contemporary communication: reviewing ngv triennial


by Miao-Chia Chen

The NGV Triennial 2020 presented a series of contemporary design and artwork collections, featuring a stunning visual experience and thought-provoking views by multiple artists and designers. Various recent projects demonstrate the creative process and outcomes based on both our history and our modern technical advancements. This exhibition review will introduce and analyse some of the art and design works exhibited in the NGV Triennial.

efik Anadol, Quantum Memories, 2020, multimedia artwork.

Refik Anadol, Quantum Memories, 2020, multimedia artwork.


Greeting art-goers as they arrived on the ground floor of the NGV, this large-scale multimedia artwork visualises a 3-dimensional animation formed by artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing. The media artist, Refik Anadol, explores the possibilities of creating artwork with the latest technologies. Different from traditional painting, it seems to announce to the whole world just how exciting the future potential for art and design can be.





Celine Bendixen, Cloud Formations, 2020, textile

Celine Bendixen, Cloud Formations, 2020, textile

Jim Shaw, Capitol Viscera Appliances Mural, 2011, acrylic paint.

Jim Shaw, Capitol Viscera Appliances Mural, 2011, acrylic paint.








The cloud formation by Celine Bendixen practices the blending of design, science, and art craft. It was handmade from textile to capture a skyscape based on the natural phenomena of clouds. Furthermore, one of the paintings exhibited in the same room, Capitol Viscera Appliances Mural, by Jim Shaw, is one of the most iconic US pop culture art pieces. His work presents the vision of a dreamlike cloud in the aftermath of the second world war.

The clouds were displayed in a room with a range of the NGV’s 19th and 20th-century collection. However, the 21st-century artwork did not feel out of place. Rather, the peaceful power of nature emanating from the clouds draws the audience to the countless wonders in the world around us.



Daniel Arsham, Falling Clock, 2020, fibreglass, plaster, paint.

Daniel Arsham, Falling Clock, 2020, fibreglass, plaster, paint.


Another iconic artwork in NGV Triennial is the Falling Clock, which was displayed under the Hidden Figures 2020 series. The artist, Daniel Arsham, used plaster to sculpt the form of draped fabric, presenting the design principle of movement. Arsham’s work mainly focuses on his idea of archaeology. He explores the fictional possibilities and imagines how everyday objects, such as a clock, may look in the future.




Crystallisation – Bioplastics, plants, mineral-based materials.

Most products nowadays have been designed for product standardisation and mass manufacturing. As awareness of environmental sustainability grows, more and more designers are devoted to eco-friendly or renewable materials. The reasons for these projects are to rethink our reality and define the possibility to protect nature.

Erez Nevi Pana, Crystalline, 2020, salt, clay.

Erez Nevi Pana, Crystalline, 2020, salt, clay.


The components in Crystalline, 2020, by Erez Nevi Pana, were made in Israel’s Dead Sea area. The piece examines the metamorphosis of raw material to practice the growth of crystal and natural processes. The project not only aims to interpret the need for restoration of the Dead Sea area, but also the possibility of introducing salt-based architecture for housing, tourism, and public works.



Alice Potts, Dance Biodegradable Personal Protective Equipment (DBPPE) post COVID facemasks, 2020, bioplastic (fibres from sweat crystals, algae, food waste, etc.).

Alice Potts, Dance Biodegradable Personal Protective Equipment (DBPPE) post COVID facemasks, 2020, bioplastic (fibres from sweat crystals, algae, food waste, etc.).

Another item on display in this series, is a set of biodegradable personal protective equipment masks, designed by Alice Potts. She emphasises the dramatic increase of single-use plastic waste globally, especially that of medical equipment during the ongoing COVID–19 pandemic. Therefore, here comes the design Dance Biodegradable Personal Protective Equipment (DBPPE) post COVID facemasks. The bioplastic masks were 3D-printed using filament, mainly made from food waste and dyed by her local flowers in London. Her design was used in 2020 as a support for the PPE shortages in the United Kingdom.



Elliot Bastianon, Chair from the Growth Sites Series, 2018, blue crystal, steel, copper sulphate.

Elliot Bastianon, Chair from the Growth Sites Series, 2018, blue crystal, steel, copper sulphate.


Furthermore, the series of conceptual objects in the room is the furniture modelled by Australian designer, Elliot Bastianon. During his making process, the steel pieces were submerged in a copper sulphate bath to make the blue crystals adhere. His design encourages people to rethink the intersection between our human-centred society and the systems of our environment.

