Image © Matt Dunne
Oigåll Projects present a visceral and strikingly candid exhibition of photography by Melbourne (Naarm) based artist and writer Matt Dunne. The Killing Sink unflinchingly exposes the deliberate destruction of a territorial species and their habitat, underlining our capacity for brutality and our fractured relationship with the natural environment.
The exhibition coincides with the release of a stunning debut monograph, The Killing Sink. Published in collaboration with João Linneu and Myrto Steirou at VOID, the book is poignantly designed and edited; a tangible evocation of Dunne’s body of work.
Cataloguing the illegal slaughter of Wedge-Tailed Eagles in Victoria, The Killing Sink is the culmination of years of fieldwork, community consultation and personal investigation. What began as a process of coming to terms with such casually executed (and reported) violence, evolved into a project of truth-seeking and witnessing. Dunne’s practice weaves together elements of cartography, reportage, historical research and documentary, resulting in a brutally honest but intimately composed portrait of annihilation.
Accompanying the exhibition, Naarm based artist Julian Leigh May presents a series of objects that speak to their own practice of making work at the juncture of art and design, engaging in a thoughtful dialogue with Dunne’s photography.
Inherently anthropological and confronting our legacy and future as a species, the work featured in The Killing Sink reflects on our apparently sadistic and masochistic instincts as all-consuming predators; to destroy and be destroyed in the process.
‘After a few years living abroad, I returned to Australia and was working with kids in and out of youth justice. It was an environment that was chaotic and challenging, and finding some quiet and peace in a day was really, really valuable. The work site was very close to a hilltop where two Wedge-Tailed Eagles lived and, when riding to work or taking a break, I could often watch them soar and swoop and taking that time brought me some quiet and grounded me. I think, for the first time, I actually saw what the animals were doing and connected to it.
A few months after developing that habit, a court case broke in the media: someone in Gippsland had been killing Eagles. At first, the papers reported 100 eagles killed, then 150, then 250, by the week’s end it was 420. Just an unfathomable number. Something inside me just felt ruined and I couldn’t stop thinking about what was going on. This frustration, anger and confusion burrowed into me and I spent the next five years working out how I could make something artistically relevant about Wedge-Tailed Eagles and how we mis-treat them. I mapped out all the places Eagles had been killed, trawled through archives looking for old photographs, met bird handlers, visited museum collections and bought so much junk off of eBay, all stamped with eagles.
Having had such an intense engagement with this area and topic for five years I feel that those feelings of frustration and rage have resolved. I feel calmer, more appreciative of the animals and less frenetically distraught about the crimes. For me, perhaps, this work has been like a bit of a process of self-soothing. I wish people who see it feel both amazed and disgusted, one deepening the other. But, for now, I’m glad to return to where I’ve started: seeing the animals, appreciating more than ever that they are predatory, never still and immense, and being grateful that their presence helps me feel calm and connected.’ – Matt Dunne