Watford House, site of The Avoca Project


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 from Germany in 1850. The house is thus an immigrant, its walls revealing stories of wealth and a European glamour now faded by the harshness of the climate and the decreasing services that are the result of globalisation and climate extremes in rural Australia.

Lyndal Jones is an artist who focuses on context and place through very long-term projects. Here she works with the local community and national and international artists, scholars and climate change experts to develop a series of works of art to heighten this image of the house as immigrant, weathered but resilient, and the place, the land as a site of climate change and response.

The Avoca Project takes place over 10 years (2005-2015) and includes land works, exhibitions, performances, film showings, concerts and symposia.

In 2008 The Avoca Project became a Not-For-profit organization to support the numbers of artists, large-scale community cultural activities and increasing number of partners involved. Chairperson of the Board for The Avoca Project Inc. is John Howie AM with Eleanor Marshall the Secretary and Tom Lowenstein the Treasurer. Lyndal Jones sits on the board as Director of the project.

Flooded House 2011


Projects 2015
Though gardens are artificially constructed and generally bordered, the most interesting provoke questions about that liminal zone where the cultivated entangles with the wild, the domestic intrudes on the exotic, art brushes up against nature, the political smudges the sublime. Lesley Stern 2015

Professor Lesley Stern (UCSD) who is currently writing What is it Like to Be/In a Garden? spent a week writing at Watford House.

A day in the garden with Lesley, a one-day symposium addressing her writing in the context of Australian gardens was held in the garden at Watford House on 29th November for 20 academics and garden-lovers.
It was supported by the Centre for Politics and Culture, School of Media and Communication at RMIT University.



Indira Shanahan
Past, an installation towards a PhD ‘Into the Looking Glass’, 12th December,

This Ensemble – an impromptu evening music/sound performance in the garden for local residents, 15th November


Works By Lyndal Jones

Rehearsing Catastrophe: An Ark for Somerset
, projection onto façade of Holburne Museum, Bath and 7 nightly performances with volunteers for Illuminate Bath 2nd- 8th January, Bath UK. Supported by School of Art, Bath Spa University and RMIT University

bath at holburne bath at holburne

bath queue


Rehearsing Catastrophe: An Ark for Mons, video installation of performances by volunteers at Maison Folie, 18-28th June 2015, Mons for ‘Migratory Complex’, Ailleurs en Folie, Mons, European Capital of Culture, 2015

mons mons mons


IMMEDIATIONS: Art, Media and Event (2014-20)
Ongoing research project with Australian and International partners, led by Professors Erin Manning and Brian Massumi, The Sense Lab, Concordia University, Montreal  

Uncle Vanya in Avoca

Over 2 days, 1 night  on 22nd, 23rd March 2015
Directed by Bagryana Popov at Watford House and garden
In association with the Castlemaine Festival

uncle vanya uncle vanya


Coming Soon  ... For 2016

Painting the House
A 3 day performance with large-scale video installation for exhibition off-site




The Avoca Project has been Lead Organization for Avoca Chinese Garden: Small Town Transformations, a grant of $350,000 from Regional Arts Victoria to the town to create a Chinese garden in recognition of the current silence around the history of the many Chinese people who lived and worked there during the gold rush in the 1850’s and afterwards.

The Garden of Fire and Water,  officially opened on October 11th, 2014 is was created by Lindy Lee (lead artist), Mel Ogden (designer and project manager), Martin Wynne (soil expert), with Lyndal Jones as Artistic Director for the garden and associated events, supported by a large committee of local residents, chaired by Jane Howe.

 Beginnings, April, 2013                                        The garden of Fire and water, October 2014
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Opening celebrations at the Chinese garden and at Watford House



IMMEDIATIONS: Art, Media and Event (2014-20)
The School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, through The Avoca Project, is a partner with the SenseLab (a laboratory for thought in motion), Concordia University for Immediations: Art, Media and Event, a 7 year SSHRC grant (2014-2020). The objective of this large-scale partnership across Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Australia is ‘to explore techniques that create emergent collectivities’.

Based at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, the SenseLab was set up by Erin Manning and Brian Massumi as “an international network of artists and academics, writers and makers, from a wide diversity of fields, working together at the crossroads of philosophy, art, and activism”.  RMIT through The Avoca Project is contributing to the research by hosting the grant partners in November 2014 for an open collaborative project requiring a responsive approach to the ecology of the house/site.

This work, first created on-site in 2010, as a projection of an ark onto Watford House and a performance with 140 artists and townspeople dressed up as animals queuing to enter, set out to investigate the possibility of play as a means to prepare for disaster.

 This work was adapted for exhibition at the Sydney Biennale in 2012 and then again  for both  Illuminate Bath, England and Festival of Mons, Cultural Capital of Europe, Belgium in two new versions in 2015.

