the avoca project
art for a world facing ecological catastrophe
Just as nature can no longer be understood as a pristine and discrete realm apart from human activity, art’s autonomy is all the more untenable when faced with ecological catastrophe.**
The Avoca Project is an international art project in regional Victoria, Australia, centred on Watford House. Referred to locally as 'The Swiss House', this pre-fabricated gold-rush residence was imported as numbered planks from Scandinavia via Hamburg in 1852. The house is thus an immigrant that arrived by boat, its walls revealing stories of a former wealth and European glamour faded by the harshness of the climate and the decreasing services that are the result of globalization and climate extremes in rural Australia.
In late 2004, when Lyndal Jones began this project, the house had been declared ‘beyond repair’.
Lyndal Jones is an artist who focuses on the politics of context, place and gender through very long-term projects. In this extended art-project she works with the house, the local community, national and international artists and scholars
and climate change activists to address the place, the land, the house itself, together with the humans who inhabit it all, as a site of climate change and response.
Her proposition – that, as the house and the grounds are transformed into a site that thrives despite a heating climate, so too will all those involved in it change thereby creating a new ecological order. To do this the line between lived-activity and formal art presentation has been completely blurred.
The Avoca Project has now taken place over 14 years (since 2005) and includes land works, exhibitions, performances, film showings, concerts and symposia, always with Watford House rather than simply at it. Artworks made here are often also shown off-site.
In 2008 The Avoca Project became a not-for-profit organisation to support the numbers of artists, large-scale community cultural activities and increasing number of partners involved. .
Postscript: This organisation and The Avoca Project was wound up in 2019, 5 years after the usual 10-year project for which Jones is renowned. The house itself continues, however, under the name The Swiss House, as a continuing experiment in art-as-action.
**T J Demos, The Post Natural Condition, Artforum, April, 2012 p197
the swiss house
counterbalance (jane prophet)
images of resilience (nicolas lowe writer-in-residence)
freq-out (carl michael von hausswolff)
rehearsing catastrophe — the ark in avoca
an afternoon with linda jackson
cross(x)species cocktail party (natalie jerimijenko)
avoca chinese garden (with lindy lee and mel ogden)
64 before completion — an exhibition
simone and david and the governor
the 30-philosopher weekend — the sense lab
uncle vanya in avoca (bagryana popov)
wine festival talks
a day in the garden with lesley (lesley stern)
a wallaby once sat here...small acts of celebration and concern...ecology and the feminine, including Watford with flowers performance
study for 15 painters and prepared house
indira remembers hamburg
culvert songs from mas cabardes
14 stories for 14 years
tears for what was done
recurring rain fantasy
the swiss house — an exhibition
watford house (detail)
the avoca project—two views
propositions for an uncertain future — exhibition
rehearsing catastrophe — the ark in sydney
rehearsing catastrophe — an ark for somerset
rehearsing catastrophe — an ark for mons
watford in werribee including watford with flowers
walking with pencil pines
thinking through avoca — claire doherty
by lyndal jones
Lyndal Jones – an artist who focuses on context, place and empowerment through long-term feminist projects involving performance and video/sculptural installation. Her works have been shown in major exhibitions throughout Australia, Europe, Asia and the U.S. since 1977, including the Biennale of Sydney on 4 occasions (1982, 1986, 1996, 2012), the Kwangju Biennale of 1997 in Korea, and the Venice Biennale where she represented Australia in 2001.
Jones received a PhD in Art from RMIT University in 2005 and was Professor of Contemporary Art in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University from 2008 – 2016. She has now resumed full-time work as an artist (for details, see CV).
Margaret and Graeme Jones – Jones' family who enabled the house to be purchased, provided ongoing support and who did much to assist with repairs, travelling from Bathurst in NSW to do so.
Simon Pockley – a heritage carpenter and climate change activist who re-constructed the balcony, created the workshop interior as the ‘Baroque Shed’, constructed the underground tank, built the kitchen bench and pergola, worked with various artists on their projects and provided ongoing advice.
Mel Ogden – an artist and landscape/garden designer, who designed the garden.
Sam Marshall – of Architect Marshall, Sydney, who redesigned the kitchen and bathroom spaces as a gift.
Chris Campbell – who continues to provide ongoing repair/ maintenance of the house and garden.
Ben Speth, filmmaker and Megan Evans, artist – who have undertaken much of the documentation of projects.
In 2008 The Avoca Project became a not-for-profit organisation to support the artists, the large-scale community cultural activities and increasing number of partners involved. Chairperson of the Board for The Avoca Project Inc. was John Howie AM. Eleanor Marshall (a former resident) was the Secretary and Tom Lowenstein the Treasurer. Ordinary Members included Chris Dodds Linsey Howie, Jim Marshall and Ian Roberts. Lyndal Jones sat on the board as director of the project. The organisation was wound up in 2019
16 Dundas street, avoca, Victoria, australia