JR concludes 'homily to country' with mural procession through dried landscape

Mar 02, 2021

in continuation of ‘homily to country, 2020’ at australia’s NGV triennial, french artist JR presents a procession of monumental portraits. the event marks the third element of the exhibition, following the opening of an open-air chapel inlaid with stained-glass windows, on display at the NGV garden, and an accompanying film. the procession event features four portrait photographs measuring 30 meters in length (nearly 100 feet). each captured by JR, the photographs are carried by the portrait subjects themselves — including local farmers, orchardists and local baakandji community members. the procession made its way through the dry menindee lakes district in regional new south wales to address the ecological decline of the darling / baaka river.

JR‘s ‘homily to country’ procession was conceived for the  NGV triennial to draw into focus the complex issues of the river system caused by intensive irrigation, climate change, and drought. beginning at lake cawndilla, the procession honors the personal stories and experiences of the four portrait subjects — senior baakandji elder and respected spokesperson on the darling / baaka river, badger bates; orchardists rachel strachan and alan whyte, who have each been forced to remove their family’s once highly-productive commercial orchards due to lack of irrigation flows; and wayne smith, a sixth-generation farmer whose family have lived and worked along the river since the early 1890s.

the ‘homily to country’ portraits are captured by JR to draw attention to the plight of individuals affected by the darling / baaka river’s decline. by engaging the large-scale photographs with the environment — a recurring motif last seen in rural italy — the procession symbolizes the ways in which their stories are inextricable from the ecosystem itself. JR comments on the procession and its relationship with its place: ‘I started this project in italy, very far from australia, yet farmers have similar issues: protect their environment and live decently from their work. like many people this past year who were not able to participate in important life moments, I will follow the procession remotely but will surely feel the presence of all the people gathered.’

project info:

project title: homily to country

artist: JR

location: NGV triennial, new south wales, australia

event date: february 28th 2021

photography: tom ross