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About the Exhibition


First Peoples in Australia hold stories of spirits and other worldly beings that heed both warning and protection. Across the continent there are accounts of Ancestral creatures that have created and inhabit rivers and oceans, and celestial beings that map the cosmos illuminating ancient story and navigation systems. There are beings that protect land and the subterranean, and tales of energy that might lead you astray.

Further to these stories embedded in the spirit of country; there are connections to the metaphysical and multidimensional space of time, and to people who heal through old knowledge and pass messages through dreams.
We have histories in this land that have been forgotten with time, or that sit beneath the surface and in the shadows of cities and towns, but are carried in the memory of decedents that survived.

These stories both light and dark are not myths or folklore, they are networks of First Peoples knowledge and inherited memory. They also link to the universal human experience of connecting to place and ecologies—some we are yet to understand.

Shadow Spirit is an exhibition of contemporary works by First Peoples artists from across the country. With fourteen newly commissioned works, and existing video work, the artists generously share their connections to the themes of the exhibition, from personal and cultural to imaginative and historical perspectives.


Woven through the exhibition are subthemes that will circulate.


Weaving Time considers the multi-dimensional space of being in our world that goes back to the morning of the first sunrise. We are in an ever-present slip stream of what we know as time. It was then, it is now, and it is yet to happen. Through dreams and through travel there are special people, astral plains and multiverses that weave, communicate and undulate.


Through Spirit Ecologies we see that Country has spirit and holds stories of other worldly beings that bring warnings and protection. Across the continent there are accounts of creatures that live in and protect waterways, these spirit ecologies are dynamic and change across the country, they are present on land and in water, they are subterranean and live amongst the stars.


The Guides are energies in our lives, connected to who we are and to the land, there are stories of beings that bring new life of babies and protection of country. Illuminating and safe, they can be playful and cheeky. Guides take different forms, from Ancestral constellations of star navigation and stories above, to the changing seasons and animal and plant kin that move with everchanging wind. They can be the spirits of loved ones passed and Ancestors before, we should honour them and listen deeply.


We feel sometimes an Absent Presence, there is the space between what we feel and what we know, what the body tells us in opposition to what the mind wants us to think. There are things that feel very present but that cannot be seen, sometimes they bring warning or mischief, sometimes they feel unwanted.


In the The In-between multiverses of time and reality are considered— where spirits hide between the last light and the blanket of night, where country calls and the sand knows your name. It is the space where Ancestor serpents create the rivers and visit in dreams. Are we remembering or are we imagining?

These relationships into the shadow spirit world connect us to our past and protect our futures.



The immersive experience in the ballroom will see The Mulka Project creating new work, pushing the boundaries of contemporary First Peoples art—bringing Yolŋu country into the heart of Melbourne and honouring the spirit of Mrs Wirrpanda.

The new work is paying respect to master artist Mrs Mulkuṉ Wirrpanda (1947—2021) which is led by her family including her sister and grandson. Mrs Wirrpanda was a senior artist and highly regarded nationally and internationally for her work. This new work from The Mulka Project will collaborate with Mrs Wirrpanda’s artwork along with songlines and audio scape sung by her family members and community.

It is an all-star cast of Yolŋu creatives on this project and for it to be centred on the work of Mrs Wirrpanda after her recent passing is an enormous honour for RISING and the Shadow Spirit team. The family have given permission to use her image and her full name.


Tickets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are available. When choosing your ticket type, select ‘Community (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander)’ to receive a discounted ticket.

Book tickets


Senior Curator/Artistic Associate RISING | Kimberley Moulton

Senior Producer Special Projects RISING | Elizabeth Walsh

Curatorial Producer | Theia Connell

Installation Manager | Abe Pedroza

Project Manager | Zillah Morrow

Associate Project Manager | Nathalie Devilliers

Exhibition Designer | Studio Peter King

Projection Mapping | