In this series, The Age invites leaders in art to nominate a favourite local work. TarraWarra’s Victoria Lynn chose Yhonnie Scarce and Edition Office’s In Absence.
Though a very imposing, black wooden structure, In Absence really beckoned the viewer to enter through a tall passage in the centre. Inside there were two semi-circular chambers. Looking up, you saw the glass yams created by Yhonnie reaching down towards you – I thought they were like rain and they reflected the light. Of course from her point of view they represent yams and the fact that prior to European settlement there was an Indigenous population which had sophisticated ways of farming, harvesting and working the land.
I saw this work before the bushfires over the summer. After the fires there was a lot of discussion about Aboriginal cool burning techniques that historically are used to clear the land and sustain it. When I look back at my photos of In Absence I realise it was like a charred landscape as well, because the exterior had this burnt, blackened feel, so it was quite prescient.
The piece is as much a work of architecture as it is an art installation. You can’t split the two. Once inside you could lie on the ground or sit on a bench and gaze up at the sky, as I did with my teenage daughter and we just watched the shadows change and the clouds racing by: the aperture at the top created the most dynamic play of light and dark and shade.