Australian, born 1952; lives and works in Melbourne
Exhume the grave: Medium 1999
Geelong Gallery, Purchased through the Victorian Public Galleries Trust, 1999
© Jill Orr, Courtesy of the artist
Photographers: Bruce Parker and Joanne Haslam for Jill Orr
The ritual of burial that is depicted in McCubbin’s A bush burial inspired Jill Orr’s performance Exhume the grave, staged at Geelong Gallery in April 1999. In this work Orr explored the mystery in McCubbin’s painting as to the identity of the grave’s occupant, and an element of the composition that hints at his interest in the Spiritualist movement: the veil that hangs from the cart is thought to symbolise the transparent divide between the living and the dead.
By the late 19th century, Spiritualism had gained popularity in Australia, espousing the concept that spirits of the dead could communicate through a living female medium. Through the central character of the medium, Orr channelled the spirits of those who may have been buried in McCubbin’s painted grave: a farm worker, Opium Lil, a mother, and a bride.