Cover image of the review
Alicia King, The Future of Nature, 2019, cast resin, rare earth magnets, iron, 45 x 35 x 45 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Prima Materia
  • Elyssia Bugg


6 Jul 2019
Bundoora Homestead 11 May - 7 Jul 2019

Honey, ore, vinegar, lead, venom, urine and lye. These are among some of the fifty or so elements used in Martin Ruland the Younger's 1612 text, Lexicon Alchemiae Sive Dictionarium Alchemistarum, to describe the concept of prima materia. Translating from Latin as “first matter”, prima materia is a recurring, elusive object of alchemical and philosophical research. It is also, in name, one of the current exhibitions inhabiting the stately rooms of Bundoora Homestead. That Ruland employed so many different similes in attempting to articulate what prima materia is indicates that the concept may be inherently inexplicable. This would explain why curator Emily Jones has chosen to focus the exhibition less directly on prima materia itself, and more on the historical, scientific and occult practices that the term's alchemical origins evoke. Yet of an exhibition that seems to centre the transmutable and transformative, it might still be worth asking where, if at all, amongst or within such works, the pure substance of the exhibition's namesake may be realised.

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