It is clear these critical design works are not for long-term practical use. However, they do successfully open a conversation for sustainable design development. This demonstrates to the public how designers around the world are experimenting in finding ways for a more sustainable future.



Historical Collection

Stuart Haygarth, Optical (Tinted), 2009 designed; 2018 manufactured, prescription spectacle lenses, micro cable, electrical components.

Stuart Haygarth, Optical (Tinted), 2009 designed; 2018 manufactured, prescription spectacle lenses, micro cable, electrical components.

Stuart Haygarth, Optical (Tinted), 2009 designed; 2018 manufactured, prescription spectacle lenses, micro cable, electrical components.

The large crystal-like chandelier, Optical (Tinted) 2009, is composed of more than 4500 recycled prescription spectacle lenses. It illuminates the surrounding areas from the core with the refraction of light by the layers. It is astonishing that it can be mass manufactured and the details of the product itself were considered.


Jonathan Ben-Tovim, An ode to the airbag, 2019, driver airbags, steel, fan, LEDs, timber.

Jonathan Ben-Tovim, An ode to the airbag, 2019, driver airbags, steel, fan, LEDs, timber.

Jonathan Ben-Tovim, An ode to the airbag, 2019, driver airbags, steel, fan, LEDs, timber.

An ode to the airbag 2019, is a standing lamp that consists of several airbags. Ben-Tovim intends to highlight the Takata airbag tragedy in 2016. The airbag is widely used as a lifesaving technology and can be found in most new cars throughout the world. The design acts as a reminder of the interconnectedness and fragility of design and manufacturing. Additionally, the airbag reveals not only the best but also the worst aspects of the production chain.

Rive Roshan, Amsterdam (design studio), Ruben de la Rive Box (designer), Golnar Roshan (designer), Colour dial table, sunrise light, 2020, colour print, laminated glass.

Rive Roshan, Amsterdam (design studio), Ruben de la Rive Box (designer), Golnar Roshan (designer), Colour dial table, sunrise light, 2020, colour print, laminated glass.

Rive Roshan, Amsterdam (design studio), Ruben de la Rive Box (designer), Golnar Roshan (designer), Colour dial table, sunrise light, 2020, colour print, laminated glass.

Lastly, the design, Colour dial table, sunrise light 2020, displayed as part of a broad range of projects, is a circular glass table with hues of colour on the glass surface. Its intent is to use the glass as a lens and create the changing of lights during the daytime. The designers use the forms and coloured glass to interact with its environment. In terms of functionality, the work is considered at the intersection between art and design.



It is fascinating to see how artists and designers communicate to their viewers through their works. People use their pieces to raise discussions, inspire others, and continue writing human’s history. I am personally thankful to NGV for providing this great opportunity to learn from these outstanding works in a combination of contemporary art and design.


photography by Miao-Chia Chen

claiming frontiers


by Milieah Brett

They said we had it all figured out. That it was our duty to take our message out there. To expand. Look outwards and forwards. But my dispatcher hasn’t contacted me for days, and no one even knows my name out here. How can I keep track of any message, how can I keep a hold of who I even am. I’m too far forward. I’m too far out.

The crash was 6 cycles ago now. Lt. Fifteen had transported us through the Lumin Sector of orange Lepidoptera lights and purple gas collectives. The second half of that sector is still uncharted, blackspace, but we’d pushed out further than that, past the C-boundary. He had pointed us down to the first Silver Class planet, just Twelve and I, after all the rest had been assigned to earlier celestial bodies, and we took the shuttle out as instructed, direct through orbit.

The Mothership was barely a dot in the sky when the engines malfunctioned and zapped our external vis. Gravity kicked out the landing gear and crushed the hull into surface debris — a solid landing if ever there was one. When we crawled out of the shuttle, it was clear the damage was enough to impede a journey through the outer atmosphere.

All the surface of the Silver Class was grey sediment, scattered with smooth circle formations formed by water movement from centuries ago. Twelve had to date it with a torchlight on his helmet and shaky hands on his line-laser, barely illuminated. A dark sun in the sky makes us feel unbalanced, untethered, despite any training.

‘It’s been too long,’ I’d said to him through comms, ‘There’s no life.’

Twelve’s sigh caused crackly feedback as he’d looked to the black horizon, our torches glinting perfect beams off the flat surface of the rocks.

‘We’ve been assigned to here,’ he’d replied. ‘There must be life.’

