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, the landscape as a site of climate change and response.
Parallel research projects with climate change experts and artists are developing other artworks as indicators of water and power useage. Together these works will become part of the house and its site, combining to create a large-scale, poetic image of resilience to climate change in a small country town, where climate change action becomes viable by focusing on the specifics of place. This project takes place over 10 years (2005-2015) and includes land works, exhibitions, performances, film showings, concerts and symposia.
Lyndal Jones converted Watford House into a giant ship as part of a sound and video installation project called Rehearsing Catastrophe #1: the Ark in Avoca.
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 Dundus Street, Avoca 3467 Victoria
For more information regarding accommodation and bookings visit:
Mending the House
A series of many small-scale artworks made during the rescuing of the house from disintegration as a much larger artwork. On going from 2005 with more than 30 volunteers and tradespeople.
Portraits from the Swiss House
The stories of the house and its site are being unearthed and reconstructed as a series of written stories and video works. Central to this has been the inspection of the house by eminent heritage architect Professor Miles Lewis and his nomination of it as one of only three such houses left in the world. In 2009, Watford House was declared to be historically significant and added to the Victorian Heritage register.
A series of videos is being produced in collaboration with ethnographic filmmaker Ben Speth as small studies of memory and place. The first, 'Noel', was shown at Tate Modern in 2009 in the exhibition 'Figuring Landscapes' curated by Catherine Elwes and Stephen Ball.
On Poetry and Weather
A poetic indicator of water use will be heard throughout the house as a sound-work. connected to a 90,000 litre innovative underground water tank constructed by Simon Pockley to make the site self-sufficient in water.
Land artist Mel Ogden and Lyndal Jones, have collaborated to heighten the European immigrant history of the house as a visual image while simultaneously supporting water collection and flood mitigation. This involves the construction of walls, embankments,and the use of rocks, gravel, indigenous plants and weeds. This project was supported by a Federal Government Community Water Grant in 2007. The third project will involve creation of a poetic indicator of power as series of light works that change with power use, to be completed in 2012.
On April 21, 2007, a symposium of environment and heritage experts (with keynote speaker and ‘Natural Sequence’ farmer, Peter Andrews) including a performance involving planting 300 Belladonna Lillies ('Naked Ladies') by the 150 participants, provided advice on further sustainability measures to the project and to all present. The house-as-working-image was open to the public for the first time. This project was supported by an Arts Development Grant from Arts Victoria and by the Pyrenees Shire.
Led by Artplay (City of Melbourne) through its director, Simon Spain, the first in this series of annual events took place in November 2008 with a number of artists working with people of any age who wished to spend time drawing at the house.
New York environmental artist, Natalie Jerimijenko, worked with local soil expert and poet, Martin Wynne and new York chef Mehir Desai to create a soiree with desserts and cocktails using soil and weeds for 50 attendees.
Carl Michael Von Hausswolff, internationally recognised Swedish artist worked with 8 post graduate sound students from RMIT University to create ‘Freq Out’ a summer evening music event with projected images and accompanying live frog sounds.
For the Avoca Eco-Living festival, artists Yutako Shindo created an installation that addressed water, Jill Orr worked with schoolchildren on the construction of eco-cubbies and Megan Evans and Gayle Maddigan carried out a community mapping project that involved visited every house in the town and resulted in a large-scale video installation.
British artist Jane Prophet was the first artist-in-residence. .Her large scale, on-site installation used electro-luminescent cable to create a floating grid across the landscape representing varying flood levels in the property/town.
New Zealand writer Nic Low (Co-Director of the National Young Writer's Festival in 2007) undertook a residency at the same time.
Through her performance works and interactive video works as art installations (first exhibited in 1983) Lyndal Jones has focused on feminism and empowerment. Throughout, her works have addressed the experiential and the development of interactivity. She has been recognised for this work with an Australian Artists Creative Fellowship from the Australian Government (1993 – 1996), her selection to represent Australia at the 2001 Venice Biennale and a major survey exhibition throughout ACCA in 2009.
In late 2004 she began working at the School of Creative Media at RMIT University, completing her PhD on the propositional nature of art research and use of the web to archive complex, time-based artworks, in mid 2005 (now published as www.darwintranslations.com) and also exhibited at the DMZ in Korea (DMZ 2005).
She has undertaken four major research projects - TEARS FOR WHAT WAS DONE– interactive video works on emotion (2003 –2005); FROM THE DARWIN TRANSLATIONS, video installations, films, performances (1992 - 98) examining Darwin’s study of Sexual Selection; THE PREDICTION PIECES; performances & slide installations (1981 - 1991) examining optimism and AT HOME; a solo performance series (1977 - 80) that utilised domestic imagery. In all of these works she has worked with artists and specialists in other fields from a wide range of disciplines in Australia, Japan, China, Korea, Canada, Great Britain, France, Holland, Germany and Italy.
From 2005 she has is focused on development of THE AVOCA PROJECT as her next ten year research series of artworks
Edinburgh Festival review (PDF)
Simon has led the rebuilding of several areas of the heritage-sensitive house, led the installation of the innovative underground water tank, and advises on a range of aspects of management and development of the project. He also developed the Avoca Project blog.
Beyond Boundaries (PDF)
Simon Pockley is a consultant in web-based services, metadata analysis and wide ranging research projects. He produced the world’s first web-based PhD (RMIT 1995) and, for a number of years was the collections manager for the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). He is also chairman of the Otway Barham Catchment Landcare Group, an experienced builder and farmer.
Ben Speth worked as a painter, cinematographer and filmmaker in NYC before moving to Melbourne in 2000. His first feature film, dresden (1999) was licensed by the Showtime Network and was shown at the Sundance, Belfort, Mar del Plata, New York Underground and Brisbane film festivals, among others. In 2002 he was commissioned by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image to make a silent work entitled dummy. His second feature film, Forever, was part of the ACMI/NGV show 2004: A Survey of Recent Australian Visual Culture. In 2005 he completed Satellite, a feature film that premiered the same year at the 53rd Melbourne International Film Festival. He continues to work with artists, architects, designers, dance and theatre companies.
Ben was involved in the initial video documentation of the house and site and has returned to collaborate with Lyndal Jones on each development of the project as a video work.
Awards include: Design Institute of Australia Award for Innovation and Excellence (2005) and Royal Australian Institute of Architecture Award - Residential Alterations and Extensions (2004), both with Multiplicity Architects for the Glenlyon Project.
Mel Ogden is a landscape artist working from Trentham, Victoria.
Mel is working collaboratively with Lyndal to create the image of the house by shaping the land around it while simultaneously dealing with issues of water retention. This has involved the use of rocks, gravel, weeds, indigenous and native plantings, walls, embankments and creation of both an innovative vegetable garden and a wetland area.
Other Commissions include Melbourne City Council, Southbank extension – Grants and Dodd Street: Scoty Jomp G/L, design phase; Urbanedge homes, concept development; Tivoli residence, balcony and garden, Melbourne; Alfredson residence, courtyard, Melbourne, Avoca Street residence, front and rear courtyards, Melbourne; Madden Street courtyard, Melbourne, VIC, Blue Mount Rise', Trentham, VIC,
Federation of Education Unions courtyard, Melbourne, 2007
The Avoca Project Inc
16 Dundas St, Avoca
Phone: 5465 3424
For the latest news and events please visit the Avoca Project Blog: