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Monday 15 July 2024

Centre of the Centre

10 July 2021 - 29 August 2021

Centre of the Centre

Mel O'Callaghan

Above: Mel O’Callaghan, Centre of the Centre, 2019, installation view, Artspace, Sydney, courtesy the artist and Kronenberg Mais Wright, Sydney; Galerie Allen, Paris; Belo-Galsterer, Lisbon. Photo: Zan Wimberley. | Below: Mel O’Callaghan, Respire, respire, 2019, performance and installation at Artspace, Sydney, courtesy the artist and Kronenberg Mais Wright, Sydney; Galerie Allen, Paris; Belo-Galsterer, Lisbon. Photo: Document Photography.

Centre of the Centre is a major new commission by Australian-born, Paris-based contemporary artist Mel O’Callaghan that traces the origins of life and its regenerative forces, iterated through video, performance and sculpture. The catalyst for this new body of work is one small mineral given to the artist by her grandfather, renowned mineralogist Albert Chapman. The mineral contains a small pocket of water, possibly millions of years old, which holds traces of the elemental forces responsible for all life on earth.

Though the immersive Centre of the Centre video artwork, audiences are plunged 4km below the surface in the Pacific Ocean to encounter lifeforms sustained in extreme environments. The alluring sculptural installation Respire, respire is made up of convex and concave sheets of glass, manipulated to push material boundaries. A performance that activates these sculptures will bring the unifying lifeforce of breath to the centre, capturing its powerful capabilities to create both calm and excitement through the depth and rapidity of inhalation and exhalation.

The exhibition is situated across two sites:
Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts, 408 Flinders St, Townsville and (approximately 60m walk away) Flinders Lane, 376 Flinders St, Townsville QLD. The exhibition will now be on display 10 July – 29 August 2021.

The exhibition was launched Friday 16 July 2021 along with Yana Gair Le (Walk Together) by First Nations artists based in North Queensland. A performance at the opening launch and in conjunction with a talk drew audiences further into the exhibition.

Respire, Respire, a live performance work developed by Mel O'Callaghan accompanied Centre of the Centre in the Flinders Lane street-front gallery space. Respire, Respire is a work based on a choreography of breathing, sculpture and performance. Activating the glass sculptural works, performers will undertake breathing rituals to gradually attain altered states of consciousness. This can range from meditative to ecstatic or even hallucinatory. The sculptures act as ritualised objects and performance tools, amplifying the sensation of breathing in the space. When performer and sculpture come together, O’Callaghan accentuates the necessary human and non-human balance responsible for maintaining and regenerating life on Earth.

Visitors must comply with Umbrella’s COVID19 Safety Plan and directives, including updated governmental guidelines.

Mel O’Callaghan’s Centre of the Centre was curated and developed by Artspace and is touring nationally with Museums & Galleries of NSW. Centre of the Centre is co-commissioned by Le Confort Moderne, Poitiers; Artspace, Sydney; and The University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane. With Commissioning Partners Andrew Cameron AM & Cathy Cameron and Peter Wilson & James Emmett; and Lead Supporter, Kronenberg Mais Wright. The development and presentation of Centre of the Centre is supported by the Fondation des Artistes; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the US National Science Foundation. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

This exhibition is proudly presented as part of the North Australian Festival of Arts (NAFA) 2 July – 1 August 2021.

COVID Safe Visits

Umbrella asks that visitors adhere to social distancing, visitor logs, and other COVID Safe directives and procedures as directed.

More COVID Information

Open Hours

Tues - Fri: 9am-5pm

Sat - Sun: 9am-1pm

Gallery closed Mondays, public holidays and during exhibition install weeks.

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(07) 4772 7109

408 Flinders Street,
Gurambilbarra (Townsville),
Qld, 4810 Australia

PO Box 2394,
Gurambilbarra (Townsville),
Qld, 4810 Australia

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Acknowledgement of Country

Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts respectfully acknowledges the Wulgurukaba of Gurambilbarra and Yunbenun and the surrounding groups of our region - Bindal, Gugu Badhan, Nywaigi, Warrgamay, Bandjin and Gudjal - as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we gather, share and celebrate local creative practice. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first people of Australia. They have never ceded sovereignty and remain strong in their enduring connection to land and Culture.

Umbrella is a Dealer Member of the Indigenous Art Code. This means we are committed to fair and ethical trade with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, and transparency in the promotion and sale of artwork. As a Dealer Member and signatory to the Code we must act fairly, honestly, professionally and in good conscience in all direct or indirect dealings with artists.


Umbrella is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, part of the Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy, and by the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, state and territory governments. | Umbrella is supported by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation and receives funding from Creative Australia through the Australian Cultural Fund. | Townsville City Council is a funding partner of Umbrella's program.