There have been a lot of things on my mind since I visited THE WALLS to see Bella Deary’s solo exhibition Organism. In a space filled with multimedia installations and evocative arrangements, laced with visual and literary poems, I got thinking about how absurd being a human is at the moment. Bella’s work presents the innate connection between the human body and nature, which is extremely relevant during a global pandemic, climate crisis and the advancements in technology that continue to create distance between us and the environment.
I think we can all agree that being a human right now, is to put it simply, really, really weird. It comes with no surprise that artists have been responding to these complex matters with an equal level of absurdity. A performance in which one lies in a bathtub inside a gallery space, covering their body with photographs of latex that resembles human flesh, sounds a little strange. But when you think about the fact that most of the world were not allowed to leave their houses for weeks, because someone somewhere ate a bat, this response makes total sense.
Not only was Bella’s work inviting and visually captivating, it was equally rooted in tones of gentle activism and delicate urgency. By drawing connections and combining elements of thedomestic space, internal human body and nature, I was reminded of three simple things:
1. I should spend more time playing in my backyard like I did when I was a child.
Bella’s immersive work Orifice invites you to stand inside a shower-like circle of latex that is suspended on metal hoops. The latex is held in place by pink laundry pegs that immediately remind me of afternoons spent in my backyard as a child, collecting the plastic pegs for my mother as she hung out the washing. As I stood in this womb-like installation, I thought about being a child and the way I experienced the world then. Imagine what it would be like if adults had that same appreciation for their backyards again. If we were filled with wonder by small things and had an innate appreciation for trees, the ocean and even ants.
2. I really don’t want the ocean to be filled with plastic, the bushlands to burn, and ecosystems to die.
Combatting climate change is a central aspect of Bella’s practice. However, rather than forcefully demanding action, her work tenderly promotes ecocentrism, instils compassion in the viewer and generates empathy towards the planet. In conversation with Bella, she explained that, “…ecocentrism is the belief that all natural life should be valued equally;rejecting the notion that humanity is superior to other living things. My work draws heavily from this belief, aiming to present nature as interconnected and integrated with humans.” The idea of ecocentrism is no new concept. Indigenous communities have lived in balance with the environment for centuries, and it is these voices of wisdom and knowledgethat are vital in our fight against climate change. The damage that continues to be inflicted onto both our natural world and our own bodies, is truly heart breaking. But together, we can begin to start healing what has been broken.
3. I am not alone in this human experience. We are all made of the same thing.
The references to the domestic space in Bella’s works make me reflect on the last few months, in which we were all forced to stay at home. It was an intense period of isolation, yet there was a sense of being alone-together. The flesh-like latex draped throughout the exhibition reminded me, that internally we are all, more or less the same, and on a psychological level, we all hold the same basic desires.
Bella’s work tenderly stitched together moments that address the need for the re-evaluation of human values through gentle activism. I am excited to see what Bella does next!
PHOTOS BY ELLA CALLANDER