufardeci will exhibit her masterpiece ‘The Sea Between A and I’, a suite of eight needlepoints based on Google Earth images of the waters between Australia and Indonesia where asylum seekers voyage between the two countries.
The series of needlepoints was inspired by the countless reports of people dying in an attempt to cross the perilous sea between Indonesia and Christmas Island in 2012 and 2013.
“I was curious about this very wide, very dangerous ‘border’ between our two countries, so I tried to get a sense of it by looking at it on Google Earth,” Ms Bufardeci says.
“While I was panning around the sea with my mouse, zooming in and out, I started to see shapes of people, or body parts in the shadows and highlights of the images.
“I took some screenshots of the shapes that I was seeing and decided they should be the focus of an art project.”
It was in the shadows of the deep Sunda Trench, that most of the shapes used in the series were found.
Ms Bufardeci highlights two distinct types of research that she undertook to complete the project as she was imagining it.
Firstly, she needed to establish exactly how many incidents had occurred, and when and where they took place.
“Both the media and the government had this information, although the reports were often very vague,” she explains.
“The number of people who survived or did not survive the incidents was sometimes vague and the location of the incident was often very imprecise.”
Secondly, she needed to do a lot of research related to the medium she intended to use to convey the data.
“After completing some test drawings and watercolour paintings, I decided to try making a work in needlepoint,” she says.
“Most often needlepoints are made by following a chart, so I had to work out how to translate the screenshots into a chart that would also give me the correct number of colours I wanted to work with.”
Ms Bufardeci found that everything about the project interested her, but at the same time she felt a sense of sadness while completing it.
“I was surprised at how often I was affected by the work I was making,” she reflects.
“I very often felt as though I was mourning the deaths of the asylum seekers as I was making the work, and that the work was becoming a small memorial to their lost lives.”
Born to an Australian mother and an Italian father who migrated to Australia from the province of Syracuse, in Sicily, in the late 1950s, Ms Bufardeci has an inherent affinity with migrants.
“My family were economic migrants who worked hard to make a good life for themselves here,” she says.
“I sometimes wonder if it is because of their experience that I feel so affected by the experience of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
“I know my father experienced some terrible racism and prejudice in the early days.”
Though the Italian culture is now celebrated in Australia, and the Italian community’s contributions to our society were eventually lauded, not every ethnic group can recall a similar experience.
“It makes me wonder how much knowledge and cultural richness we have lost with our anti-asylum seeker attitude,” Ms Bufardeci says.
With her series, the multifaceted artist hopes to remind the public of these tragedies and the lives which were sacrificed.
“Those people who died had parents and siblings, and often children, just like you and me,” she says.
“They had passions and a desire to live a safe and happy life, just like you and me. They laughed and cried, just like you and me. They probably enjoyed going to art exhibitions and reading interesting newspapers, just like you and me.
“The loss of their lives is significant and shouldn’t be forgotten for so many reasons, one being that they shouldn’t have died that way.”