Three days we spent camping in the blackness, conserving our torches. We used them only to set up the sleeping dome on the first day, then to observe our equipment every morning. There was no sun cycle to adapt to.  A dark sun means no mornings and no nights, so we followed the Mothership time-loop on our suits, and used our sensors to navigate in our small radius. There was no sense in expanding exploration, not without a functioning exit off the planet.

I’d expected to see the fire-shine of another shuttle breaking through the atmosphere on the fourth day, after Mothership had registered the loss of the comm link, but there was nothing in the sky.

There was, however, something on the ground. It being so dark, the light in the distance was not hard to miss. It lit up the horizon as if the air was solid and concaved, amplifying its colour across the surface, turning smooth rocks to glowing stars. I pushed Twelve’s shoulder where he was sitting beside me, to alert him to look up from the data log he’d lent against the dome’s frame, and he did. I heard his breath halt over comms, the static crackling gone for a beat, my ears enveloped by the silence of the air around us. Then he was moving.

‘We need to establish a baseline,’ Twelve said to me, scrambling to pull out his responder.

‘Is it intelligent?’ I asked.

‘It’s the only thing seeking us out,’ he replied.

As it got closer, it got harder to see its form, our eyes straining to adjust. I polarised my filter, and when I held my gloved hand out in front of it, I could see its texture of imperfections. Pale green turning to white, turning to pale yellow, glowing around the outline of my fingers, eating up my shadow.

We weren’t scared then. This is what we do, and displaying peace in first contact is more important than our individual safety. Twelve set the emitter on the responder to the soft-humming four-time beat – communication A – and we waited for a response.

We couldn’t discern sounds from it. It became apparent that there weren’t any. The being seemed to roll along and float at the same time, no friction against the rocks despite touching them. The air was thick enough for sound to travel, and yet, aside from us there was only silence.

The light being stopped before us, and seemed to ooze outward, sinking across the rocks.

‘It must see us somehow,’ I murmured.

We cycled through the communication protocol carefully: the sounds, movements and visuals. All the while monitoring changes in air and energy spikes. Every reaction was the same, just a silent observer sitting before us. No movement or change.

The light was beginning to make my head ache.

‘It has to be light,’ I said. ‘Something about light. We could adjust our visuals, mix light, try to mimic their colour?’

‘That’s already been covered in communication Q to S.’

‘The Lepidoptera would’ve responded by now,’ I huffed.

In the following days, more of the Silver Class planet’s inhabitants approached, surrounding our camp. It made our torches obsolete, made reading our equipment easier, and gave us further opportunity to observe. However, we still hadn’t learned much about them. Twelve couldn’t find any differences in our readings from when we first landed to now, as if the beings weren’t there at all. I couldn’t discover how they were producing such luminosity, all the data defying analysis. Days were bleeding into each other, and nights were getting harder to sleep through as their numbers were increasing incrementally every few days, every cycle. The aggregate of their light grew brighter and reached further, but they never changed and never touched us, only watched us.

We made the decision halfway through the next cycle that we would push past their makeshift barrier. Mothership wasn’t looking for us, we needed resources, and we needed to be certain this was the intelligent life we were looking for. I couldn’t tell if it was the first being we had tried to make contact with, or another one that broke from the line that started following us. They all looked the same and they didn’t register in our readings.

When I walked between the beings, a phantom heat moved over me, mirroring the glow onto my suit, making the contrast of the dark horizon seem so cold and distant. I knew it was just my mind playing tricks on me, and I held my equipment more securely on my back.

The panic set in when we had walked two days and found nothing. We were forced to return empty-handed. The pale yellow light, still flittering over the rocks, guided us back.

On the third cycle, I’d had enough. Twelve could sense it in me, in the way I couldn’t answer his questions clearly and how I was fumbling the logs that day.

‘I’m going to touch them,’ I told him, and he’d baulked.


‘Think about it. They’re malleable, they sit by each other. How else do they communicate?’ The rationality was clear to me, the reason why they had been waiting around us so long, watching for something to happen. We had to make the move. ‘How else can we give our message?’

‘But…first contact protocol…’

He watched me as I walked out of the dome, directly to the line they still held. The light had gotten so bright I could barely see my hand as I lifted it to the being’s form, mound-like and blurry below me. I pushed, flat palmed, and met as much resistance as a sleeping pallet, its body curving about my hand.

