Breathing Space


Breathing Space
ABC Classic
31 March 2023

Breathing Space


Created by ARIA Award-winning composer and performer Genevieve Lacey, Breathing Space is an oasis of quiet reverberations, revealing the calls, tremulations and deep stirrings of Country.

Breathing Space, says Lacey, emerged from ‘years of walking and listening to the staggering sound library of the natural world, particularly during Melbourne’s long Covid lockdowns, when human din gave way to the acoustic detail of the living realm that surrounds us. My friend Alexis Wright, a member of the Waanyi Nation of the Gulf of Carpentaria, was an early counsel, generously offering rich conversations, and profound texts for inspiration and orientation. Ruth Little and I distilled her remarkable essay Thinking about Writing Climate Change Fiction into a series of short texts, which became the spine of Breathing Space.’


At the centre of the National Museum of Australia is a ‘Garden of Australian Dreams’, a symbolic landscape exploring ideas of place and country. An outdoor courtyard, it features water, landscaping, lighting, cartography and now, a sound installation. Genevieve Lacey was commissioned to celebrate and explore these ideas through the medium of sound. A recorder virtuoso and arts advocate, Lacey has created a multilayered sound world to reflect the rich landscape of symbols that identify place, Country and home.

Seamlessly blending text, natural sounds and music, this album is a distillation of the larger work. Titled Breathing Space, the full work will be a permanent sound installation and its subtitle of ‘a rewilding in sound’ is eminently suitable. Blending the hush of cicadas, some gentle growling trumpet, harp, choir, susurration of leaves, bird calls, and more, central to it all are words inspired by the award-winning writer Alexis Wright, a member of the Waanyi Nation of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Using the essay ‘Thinking about Writing Climate Change Fiction’ and turning it into a series of short texts, it is read by women and gender nonconforming people aged 6–87.

Designed in the 1990s by Richard Weller and Vladimir Sitta, the Garden of Australian Dreams can be described as a strange place, set in the middle of the Museum and occasionally seen to be uninviting to visitors. This sound work is an effort to re-invite visitors to connect with the space and the original philosophical underpinning of the garden, through the question of ‘Who are we today?’. This installation opened to the public at the end of March and to hear it in its entirety would take 12 months! So, make sure you listen to the album and then visit the garden in order to fully appreciate the breadth of artistic achievement.

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