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Local artist Kent Morris has turned a city billboard into a heartening artwork

The billboard is an artwork from Melbourne-based Barkindji artist Kent Morris

Nicola Dowse
Written by
Nicola Dowse

Residents of St Kilda out for their daily exercise might notice the suburb has a new, heartening public artwork. Melbourne-based artist and Barkindji descendant Kent Morris has turned the digital billboard at the intersection of Grey and Fitzroy streets into his canvas, creating a large scale work that reassuringly reminds Melburnians that they are "never alone".

Between the billboard's usual commercial advertisements, 'Never Alone' appears every three minutes to grant Melburnians a little hope and artistic respite. The work features a vibrant, jewel-like geometric pattern featuring the native night heron bird against the sky. 

Morris' works, including 'Never Alone', are created from singular photographs he takes while out walking on Country and focus on the interaction of native birds in the artificial environment. While walking on Yaluk-ut Weelam Country (through Elwood) during the first lockdown, Morris commonly encountered the Nankeen night heron, which is featured in 'Never Alone'.

A street corner with a digital billboard on it that has a geometric pattern and the words "never alone"
Photograph: Courtesy of the artist / ACCA

Morris says that his work speaks to the "First Nations cultural concept of the interconnectedness of all things: people, plants, animals, landforms and celestial bodies," but also of Victoria's current public health predicament. 

"During the Covid-19 period, there has been a reframing of how we collectively perceive time,” said Morris. “We have a remembered past, an anxious present and an uncertain future. 'Never Alone' encourages a reflective response to our current state of existence and suggests that the incorporation of Indigenous philosophies, knowledges and relationships can reshape and navigate a connected pathway forward."

The public artwork has been installed in the lead up to ACCA's planned 2021 exhibition Who's Afraid of Public Space? which will explore the role of contemporary art in connection to social, political and cultural contexts.

You can see 'Never Alone' for 20 seconds every three minutes on the digital billboard at the intersection of Grey and Fitzroy streets in St Kilda from August 3 to 30. Keep in mind that you are only allowed to leave home for four reasons and that you must shop for essentials or exercise within 5km of your residence. So if you're not lucky enough to live close to this work, go check Kent Morris' Instagram page or website to view more of his work.

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