ABOUT

Elizabeth Day is a cross-disciplinary visual artist, activist, arts facilitator, writer and educator. Her multi-faceted practice spanning over 30 years includes studio practice, collaborative projects and curating. She is currently Co-Director of Boom Gate Gallery, Long Bay Correctional Centre.

Photo: Billy Gruner

Much of Day’s practice relates to Australia’s colonial history, specifically referencing the significance of the prison as an image on the landscape as a way of considering current Australian culture as a shallow surface on and interfacing with an ancient country. She has worked as an educator for many years in corrections and is very much aware of the abiding conditions that result in high numbers of Aboriginal people in Australian prisons. From 2012-17 she worked on various sites along the Parramatta River, a location with a palpable atmosphere of the distress of much of our early and continuing institutional history. For Day these sites are wounds on the landscape that her practice has addressed in various ways.

She was awarded a Doctorate of Creative Arts, Department of Writing and Society, University of Western Sydney, in 2013, and holds both a Master of Arts Administration and a Master of Fine Art from COFA, UNSW, and a BA (Visual Arts) from Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. She is currently a Visual Arts PhDXtra candidate, with the Department of Arts and Education, Deakin University. Her Doctoral project is titled Working in the Trouble, which will develop a theoretical framework for 6-7 inter-related projects that Day has realised since 2013. A major monograph on Day’s work Discontinued Narratives (edited by Nicholas Tsoutas) was published in 2017, and Day is currently working on another book that includes her ficto-critical writings that run concurrent to her visual practice.

Below are writings about Elizabeth Day’s practice and her collaborative projects as well as writings by her.

Elizabeth Day, Working in the Trouble, 2019-ongoing, Doctoral project, Deakin University.

‘Working in the Trouble’ is the title of a new Doctoral project at Deakin University. This will develop a theoretical framework for 6-7 inter-related projects that Day has developed since 2013. Research proposal. MORE

Seán Kelly, Older Than Language, review in Artlink, Sept 2020.

Elizabeth Day’s work Liverpool/Liverpool is a component of a series of works which Day has been developing from 2000. The work developed as large casts of Indigenous grass-and-root structures embedded within the soil and shaped to spell out significant words and phrases derived in this case from the poem Émigré by her poet sister Sarah. These root mats are then removed and presented in their raw final state. Day has often used plants, gardens and the concepts of planting and growth in her work. MORE

Alasdair Foster, The Idea of Redemption: Artmaking in prison, feature on Boom Gate Gallery in Artlink, Sept 2020.

Why do we imprison those who break the law? Is it a form of retribution meted out by the state on behalf of the community? Is it in order to deter others who may consider a life of crime from taking that path and to discourage recidivism? Is it simply a way of removing and containing dangerous individuals in order to maintain the peace and safety of society? Or is it a way to rehabilitate those who have made bad choices, so that they may be re-integrated into society when their sentence has been served? MORE

Tess Campbell, Older Than Language, video series, Part Two, Salamanca Arts Centre, 2020.

During the COVID-19 shutdown a video series was produced to provide online access to the exhibition. Part Two of the video series on Older Than Language features artists Phuong Ngo (of collaborative due Slippage alongside Hwafern Quach), Elizabeth Day and Khaled Sabsabi. Video documentation and production by Tess Campbell. MORE

Anna Gibbs, Elizabeth Day, Julie Gough, and Noelene Lucas, Crime Scene, 2019, Longford Town Hall, Ten Days on the Island festival, Tasmania, exhibition catalogue.

‘Crime Scene’ (2019) explores the history of Longford and its immediate surrounds (and by extension the history of Tasmania) as a crime scene, as each of the video works addresses a particular act of violence from the colonial period. The Longford Project is a group of artists (Elizabeth Day, Anna Gibbs, Julie Gough and Noelene Lucas). For several years this group has been creating contemporary art about the intersection of family and colonial histories in the wider Longford region. These works have been exhibited in two major exhibitions in Sydney in 2012 and 2014, and in Longford in 2015. MORE…

Virginia Wright, Evidential Art: Crime Scene, 2019, exhibition review.

