Melbourne’s recurring festival of art, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Triennial brings contemporary art, design, and architecture into dialogue, offering a visually arresting and thought-provoking view of the world at this time. Featuring major new commissions and recent works that span geography, perspective and genre, the exhibition celebrates the work of some of the world’s most accomplished artists and designers, while also giving voice to emerging practitioners.
The greatly anticipated NGV Triennial runs until 18 April 2021, showcasing 86 thought-provoking, eye-widening works from more than 100 artists.
Of those 86 works, 34 have never been seen before and were commissioned by the NGV explicitly for the Triennial. The gallery has managed to score some of the world’s top artists and designers for the blockbuster exhibition, with names like Jeff Koons, Refik Anadol, Kengo Kuma, Hannah Brontë, design duo Fecal Matter, and South Africa’s own Porky Hefer.
Hefer’s ‘Marine Mutants’ come to life at NGV Triennial
Plastocene – Marine Mutants from a disposable world (2020), is Hefer’s major new work consisting of a series of large-scale handmade environments based upon imaginary sea creatures from a dystopian future he calls the ‘Plastocene’. This collection, including a 14m wide x 3.6m high octopus constructed of giant hand-felted cigarette butts, is made with a community of artisans and the team at Southern Guild in Cape Town.
Marking the end of the Anthropocene, our current fossil-fuelled epoch, Hefer’s creatures remind us of plastic bags, straws, coffee cups, trash, and the detritus of hyper-consumerism, convenience and environmental neglect. He speculates that in a distant future some species might transmutate, adapting to the endless abundance of plastics and pollutants flooded into nature. In a twist of evolutionary fate, Hefer imagines what would happen if refined hydrocarbon distillates from fossil fuels fused with organic DNA to generate a new type of life – transitional forms that exemplify the mutant fruits of our fossil-fuel era. The toxic future painted here is one that humans would struggle to inhabit. But at best, Hefer hopes that life continues in this new form, following the mass extinction that he sees us so selfishly perpetuating.
Collaborative projects with positive impacts and long-term legacies
Crossing cultures, disciplines, and traditional divides, the NGV Triennial seeks to question the status quo of the art and design world through the generation of collaborative projects with positive impacts and long-term legacies. While the exhibition is diverse in both artist and works shown (more than 30 countries are represented), tying it all together are pertinent curatorial themes like isolation, representation, and speculation. As with the inaugural Triennial in 2017, the exhibition is both artistically cutting edge and visually engaging, with several larger-than-life works scattered throughout the gallery.