Art on the Move: Susie Vickery visits Manjimup with thought-provoking art installation

Melissa PedeltyManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Peregrinations of a Citizen Botanist exhibition creator Susie Vickery.
Camera IconPeregrinations of a Citizen Botanist exhibition creator Susie Vickery. Credit: Manjimup-Bridgetown Times

A new roving art exhibition in Manjimup is encouraging attendees to dive into the 18th century and explore a different narrative — a French botanist’s journey to WA.

Follow the gold-painted gum nuts through the Peregrinations of a Citizen Botanist exhibition at the Manjimup Town Hall for an immersive experience of Jacques-Julien Houtou de Labillardiere’s journey to the South West.

The exhibition by embroidery and textile artist Susie Vickery presents an alternative history of de Labillardiere’s journey, with the botanist gradually shedding his European preconceptions as he encounters the rich and ancient land of WA.

Vickery said the exhibition aimed to encourage viewers to reflect on their relationships with home, history and environment, particularly during this time of accelerating climate crisis.

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“(As a child) I was hungry and yearning for stimulation,” she said.

“We were always out in the bush, but we weren’t learning about the bush and there wasn’t an awareness of Aboriginal culture.

“We didn’t know anything and I didn’t appreciate the amazing botany of WA.

“It’s only going away and then coming back and I just thought ‘wow, how did I live amongst this and not realise’.”

Vickery said she tried to fit lots of information into her artwork.

“I really enjoyed doing all the research and finding out all of the historical stuff as I went along,” she said.

“It was a re-enactment of his voyage, but instead he realises taking away and renaming everything, he would rather merge into the landscape because he’s looking at what we’ve done.”

The once-costumier for theatre and film said it was really important that the immersive experience came to the regions and gave country people the opportunity to see it.

“I grew up in rural WA and I never went to an exhibition until I was an adult,” Vickery said.

“So I think it’s good to have an exhibition that you feel you can learn something from.”

The exhibition — created in combination with other artists including Nathan Crotty, Holly Story, Penny Jewell and Susi Rigg — is interactive and suited to all ages.

“I love learning and interacting,” Vickery said.

“I want people to enjoy themselves. Sometimes art can be very serious.”

The exhibition is in Manjimup as part of the State Government’s Regional Exhibition Touring Boost — an $8 million election committent managed by the Department of Local Government Sport and Cultural Industries, supported by Royalties for Regions and delivered by Art on the Move.

Shire of Manjimup libraries and cultural services manager Vanda Dei-Tos said the RETB was very important for country towns and offered regional audiences access to more exhibitions.

“Art is important on many levels,” she said.

“It entertains, tells a story and opens our minds to new ideas and perspectives.”

Ms Dei-Tos said Peregrinations of a Citizen Botanist was a “must-see” which had some interesting links to the South West.

“It’s themes of history, craft, science and quirkiness appeal to all ages,” she said.

Peregrinations of a Citizen Botanist will be on display at the Manjimup Town Hall 10am to 4pm Mondays to Fridays from February 3 to March 8.

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