Stanislava Pinchuk’s inaugural exhibition with Yavuz Gallery presents the next chapter of her acclaimed body of work, The Wine Dark Sea, which weaves together near-identical phrases from the leaked condition reports of Australian offshore detention centres and Homer’s Odyssey. Encompassing marble sculptures and works on paper, Pinchuk’s exhibition explores the mirrored experiences of exile, displacement and longing embedded in both sources.
The Nauru and Manus Island condition reports are one of the largest caches of leaked documents within Australia’s immigration regime, revealing the devastating conditions endured by asylum seekers held by the Australian government. Placed in parallel with Homer’s Odyssey — often described as the first ‘migrant novel’ — these records act as a moving chronicle of hospitality and home. Pinchuk’s sprawling installation takes inspiration from the stones of Homer’s Tomb, her stacked marble blocks carved with irrefutable records of the reports. Alongside the self-effacing technique of pin-pricks into paper, The Wine Dark Sea stands as an anti-monument to Australian history.
Pinchuk uses multiple poetry and prose translations of the Odyssey in The Wine Dark Sea, including poems by Rilke and re-imaginings by Madeline Miller. Likewise, the texts from the condition reports are in fragment, taken from copies of copies of leaked cables and the journalists’ notes. Together, they describe what it means to be in seemingly permanent exile, shuttled from island to island in despair, with only the distant prospect of reaching home; exemplified by Odysseus and his men, but also by those who wait, such as Penelope and Telemachus.
Further entwining these narratives, Pinchuk has swapped their protagonists. Odysseus becomes [REDACTED], and vice versa. In doing so, Pinchuk questions why we embrace Homer’s Odyssey as a key pillar of both literature and democracy, when we are perhaps unwilling to do so for the same narratives of displacement, frustration, and exile in our time and on our own doorsteps.
The Wine Dark Sea is an ongoing series that was first presented as part of the 2022 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Free/State, commissioned by the Art Gallery of South Australia and curated by Sebastian Goldspink. Pinchuk then produced a monumental 76-piece installation for the Encounters sector of Art Basel Hong Kong 2023, curated by Alexie Glass-Kantor and now permanently installed in the He Art Museum, Guangdong, China. Following a third installation at Art Brussels, The Wine Dark Sea now returns to Australia for Pinchuk’s first solo exhibition with Yavuz Gallery.