Mating Dance: Anna-Wili Highfield
1 July 2022 – 18 September 2022
Mating Dance by Anna-Wili Highfield was an installation of life-sized brolgas in courtship formations. The sculptures are an homage to Australia’s principal dancing bird renowned for its spectacular movements during breeding season. Made from cotton paper and brass, the birds are suspended like marionettes, frozen mid-ballet in a gesture of call, response and mimicry.
Composer and musician Bree Van Reyk created the accompanying sound piece which intermittently joined the dancing birds with instrumentals inspired by the brolga’s bold trumpeting.
As artist-in-residence, Anna-Wili first exhibited Mating Dance at Glasshouse Regional Gallery, Port Macquarie, where she spent time drawing inspiration from the abundant birdlife within the lands of the Dunghutti and Birpai people. Brolgas are also of significance to the Wiradjuri people of our region.
Anna-Wili’s aim is to choreograph a moment in nature that emphasises a shared spirit between humans and animals. Mating Dance is a flirtation with life. Her works also explore the organic qualities and resistance of materials, generating a tension between the complex realism of form and the limitations and economy of the materials used. They represent life in an immediate way that conveys the energy, movement and physical character of different creatures. Her aim is to engineer a moment of contact with nature in a way that emphasises both the startling differences and similarities of human and animal forms.
Born in 1980, Anna-Wili studied Fine Art at the National Art School, Sydney. Her remarkable sculptures are held in collections around the world and have featured in numerous publications, including The New York Times and the cover of Sculpture Review, USA. The luxury French company Hermés holds the largest commercial collection of Anna-Wili's work. Her solo exhibitions include Animals at Carriageworks, Sydney, Spirit Faces, Olsen Gruin Gallery, New York City and Companions, Olsen Gallery, Sydney.
Contributing artist Bree van Reyk is a percussionist, composer, sound artist and occasional maker of unkempt musical instruments, who lives and works on Gadigal, Bidjigal and Awabakal lands. Bree has forged a unique career playing and recording with the likes of Gurrumul, Emma Donovan, Paul Kelly, Holly Throsby, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth) and Mike Patton, with commissions by Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Chamber Orchestra and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
‘I acknowledge the Wiradjuri, Birpai, Dunghutti and Gadigal people as the traditional custodians of the lands and waters on which I have made and exhibited these brolgas. I also acknowledge that the brolgas, in their varied habitats across this continent, have a timeless connection to the custodians of these lands’.
A Glasshouse Regional Gallery developed exhibition in association with Create NSW