At Carriageworks in Sydney, on the site of the former Eveleigh Railway Yards, Asad Raza’s project Absorption filled the Clothing Store with approximately 300 tonnes of a new soil mixture, or “neosoil”. The work continued to grow over the course of the project, tended to regularly by a team of “cultivators”. Through these processes, Absorption addressed the living and changing nature of both the political and biological ecosystems that shape today’s world.
Raza conceives of exhibitions as metabolic entities, zones of activity in which he constructs scenarios between visitors and participants. Past works include untitled (plot for dialogue), 2017, which saw Raza install a tennis court in a deconsecrated church in Milan; and Root sequence, Mother tongue, first shown at the 2017 Whitney Biennial, wherein the artist created a forest of twenty-six living trees with human caretakers.
Presented in conjunction with Carriageworks, and developed in collaboration with the University of Sydney Institute of Agriculture, Absorption transformed the Clothing Store into a site for active processes, collaborations and conversations. Cultivators tested, monitored and mixed different materials—including sand, silt, clay, phosphates, lime, cuttlefish bones, legumes, spent barley from a Marrickville brewery, coffee grounds and green waste—in order to create a new composite soil. In the closing days of the project, visitors were free to take soil for their own uses, allowing Absorption to develop into the future.
Raza invited local artists Daniel Boyd, Chun Yin Rainbow Chan, Megan Alice Clune, Dean Cross, Brian Fuata, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Jana Hawkins-Andersen, Khaled Sabsabi and Ivey Wawn to create interventions in the form of installations, performances and experiments. Gothe-Snape’s cultivator uniforms featured fabric from archival John Kaldor Fabricmaker samples; Hawkins-Andersen’s clay figurines were made by cultivators on site, then broken down and raked into the soil; Sabsabi’s interest in Sufi mysticism informed his work Unseen, wherein twenty pieces of kikuyu turf were buried under the soil.
Raza drew together the approaches and ontologies of art and science, allowing for absorption to take place across multiple levels in the creation of this work. “Absorption dramatises the differences between art and science, but it also shows us what they have in common”, wrote the Sydney Morning Herald’s John McDonald. “Artists, like scientists, are constantly pushing back the frontiers of the thinkable.”
Absorption was later presented at the Gropius Bau, Berlin, in 2020, and is in development for the 2021 Ruhrtriennale.
born 1974 in Buffalo, New York, US
lives and works in New York, US, and Berlin, Germany
3 – 19 May 2019
The Clothing Store, Carriageworks, Sydney
Daniel Boyd, Chun Yin Rainbow Chan, Megan Alice Clune, Dean Cross, Brian Fuata, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Jana Hawkins-Andersen, Khaled Sabsabi, Ivey Wawn
Asad Raza, Absorption
This resource is designed to help students and educators engage with the themes and concepts of Asad Raza's Absorption. The kit comprises an overview of the project, Asad Raza's practice, conceptual framework, classroom questions and activities, along with a glossary of key terms, and list of references for further reading.
Born in 1974 in Buffalo, USA and of Pakistani background, Raza works with experiences, human and non-human beings, and objects. He conceives of exhibitions as metabolic entities, zones of activity in which he constructs dialogue and scenarios between visitors and participants.
Past works include Untitled (plot for dialogue), for which Raza installed a tennis-like game in a deconsecrated church in Milan. Root sequence. Mother tongue, first shown at the 2017 Whitney Biennial, is a forest of twenty-six living trees with human caretakers in the museum. For home show, which took place at his apartment in New York, Raza asked friends, family and artists to intervene in his own life.
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