The effect was immediate. Veins of deep green and blue spiralled out from the impression, and the being’s colour dimmed, fading from pale yellow to aqua to purple on the RGB spectrum. My heart dropped to my feet as I watched it dwindle before me, the surface of its form turning as glassy and dark as had been our reality for the first days on this planet. I pulled my hand back.

I saw Twelve run for me when I looked back, and I saw the row of light beings behind him expand in size, their width gushing out over the rock formations, their height reaching higher than the sleeping dome, higher than our shuttle. All their forms were joining, and we were flattened as they reached each other at the peak, closing out the darkness, blinding us in a whiteness as bright as a star.

That’s where I am now. Unknowing if my eyes are open or closed, unable to move. My suit AI has been tracking the days for me, and I’ve been writing my log through it, detailing as much as I can remember. I can’t hear Twelve, I believe our comms were muffled by whatever happened. I hope my suit will outlast me, and when the crew find me, they can access these logs still.

As for the message we were to pass on… I can’t remember it. Fifteen reminded us daily of the peace, of following the truth. But I don’t believe our truths apply to the beings here. So, then, what could be their truth?


Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

sudden writing comp winner: penumbra

By Evelyn Lee

Content note: this story contains mention of an animal death, and intimate partner violence. 

The boys tumble out of the sea, their golden limbs caught in the afternoon sun.

My boys, she thinks.

They drive silently, settling into the freeway as the sky begins to darken.

She pulls off the freeway and onto a long stretch of road lined with low-lying scrub. She flicks on her high beams and rolls down the windows. The air is warm and still. A cyclist comes around the bend; a flash of lycra in the car’s headlights. She speeds up.

The car’s headlights illuminate an irregularity in the road ahead. She slows then pulls over. It’s a wombat, knocked flat, its dark organs spewed across the road.

The wombat’s wide, blunt nose is laying in a pool of dried blood. When she gets closer she can see that there are flies nesting in the corners of its eyes. The stench of it cuts through the stillness.

There is no need to check for a joey. If there had been one, it would be dead by now.

She pulls two plastic bags from the boot of the car. Using the bags like gloves, she grasps the wombat’s hind legs and pulls, steering it carefully into the ditch beside the road. Its organs remain.

She looks back at the road and thinks, very briefly, of her own blood smeared across the bathroom tiles; caught in the fluorescent light.

Only the top of the wombat’s back remains visible, the coarse dark hairs glinting like broken glass in the car’s headlights.

She climbs into the driver’s seat and glances back at her boys. They are both asleep. The youngest has his left hand gripped around the lip of his plastic booster seat.

Good, she thinks. Better that they didn’t see that.


Evelyn Lee is a creative writing student in her third year at Swinburne. She loves short form fiction and fractured narrative structures.


Photo by J W via Unsplash

restoring hope: reviewing cultivated


by Miller Keys and Eilish Jackson


Showcasing what it takes to create a circular economy within the furniture industry, Cultivated is a captivating exhibition that restores hope to its visitors. Located in Cult Design’s Melbourne showroom, the exhibition displays a number of restored pieces, as well as items from local designers, and a short film exposing the wasteful practices that drive the manufacturing industry.

As part of Melbourne’s Design Week 2021, Cultivated is true to this year’s theme: ‘Design the world you want’, and the three pillars that uphold this: Care, Community, and Climate. From the moment one enters the exhibition, you get a sense of the true appreciation the Cult team have for their products, those who design them and those who create them.

Cult’s showroom creates the ideal backdrop for the exhibition. Located on Melbourne’s iconic Elizabeth street, the building features original brick walls and large glass windows. Every detail of the building’s interior has been meticulously designed, from stair railings to the curtains, which only adds to the experience and reinforces the notion that good design must be appreciated and cared for.

The 1955 Series 7 Chair designed by Arne Jacobsen is an integral element of Cult’s circular design process. At the beginning of the exhibition, the chair is displayed in various stages of its life cycle. The resurrection by the Cultivated  studio, including sanding, painting, and even upholstering to create something seemingly new is shown, while explaining the process on banners hanging behind them. Importantly, these chairs were not just made for the exhibition: each chair was acquired by the Cultivated initiative after a long life in service from many locations throughout Australia. Several have found new homes for continued service post-cultivation.

The exhibition’s layout invites visitors to walk through each step taken to restore pieces of furniture. Guests view the before and after of a few classic items, before settling in on a quintessential Series 7 chair for a short film featuring several Australian designers and creators. They speak of their experiences with waste in the industry and how they are working to change it. Although the film leaves very few questions unanswered, the Cult staff are eager to inform and interact with their visitors and they are evidently proud of the work they have done to create change in such a conservative area.