‘Crime Scene’ presents four violent colonial incidents through video artworks that show directly or indirectly how various aspects of the crimes remain veiled behind the palpable fear and screcy of the time. The protagonists were male and female, European and Aboriginal, young and old, settled and transient, servant and landowner, professional and labourer. The world they unequally shared is delineated in MORE…

Peter Hutchings, Foreword in Elizabeth Day, “Discontinued Narratives”, 2017, book.

Elizabeth Day’s career spans more than 30 years, but also the more than 17,000 kilometers and over 200 years between Liverpool in the UK and Liverpool, NSW, and between the colonial period of transportation and Australia’s contemporary almost-postcolonial present. MORE…

Interview with Nicholas Tsoutas (Chapter 1) in Elizabeth Day, “Discontinued Narratives”, 2017, book.

Displacement and migration are twin and interconnected themes in your work. You arrived in Australia as a migrant and lived in Tasmania and then some years later relocated to Sydney, where you now live. Could you discuss the impact that leaving from Liverpool in the UK as a migrant had on your cultural imaginings? Did you feel displaced even though you were coming to a British colony which not only spoke English but seemed to carry English cultural logics despite distance and difference? MORE…

Anna Gibbs, Radials and Radicals: The Rhizomatic Practice of Elizabeth Day (Chapter 2) in Elizabeth Day, “Discontinued Narratives”, 2017, book.

Everything around us was cold, damp, dark and gloomy. Hideous fungi, of all varieties of shape and colour, clustered beneath the wet, half-charred logs, or inside the hollow trees, as if they knew themselves to be unfit to meet the light of day, or even the twilight of the forest, so disgusting were they, in their livid, bloated, venomous-looking swarms. MORE…

Ann Finegan, Rhizomatics and Micro Circuits of Power (Chapter 3) in Elizabeth Day, “Discontinued Narratives”, 2017, book.

In an unmistakably philosophical way, multiple strands of contemporary thinking inform Day’s practice. Deconstruction, psychoanalysis, feminism, cross-culturalism and postcolonialism resonate deeply within the work in ways which are never overt but rather expressed through process – deceptively simple craft processes like knitting, for example, or horticulture in the growing of grasses. MORE…

Jacqueline Millner, Elizabeth Day’s Feminist Practice (Chapter 4) in Elizabeth Day, “Discontinued Narratives”, 2017, book.

Elizabeth Day’s practice and politics are inextricably entwined, and feminism is fundamental to both. Feminism here means many things: principles and insights drawn from personal experience as much as from the affirmations and epiphanies inspired by the theory and practice of others. But at its the heart, feminism is a critique of conceptual frameworks of domination. Feminism is anti-hierarchical and inclusive, rather than oppositional and mutually exclusive. MORE…

Elizabeth Day, The Black: Mutation in Darkness (Chapter 5) in Elizabeth Day, “Discontinued Narratives”, 2017, book.

The verb – to scrutinise comes from the Latin root scruta: this means to look hard to the extent of digging through old rags and garbage. This work is about scrutinising, scrutinising my installation art practice and its roots – in the earth, in previous art practices, especially those of Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Smithson and Eva Hesse, and in my family, its history of migrating…and of ghosts. MORE…

Claire Taylor, Introduction in Elizabeth Day, Everything is Connected with Everything Else: Myco Logic, 2017, exhibition catalogue.

Elizabeth Day has had a long-standing interest in institutions and contexts of incarceration and care—historic and contemporary. A main thematic of her doctoral thesis was the colonial imposition of the prison on the Australian landscape, which drew her to work with the aggregation of institutions in Parramatta North. The institutions include Cumberland Hospital’s East Campus on the site of the Female Factory and Asylum, Parramatta Gaol, the Norma Parker Centre and the infamous Parramatta Girls Home. Since 2013, Day’s work there has engaged with the historic shifts taking place with the highly contentious redevelopment. MORE…

Ann Finegan, Maria Miranda and Anna Gibbs on Myco Logic, exhibition and participatory project, Cementa15, Kandos, 2015.

Myco Logic‘s premise of connectivity, through its rhizomatic substructure, was an apt metaphor for community connection and engagement. This project facilitated engagement between visiting urban artists and local artists and craftspeople… Myco Logic is one of those rare community engagement art projects that equally facilitates individual artistic expression and collective participation. MORE…

Gardens and Prisons: Parramatta Female Factory Memory Project, 2013. Symposium at UTS.

