Image: Bonita Ely, We Live to Be Surprised (detail), 1989/2019. Installation at Southwark Park Galleries, London. Plaster, mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane


12 October 2019 – 8 February 2020

This survey exhibition brings together major works by Australian artist Bonita Ely, documenting darkly humorous dystopian futures wrought by environmental degradation and genetic engineering.

We Live to be Surprised 1989/2019 is Ely’s latest iteration of ‘snabbits’ - half snail/half rabbits. Engineered as a food source for an over-populated planet by a futuristic agribusiness regime, these initially benign creatures have evolved into a feral monoculture, peeking out from the rubble of redundant technologies.

Shown in Australia for the first time since its debut at documenta14 in 2017, Plastikus Progressus 2017/19 parodies natural history dioramas. Set in 2054, it details the extraordinary taxonomies of creatures genetically engineered to consume plastic and, in the process, clean up our mess in the streets, oceans and rivers. The installation includes a new section examining the plastic pollution of the Brisbane River.

The exhibition also includes a major 1973 painting by Ely The Locust People, demonstrating the consistency with which Ely has been exploring futuristic hybrids created by environmental devastation since the earliest years of her practice.

With her characteristic wry satire, Ely’s works imagine an impossible future where nature has adapted with the assistance of science, and flourished despite the devastating effects of plastic pollution and human-induced climate change.

Bonita Ely Plastikus Progressus: Memento Mori (detail) 2017/19. Plastic, cellophane, metal, photographs, sound, works on paper and touch screen. Dimensions variable.
Image courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.