Looking for life? You might find it in these tuning forks, artist says


You might think the most profound change in her thinking came to O’Callaghan when she spent four weeks in a submarine six kilometres under the sea off the coast of Panama. She’d joined American scientists researching the “the pulse of the planet”, which features in the show.

“Normally [the scientists] are measuring vibration, not listening to it, and one of the scientists had this very simple idea, ‘what does it sound like?’,” she says.

Mel O’Callaghan with her artwork and performer Ryuichi Fujimura, part of the <i>All is Life</i> exhibition at Carriageworks.

Mel O’Callaghan with her artwork and performer Ryuichi Fujimura, part of the All is Life exhibition at Carriageworks.Credit:Louise Kennerley

But her understanding of life changed most radically when she and husband Clemens Habicht had to work to help their Ukrainian surrogate, with whom they had their daughter, escape the country earlier this year.


“It was one of the hardest things I think I’ve gone through, and she’s definitely gone through,” she reflects. “But in all of this destruction and degradation of life, I was editing this film all about the celebration of life, and life in its extreme,” which is also featured. “Until you’re going to lose life … I suppose the value of life, and my concept of it, became extreme.”

For all the reflection on the profundity of life, you might take O’Callaghan to be a spiritual person. She’s not sure.

“I would say I’m an atheist, I was brought up by quite strictly atheist parents. But I can appreciate [being spiritual],” she says. She doesn’t know if she’s found spirituality yet, but there is one thing on which she’s certain: “Life isn’t exactly what I thought it was.”

All is Life opens on Thursday, June 23, at Carriageworks in Eveleigh and runs until Thursday, August 21. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm, with performances every Saturday at 11am.

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