Cult brand manager, Joshua Ellis, was especially excited to explain how many of the fabrics are made from the same material as plastic bottles, polyester, and was proud to announce that they have partnered with a textile factory being built on the Australia’s Gold Coast, which intends to use both recycled textiles and plastic bottles to create new upholstery materials. Ellis explains the recycling process and how the materials might be used, which certainly gives a greater understanding and appreciation of the work that goes into creating each piece upon visiting the showroom. What stood out about this, however, was that the factory will not be opened for another 12 to 24 months and Cult have already started saving fabrics to send to them, which testifies to the fact that this project is not just a concept or scraps of hope for a better world – these people are making it happen.

After visiting the ground floor, visitors are encouraged to make their way through two levels of showrooms, which display only the best of furniture design (along with the biggest of price tags). While these products are a showcase for grand design of sustainable products, they also demonstrate that ideas like Cultivated don’t come cheap. Many of the products cost well into the thousands and sometimes even tens-of-thousands of dollars, which clearly isn’t within the average home decorator’s budget. This highlights that although Cult is doing important work, until more “wallet friendly” businesses start implementing similar processes, people are not likely to jump on this bandwagon too casually. After visiting Cultivated, it is difficult to see how these processes could be made cheaper before becoming mainstream, and even then, this runs the risk of devaluing the exceptional craftsmanship involved. This is information that was omitted from the exhibition, as Cult’s demographic are very clearly people with large wallets and a strong appreciation for good design. It will take some time to overcome this issue, and that is time that is simply unavailable.

The final stop is the third floor which has been arranged into a studio apartment. Complete with a kitchen and bathroom, the room has been created using only items from Cult’s Nau collection. The apartment is an exciting look into the future of Australian residential spaces, utilising furnishings which are not only Australian designed and made with the best materials, but are designed for longevity, styled to individual taste, and can be repaired many a time so as not to contribute to landfill. Although beautifully arranged and a dream for those with a keen eye for design, this only raised more questions about how it could be made available to those who do not have the money to spend in these situations.

Not only does Cultivated showcase the ways in which furniture and lighting can be restored for longevity, it also invites people to discover new, more environmentally sustainable material options and how these new materials can be used across multiple settings. It is incredibly important to showcase the hard work of people like those at Cult, who are finding innovative ways to change the way people think about  products, while simultaneously taking action in regards to sustainability practices. Although some might see the challenges that arise out of this new way of doing, the exhibition answers more questions than it raises. Cultivated is for both novices and experts alike, who will walk away with a renewed sense of hope for the world.


Photo by Miller Keys and Eilish Jackson



By Deanne Elizabeth


And to you, this seems polished.

All that glitters, all I touch is gold.

But in the words of Paul Valéry:

‘I have failed to please my soul.’


Photo by Simi Iluyomade on Unsplash

in between the tragedies and vanities, we’ve got each other


By Manaswi Dawadi Rimal

I might seem distant.
Not just through the mountains and oceans between us, but also through the fog of my mood swings while I drown in the pool of my insecurities.
My overthinking, like a colony of ants following each other, threatens to overtake me.
But I got you.

I am me and you are you.
I won’t let the ‘me’ of myself let you feel any less the ‘you’ of  yours.
I won’t let you feel how distant we are, because we are not. Not in the ways that matter.

I am in your heart.
When you randomly smile in the middle of your hectic day.
I am in your mind.
When you cry in the middle of the night because you miss me.
I am crawling through your soul in your morning coffee as you sip it, along with the jokes I made about how I would get into you the way coffee would.
I am distant, but I am still with you, in your heart, in your mind, and in your soul.

It’s because of all of this, that I am able to let go of  you, and let you go.
But love and poetry isn’t all there is, because while you are you and I am me, we’ve still got this world to survive.

Love and poetry isn’t all there is, if we only see practically, but poetry is everything to both you and me. So maybe I will write a masterpiece of tragedies, and you will carve the tears and vanities into words, which the world will admire.
And we will break. Or not.

It doesn’t seem practical, but we are not practical beings, and we’ve got letters and postcards and phone calls and origamis and art and poetry.
Maybe we’ll recreate our own world, where I’ve got you no matter what and you’ve got me. Not like we own each other, but constant.
Like a heartbeat.
And the way we’ve got each other.


Photo by Andrew Ly on Unsplash