The Ark in Avoca

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Rehearsing Catastrophe: The Ark in Avoca from Lyndal Jones on Vimeo.

Rehearsing Catastrophe; the Ark in Avoca documentary video 

The Ark in Sydney

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Lyndal Joned: Rehersing Catastrophe - The Ark in Sydney


An Ark for Somerset
coming soon...


Works in this series include

Whispering Wall, Mockridge Fountain, City Square, Melbourne then for ‘In the Balance: Art for a Changing World’ MCA Sydney in 2010,
Noel – video work for  ‘Figuring Landscapes: Artists Moving Image from Australia and the UK’ Tate Modern, London, ACMI Melbourne 2009-10,
Water Table, sculptural installation, RMIT University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 2009,
The Avoca Project (website and photographs) for ‘Ecologies’ The Contemporary, Lismore City Gallery, Lismore, NSW 2009,
The Swiss House, group exhibition curated by L. Jones, Project Space/Spare Room, RMIT University, with Nigel Frayne, Aldo Iacobelli, Antoni Jach, Mel Ogden, Longin Sarnecki, Ben Speth, Gosia Wlodarczak, 2008
The Bridge of No Return, (photo/sound installation) Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne 2008,
The Axe Murder Incident, ‘DMZ 2005’, (video installation) DMZ, South Korea 2005,
Tears for What Was Done (sculptural installation with drums, water, neon) in Darwin With Tears, survey exhibition throughout ACCA, Melbourne, 2008 



Watford House hosts International and Australian artists by invitation to create works ‘in conversation with’ the house. Most have created large-scale works on-site or in the town.

Artists-in-residence to date have included:
Bagryana Popov and performers for Uncle Vanya in Avoca (study 2014, performance, 2015), Lindy Lee and Mel Ogden, then Wang Zheng-Ting and Margie Kay for the Avoca Chinese Garden, Natalie Jerimijenko, Linda Jackson,  Carl Michael von Hauswolff, Jane Prophet and Nic Lowe to create individual projects, Megan Evans and Gayle Maddigan, Yutako Shindo, Jill Orr and Fiona Harrisson to create works for the Avoca Eco Festival in 2009.

Artists who have exhibited in exhibitions at Watford House or about the project include:
Terri Bird, Kim Donaldson, Dominique Dunstan, Lesley Duxbury, Katarina Frank, David Harley, Lily Hibberd, Antoni Jach, Aldo Iacobelli, Dean Keep, Ash Keating, Tamara Marwood, Longin Sarnecki, Julie Shiels, Simone Slee, Ben Speth, Brie Trenery, Gosia Wlodarczak.

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About Lyndal Jones

The Avoca Project is based on expertise gathered through contributions to cultural innovation as art for the last thirty years. Lyndal Jones first provided important developments in the discourse around Feminism in Australia with her AT HOME series (1977 - 80), and then issues of empowerment more generally with her internationally recognised performance-art works (Engberg, 1996), her development of interactive video works as art installations (first exhibited in 1983) and the writings that have accompanied these projects.

She has been recognised for this research by the two most prestigious awards given in Australia – the Australian Artists Creative Fellowship from the Australian Government (1993 – 1996) and selection to represent Australia at the 2001 Venice Biennale, arguably the most important art event on the international calendar.

In 2008 she exhibited Darwin with Tears, a survey exhibition of her ten-year project FROM THE DARWIN TRANSLATIONS (1992-98); combined with TEARS FOR WHAT WAS DONE, (2003–2005) throughout the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne. This work, an original contribution to analysis of Charles Darwin’s work on sexual selection, is the subject of an extensive accompanying catalogue/book written with Sue Cramer.

Her earlier research includes a 10 year series THE PREDICTION PIECES (1981- 1991) with works that examine ways in which we address the future by developing strategies for hope and engagement through play. The archive of this project is held by the MCA, Sydney

She is currently Professor of Contemporary Art in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University.

Click here for full CV



Of Note

In 2008, The Avoca Project was nominated for the 01SJ Prix Green for Environmental
Art, 01SJ Biennial San Jose USA

In 2013 it was one of 5 artworks cited on the Regional Arts Victoria website as a model example of a contemporary artwork that has been transformational in its effect on a community. For further information: http://smalltowns.rav.net.au/author/homeiswherethehallis/



The Central Goldfields town of Avoca is two hour's drive from Melbourne and 45 minutes from Ballarat, at the crossroads of the Pyreness and Sunraysia Highways, and is located in the Pyrenees Ranges, amidst some of Victoria's best wineries.

Avoca Project address:
16 Dundas Street, Avoca 3467 Victoria

For more information regarding accommodation and bookings visit: Pyrenees Tourism


The Avoca Project Inc
Watford House
16 Dundas St, Avoca
Victoria 3467
Phone: 5465 3424