Photograph: Powerhouse Collection | Angophora lanceolata (AppleTree. Red-Gum)’, 1887 Agard Hagman

Eucalyptusdom is the fantastical name of a new exhibition opening early next month at the fabulous Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

The exhibition reckons with our cultural history and ever-changing relationship with the humble gum tree, presenting over 400 objects from the Powerhouse Collection alongside 17 newly commissioned works by creative practitioners working across the fields of design, architecture, film, applied arts and performance. We love this approach of drawing on existing collections and layering through inspirational responses by contemporary artists and creatives.

Taking its title from a 1930s text by Edward F Swain, one of Australia’s earliest conservationists, the exhibition will also reveal the Powerhouse Museum’s unique and longstanding relationship with the eucalypt.

“Felling a Gumtree”, Kerry and Co, Sydney, Australia, c. 1884-1917. Image: Powerhouse Musuem

Drawing on the Museum’s comprehensive design and applied arts collection, ceramics, furniture and even a sledge made of spotted gum that went with Sir Douglas Mawson to Antarctica, Eucalyptusdom will also explore the eucalypt’s emergence as a symbol of Australian identity in post-federation Australia.

This spotted gum sledge on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-1914 led by the Australian explorer and geologist, Sir Douglas Mawson. Image: Powerhouse Museum

Commissioned practitioners presenting new work include Nicole Barakat and the Rohingya Women’s Development Organisation, Dean Cross, Julie Gough, First Nations Fashion and Design, Ashley Hay, Vera Hong, Jonathan Jones and Dr Uncle Stan Grant Snr AM, Nicholas Mangan, Anna May Kirk, Luna Mrozik-Gawler, Jazz Money, Lucy Simpson, Yasmin Smith, Wukun Wanambi, Sera Waters, Damien Wright and Bonhula Yunupingu and Justine Youssef.

Video still from Julie Gough’s installation “Witness”. Image: Julue Gough
Gumnuts feature in Sera Waters’ work. Image: Powerhouse Museum
Perfume bottle and stopper “Eucalyptus”, mould blown glass, René Lalique et Cie, France, c. 1925. Image: Powerhouse Collection

A packed program of performances, talks and masterclasses will unpack the exhibition, exploring layered perspectives from First Nations artists, diverse creative practitioners and communities; investigating the realm of eucalypts through the complexity of place, arts, science and cultural heritage.

The exhibition has been designed collaboratively by Australian architect Richard Leplastrier AO, SJB architects, Jack Gillmer and Adam Haddow, and 3D spatial designer Vania Contreras, with an accompanying soundscape composed by Jane Sheldon alongside lighting design by Nick Schlieper.

We do hope desperately that audiences will be able to explore this inventive show in real time and in human form because it looks positively alive, vibratingly so.

‘Eucalyptusdom’ opens at the Powerhouse Museum from 1 July.

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