Please note javascript is required for full website functionality.

Community & Business

25 May, 2023

enCounter at Gilgandra Museum

EnCounter artists in residence have given a fresh and unique look in to what Gilgandra Museum holds, with their work currently on display throughout the building.

By Emily Middleton

Part of the Volunteers, Artists, Museums, Program (VAMP), enCounter is a project designed to connect museums, creatives, and audiences in regional NSW.

enCounter is a project developed and implemented by Orana Arts, a regional arts development organisation dedicated to increasing engagement with the arts across the Central West and beyond. It was funded by the NSW Government through Create NSW.

Working with museum volunteers, curator Fiona MacDonald and writer Ruth Little, the enCounter artists and writers who have drawn out stories, found new voices, and created new and transformative experiences for visitors.

For Gilgandra, artists Nat Ord and Vanessa Keenan have taken Gilgandra’s old, and given it new life, new perspective, and ideas for everybody to ponder and enjoy. Four art installations can be found right throughout the museum.

Artesian Winds

The first piece is a 15 minute video that can be found at the back of the machinery shed. Nat and Vanessa call the video an abstract piece, as it purely focuses on vignette of windmills as works of art, and as functional pieces.

“Theres not really any full shots of a windmill, because it’s just taking little peaks at different parts, and really admiring the engineering that goes into them and how the environment, obviously the wind, interacts with those,” explained Nat. “And it’s really quite beautiful and mesmerising, seeing how they do move with the slightest of wind, and really just dancing in the wind aren’t they. Just reacting, it’s quite beautiful.”

"We’ve all see windmills," Nat explained, "most of us see them every day. But it is about stopping and looking at them, and admiring them for what they’ve done in the past."

“That piece is called ‘Artesian Winds’. So, it's just that reminder of what it is, what their role is, or what their role was as well,” Vanessa said.

"With Gilgandra sitting on the sub artesian bore, those windmills, the history of them being 300-odd in the town, everyone had their own water supply in their backyard because they could. So, it's a reminder of that, but also a look at it and the beauty of it as well. An acknowledgment of that history,” she said.

All of the windmills that feature in the film are windmills that can be found at the Gilgandra Museum.

Rain activated artwork

The second piece is rain (or water) activated, on the path outside the shed. The artwork acknowledges Hannah Morris, ’the mother of Gilgandra’.

“It’s on two panels on the path, with two text based quotes about Hannah Morris. The first one says ‘The Mother Of Gilgandra’, as you walk up the path, and the second one says ‘but if it wasn’t for Hannah, none of it would have been possible’,” Vanessa explained.

“The main point of that work is acknowledging Hannah, but it’s also symbolic of the fact that she’s the most important pioneer and founder of Gilgandra, and her story and her impact is always there, its everywhere, but people just don’t know it.

“So the artwork is reflective of that. The artwork is always there, but people don’t know about it and don’t see it. But it’s about bringing that artwork to life, it’s about bringing Hannah’s memory to life as well.”

Nat and Vanessa hope that when people see the artwork, they will wonder who Hannah was, and want to find out more about her.

“There are some streets named after them, and they do have a beautiful grave for her at the cemetery, and she was recognised at the time, but that’s been forgotten,” Nat said.

“She opened the first bridge crossing on the Castlereagh River, and there’s been about three since, but that acknowledgement has been lost.”

Printed photographs

The third piece is printing photographs inside the main museum building, just outside of the tea room. The series photographs are macro and abstract images of the machinery that can be found in the shed.

“We’ve gone through and taken macro photographs of the rusting and pealing painting and things like that, but they actually look like aerial photographs of landscape,” Vanessa said.

“They’re quite beautiful, and this is why we’ve told the volunteers - don’t paint the machines! We know you want want restore them, but don’t paint them, they’re beautiful.”

The artists want to encourage visitors to look at things a little be differently. They loved how the volunteers took to the art, and tried to work out which photo was of which piece of machinery.

"I think they were excited to go and go, oh, yeah, that's the Oliver 80!” Vanessa explained.


The fourth and final installation was a modern day tale on a traditional technique which the artists based on some objects that are in the collection.

“There’s a couple of charcoal refrigerators, and back in the day, pre electricity and the like, they would construct these meat safe refrigerator type objects, boxes out of charcoal, chicken wire, and a timber frame, and when you add water, that would cool down whatever foods were stored in there. Like an evaporative cooler,” Vanessa said.

“In the days before electricity and making do with what you had around the place. And because fuel was scarce during the wars, there’s a charcoal kiln out the back which was used to make charcoal, which was then used as a fuel source. So taking inspiration from those objects we created this installation, which is a modern day take, being like an esky.

“Just about everything in there is reclaimed, but the other piece of it is a bit of commentary on how back in the days when those objects were being used, the main source of charcoal were from bushfires and from charcoal kilns like the one out the back. These days, the main sources for charcoal are from mega fires and from factories. So what you'll notice on that installation is that the charcoal that's being used on the lid is charcoal from the black summer fires of which I was caught up in, so it's off my family's property.”

 While the esky isn’t functional, it is symbolic. The artists have used both organic charcoal that's come out of the bushfires, as well as the artificial one you can buy at the shops - where humans are doing their own version on this natural resource.

“So you'll see those two different types that are used as part of the materials in the esky.”

Most Popular