‘Bruised’ public programs gathers communities

7 May 2019

Spices and curries, scones and jam and cream; food and conversation featured in two recent public program events at RMIT Gallery, when Rhett D’Costa and Lizzy Simpson invited audiences into their work, world and ideas.

‘Mixed Masala: Opening the Anglo-Indian Tiffin’

Rhett D’Costa’s ‘Mixed Masala: Opening the Anglo-Indian Tiffin’ lunch performance on Thursday 2 May drew a diverse group of 20 people to discuss themes related to stories of migration and Asia, spices, and personal histories. Participants were seated on cushions on the floor, and shared stories with each other about their own backgrounds. For some, migration was a personal recent experience – others had parents or grandparents or partners who had stories of resettling in a new land.

Food and memories of food provoked strong feelings of nostalgia and belonging, a lived culture and ideas of home. The smell of the spice mounds on the floor – covered in white paper – was amazing.

“Trying to determine where home is is complicated” said Rhett. “Culture is also not stagnant, and by gathering on the floor, and eating with our hands off banana leaves – which for many people is a new experience – we can start talking to each other.”

Rhett’s performance lunch (which he cooked from his mother’s delicious recipies) explored the ambiguity that  surrounds the Anglo Indian community in terms of definitions, histories, and narratives around colonisation and migration. Rhett was born in Bombay, but migrated to Australia at an early age. His practice led research draws on his hybrid background of British, Australian and Indian cultures and its ongoing relationship to colonial and post-colonial theory.

After sharing the meal, participants were asked to draw and write their observations on the white paper. Rhett then transformed the gallery space into an artwork, using the spices to paint words and images based on the conversations.

Born in Bombay, Rhett D’Costa migrated to Australia at an early age. His practice led research draws on his hybrid background of British, Australian and Indian cultures and its ongoing relationship to colonial and post-colonial theory.

This event is part of ‘Bruised Food: A Living Laboratory’ curated by Marnie Badham and Francis Maravillas – a curatorial project exploring food, politics and social practice in art, and is a complementary exhibition space as part of the Bruised: Art, Action and Ecology in Asia exhibition.

‘you shares me shares…..everything’ with Lizzy Simpson


Artist Lizzy Simpson invited audiences to be part of her work at her artist talk on 3 May, when she shared ideas about her cross-media installation ‘you shares me shares….. everything’, which is  part of Bruised: Art Action and Ecology in Asia.

An engaged audience shared her homemade scones and jam and cut fruit after hearing about compost as a metaphor for ‘humans not being in the centre of everything’. Life as we know it – things growing, blooming and dying – are all represented in the microcosym of Lizzy’s installation, which takes up the entire front gallery space. She uses materials such as compost, water, insects, and other living things in her work, presenting a tale of constant mutability and her interest in natural world.

“I bring in really humble and beautiful and eccentric things in this work,” Lizzy told the audience. “Life, death, time, the weather, food and water also play a part. Time is a material that can be seen by the way the installation changes each day, as things grow and die, seeds flourish and the compost changes.”

Lizzy said she sees the installation as ‘the world cut down to a manageable size’, and elevating ‘the banal and mundane by bringing it into the gallery.’ Plastic dinosaurs (old kids’ toys) and jigsaw puzzles (sourced from the op shop), a radio with the news station and talk back callers constantly playing (a bit of the outside world seeping in), as well as text, musings from hiking trips at her recent residency in Asia…all these are part of the work.

As are the audience. “You are all an important part of my work as well,” said Lizzy, pouring tea. “All of you are now part of my work. You can’t avoid it!”

You too can be part of Lizzy’s work until 1 June, when the exhibition closes. Come on in. Turn the compost! You never know, there might be scones or fruit to share….