In recalling the image of a garden in a previous prison project–an artwork within a prison–Day will bring forward this field of neglect to think about how important such projects and the current Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Memory Project are, in examining these powerful and extremely lingering affects in order to disperse them. She will briefly outline her ideas on the current Memory Garden design, which she sees as a multi-sensory ‘painting’. MORE…

Claire Taylor, Introduction, in “Drawing Lines in the Sand”, 2012, exhibition catalogue.

Drawing Lines in the Sand is an exhibition on Cockatoo Island of installation projects developed by Julia Davis, Elizabeth Day, Christian Edwardes, Geoff Kleem, Adam Norton and Lisa Jones in collaboration with Derek Allan. Cockatoo Island is the largest island in Sydney Harbour. Post-European colonization the site has been radically reshaped by successive institutions. It has previously been a prison, reformatory and government shipyard. This exhibition uses a number of spaces on the Eastern Apron of the island within the former Industrial Precinct, an area that foregrounds a lot of the current authority’s “revitalization” projects and conservation efforts. MORE…

Melanie Daniels, CAUTION! in “Drawing Lines in the Sand”, 2012, exhibition catalogue.

Like theologians of the Apocalypse, Slavoj Žižek marshals the term “End Times”, but to characterise the brink on which the world is at present sitting. That brink is a crisis of an ecological, economic and/or bio-genetic nature. In the face of it, the world has witnessed an increase in the levels of anxiety and chaos; and institutions now legislate far more than before. Fear manifests in caution, heightening Occupational Health and Safety laws, themselves possibly a result of this increased anxiety and chaos. MORE…

Elizabeth Day and Claire Taylor, Elizabeth Day, in “Drawing Lines in the Sand”, 2012, exhibition catalogue.

Against a backdrop of an accelerating world of transplantings, mobilities, mutations and metamorphoses, Elizabeth Day’s site-specific installation works usually define paths of active engagement in relation to historical, industrial, institutional and gendered historical strata of information. MORE…

Elizabeth Day, The Black, 2002-2012.

The verb –to scrutinise comes from the Latin root scruta: this means to look hard to the extent of digging through old rags and garbage. MORE…

Elizabeth Day, Liverpool/Liverpool (After The Black), 2011, in “Southerly” vol 71 no 1, 2011.

Was it the weight of the past in the corridor space beneath the courtroom that made me sick? Did I catch something on the plane maybe? I have to go back to the hotel room. At the base of the steps is the room where the accused sat waiting to ascend the spiral wooden steps and face their charges. If found guilty they would “go down” for it, to another adjacent holding room. MORE…

Ann Finegan, Liverpool Liverpool: The Skin of Translation, 2011, in “Southerly” vol 71 no 1, 2011.

Two exhibitions titled ‘Liverpool/ Liverpool: The Skin of Translation’ by Elizabeth Day were shown almost simultaneously in September 2010 at St George’s Hall in Liverpool UK and in Liverpool, Australia. This fortuitous synchronicity of Liverpool/Liverpool (the shows overlapped for a month) consolidates the circuit of sending and return that characterises the colonial relation. Indeed, the journey Day and her family made from Lancashire to Hobart when she was 10 years old is the very same trajectory she retraced for her show at St George’s Hall. MORE…

Elizabeth Day, Migratory Words, Migratory Worlds: From Liverpool (UK) to Liverpool (NSW), and Back Again, 2011, in “Crossings: Journal of Mirgration and Culture,” vol 2 issue 1, 2011.

This visual essay reflects on being caught up in the idea and process of migration, mutation and transplantation. Inspired by the postminimalist works of Robert Smithson, especially his transplanting of art outside the gallery, my art practice is intimately related to the earth, to deterritorialization and reterritorialization in the creation of earthworks. MORE…

Andrew Frost, What lies beneath, 2011, in “Metro/Art”, Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 25 – Mar 3, 2011.

