Reflect and rest at new installation at Birdsland Reserve

Left to right: QAC collaborator Ben Guerrine, QAC collaborator Zali Mustafa, QAC collaborator Lachlan Wyness, QAC collaborator Jordan Treadwell, Queer Art Collective facilitator Gülsen Özer, Burrinja board chairperson Prof Liz Dax AM, Casey MP Aaron Violi, Uncle Ringo Terrick, Yarra Ranges Cr Johanna Skelton, Creative Director & CEO at Burrinja, Gareth Hart, QAC collaborator Zeth Cameron, QAC collaborator Louis Jenkin, lead artist Tay Haggarty, QAC collaborator Poppy Adams and QAC collaborator Damian McKenna. PICTURES: CATHY RONALDS

By Tyler Wright

A new art installation has launched at Belgrave Heights’ Birdsland Reserve in a partnership between the Burrinja Cultural Centre and Melbourne based artist Tay Haggarty.

Carabiner Bench (Nature found no fault with me) – is the result of six months of intensive workshops between Haggarty and 12 collaborators from the Queer Art Collective (QAC).

The QAC was established in 2022 though a partnership between Burrinja Cultural Centre and the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) as part of the Big Connect Program.

Haggarty, lead artist on the project, said it was “wonderful” to see the work come to fruition after not knowing what the end result would look like.

“I really wanted what the group really felt about what it means to be queer in 2023 as a young person; so pulling together common threads and common values and working that into a temporary public artwork,” Haggerty said.

“Along the way there was a lot of things that popped up, but there was three key things that the group kind of connected on, which was a really strong desire to feel seen, the importance of queer community, especially outside main metropolitan areas, and then the idea that nature can be restorative for some queer people to rest and reflect.”

The idea of a carabiner bench was struck up after a participant brought in carabiners as part of one creative workshop, and others decked their own out in charms.

“[We] talked about the history and the relevance of carabiners in queer culture and queer history, and that became a really strong idea behind the work,” Haggerty said.

“We also talked a lot about the sun as a metaphor for queer joy; and how queer joy can be fleeting, it can be solo, it can be complex, it can be sharp and soft, but it’s forever sweet.”

Carabiner Bench was officially launched to the public on Sunday 8 October at Birdsland Reserve.

Haggarty said the launch event was “incredibly special”.

“It was a very inter-generational event that was of course my young collaborators but also older members from the community and conversations about how wonderful it is that this work can exist now in a public space and be celebrated, because it wasn’t always that way,” they said.

“Talking about and giving thanks to queer elders and the work that they’ve done to get us here and the bravery to celebrate and be out and obnoxiously yellow – you can’t miss it.”

The artwork will be on display until Friday 15 December.

“I hope that anyone who pops by; queer or not, takes it as a prompt to sit down and rest and reflect,” Haggarty said.

“We’re all exhausted by being in the world in one way or another; and I think that reprieve and calmness of being out in nature is something that we all share.”

A poetry reading session set to be held on Saturday 28 October will also form part of the installation.

“It’s a really nice moment for people of all ages just to come and share something they’re working on, or maybe just come and listen,” Haggarty added.

“To be sitting all around the bench reading queer poetry is just so gorgeous.

“The idea of a sculpture being a catalyst for connection – without the bench, we wouldn’t all be coming there together and enjoying each other’s company – so I think that it’s going to be really exciting.”