Indigenous artist Yvonne Scarce and Melbourne architecture studio Edition Office have been awarded the 2019 National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Commission for their scheme In Absence

The annual NGV Architecture Commission is an open national competition, which invites architects to create a site-specific work of temporary architecture, activating the NGV’s Grollo Equiset Garden. For 2019, architects were encouraged to submit ideas focusing on multidisciplinary thinking, collaboration and audience engagement. 

In Absence is an architectural installation that invites audiences to better understand the long histories of Indigenous construction, design, industry and agriculture prior to the arrival of Europeans, including the permanent villages and dwellings of many Indigenous communities.

The dark and enigmatic exterior form of the timber tower conceals a textural and uplifting interior, composed of two dramatic internal voids adorned with thousands of black glass Yams by Scarce. 

In Absence

“This pavilion does not recognise the term ‘Terra Nulius’ – instead it celebrates the structures that were built long before the colonisation of Australia,” says Scarce.

“There were many Aboriginal builders of ‘houses’, aquaculture infrastructure and long-term agriculture that has existed for thousands of years. This commission is an amazing opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the builders of such infrastructure and their enduring legacies.”

“This thoughtfully crafted space displays a highly developed narrative drawn from a successful collaboration between an Indigenous artist and non-indigenous architects,” adds Tony Ellwood AM, director, NGV. 

“The project acknowledges Indigenous cultural practice and shared culture. It is a place for cultural exchange, an uplifting place, drawing from a difficult past.”

The Commission will be on display at NGV International from November 2019.

Images courtesy of Yhonnie Scarce and Edition Office