As part from her study for a creative doctorate at the University of Western Sydney, Elizabeth Day has been researching the work of American artist Robert Smithson. Like the art of Smithson, Day’s sculptural objects might be termed “earth works” but instead of using a massive scale and impervious materials, Day’s art is subtle and understated and made from organic materials that won’t last forever. MORE…

Judith Duquemin, Making and Breaking Pattern, catalogue essay, exhibition at Carnegie Gallery, Hobart, 2007, and University of Newcastle Gallery, 2008.

Pattern is a regular or repetitive form, generally involving types of order and arrangement. Patterns are made according to certain rules; however through a making and breaking of the rules of pattern making, the conceptual realm of the artist’s intention is revealed. Pattern becomes a vehicle for expressing Variation. MORE…

Ann Finegan, Wild Genealogy and Rhizomatic Links, catalogue essay, in Our Lucky Country, 2007, exhibition at Hazlehurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre.

Grass is the prosaic stuff of the everyday, a common denominator of ordinary backyards and suburban dreams. But in various species it is also wanderer, a spreader, a stubborn disseminator that resists neat fences and boundary lines, refusing to be as quarantined like more well mannered trees. MORE…

Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Our Lucky Country (Still Different), exhibition documentary, Hazlehurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre, 2007.

This film for the exhibition “Our Lucky Country (Still Different)” documents 16 artists working in and around the Sutherland Shire and Hazlehurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre in 2007. MORE…

Anne Loxley, The Charisma of Schizophrenia, in “For Matthew and Others: Journeys with Schizophrenia“, exhibition catalogue, 2006.

Elizabeth Day’s Everything is Connected to Everything Else. Work for Uncle Frank and others who fell into the Chasm of Fear in History’s Black Void (2006) is an exploration of the shame, fear and silence around the institutionalisation of family members. Knitting and wool craft, one of Day’s favourite mediums, is especially apposite in a work about a family in which there are “three generations of knitters”. MORE…

Ann Finegan, Segmentarity and Politics of Incarceration: Elizabeth Day’s ‘Notes from the Castle’, in Tin Sheds exhibition catalogue, 2004.

The human element of systems is explored in two recent installations by Liz Day. The Fragility of Goodness consisted of an open-ended structure of fine white wool knitted into a form of delicate, but haphazard, organic dimensions. Emblematic of chance and randomness, it was the paradoxical product of the strict repetition of knitting-as-process [knit a row purl a row], reminiscent of biological or genetic programming, which evolving without a blueprint. MORE…

Duncan Fairfax, The Texture of Materiality, in “Elizabeth Day, View from the Sixty-Third Floor: an installation in three locations”, 2003.

In his most recently translated book The Sense of the World Jean-Luc Nancy has attempted to describe what has been called an (a)theological (a)cosmology, that is a vision of the world, the cosmos, or universe, that has no founding ideal or absolute ground, no guiding principle, nor indeed any form of teleological orientation what so ever at all. This is a cosmos without beginning or end, a cosmos in a constant state of expansion from nowhere to nothing. MORE…

Patrick Crogan, Lost in Space: View from the Sixty-Third Floor, 1998.

Elizabeth Day’s hydroponic installation triggers for me a mental association with the American 1960s television series, Lost in Space. The Robinson family, marooned on an unknown planet, use a hydroponic system to grow vegetables to live on. As the title, View From the 63rd Floor, suggests, Day’s installation of hydroponics and grass is also lost in space (and time), but not in the same camp mode as the 60s television series. MORE…

Christine Dean, Unravelling Production, in “The Offcuts of Reason: works by Elizabeth Day”, 1997.

Talking about Liz Day’s approach to making art is a bit like stepping on chewing gum, the more you resist the more you get caught up in its sticky surface. The approach of this commentary is to firstly develop a connection between the material objects of cultural production and secondly to use this method as a guide to experiencing the lines, sinuosities and surfaces that make up the material presence of the works. MORE…

Notes for a work as yet untitled – exhibition at Artspace, Sydney, 1986.

I want to speak of the pleasures of different marks on the paper and upon the body. What is acted out in this pleasure? Sweeps and strokes from the artist’s hand transcribe memory. Who is involved? The body that made the marks and other bodies making them over again, standing before the work. Traces of the past are retraced in our bodies now, in a lineage born long before this time and place, and not yet complete. Past and future meet in this present tense, in these marks, in this place, under this arch. MORE…

%d bloggers like this: