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Holly Birtles + Natalia Janula – Mother Lode

January 28 February 26

It goes off—like a pop, like a laugh, a sneeze; like an orgasm; like a little explosion, an overflow. Its telling says, I am here.”

– Susan Sontag, The Volcano Lover

We were all somewhere once.

Present in the rawest form of time.
The kind that rushes in.
And leaves you gently swaying.
You fool! You’ve been had.

There really can be no forecasting for a somewhere.

And once it’s passed, everything in its wake is a sorry souvenir.

A reflection. A husk.
A ‘new memory for you, today’.
Backed up onto a stony cold drive.

When I told my story, I sold it away. Did I make it clearer or did I make fade?

We can’t help it, we instantly fossilise our somewheres, just like we fossilise our special someones. It’s human to archive and catalogue.

How do you store your somewheres?

Perhaps they are perfectly flattened, ordered chronologically in a filing cabinet; each one leading neatly onto the next.

Maybe you privately worship yours at a secret shrine. Precious symbols that mean nothing but something to you.

Could they be sucked in tight? A vacuumed packed piece of supermarket meat can’t possibly breathe or it might spoil for good.

I’ll admit that some of mine are… off-shore.

So far away in fact, that I couldn’t tell you how to get there. I must have misplaced the map.

A somewhere that was too much. Too volatile for the mind of a child to work out.
An eruption with no warning. Olympian lava meets cold sea. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide (baby).

This somewhere formed its own island without me.

An immaculate preservation under a shining shell that won’t move for centuries.

What happens in that somewhere now, is anyone’s telling.


Mother Lode is the first duo presentation of artists Holly Birtles and Natalia Janula at Xxijra Hii.

The photographic pieces in Mother Lode are taken from Birtles’ recent body of work titled Volcano Mother, where the artist has staged performances and props intended to reflect various volcanos on Mother Earth’s surface. As well as exploring the limitations of the photographic process, Birtles also seeks to frustrate viewers with tactile textures and props in her flattened images.

The mixed media assemblages on display are a continuation of Janula’s practice, and her exploration of the female body, natural world and material phenomenology. Employing materials between the organic and synthetic, such as latex, sandstone, Jesmonite and found objects, Janula simulates entities whose physiologies include both technological and biological components.

In bringing together these two artistic practices, audiences are invited to further consider their placement and agency within the wider ecosystem and landscape that we are privileged to call home.

Text by Georgia Stephenson

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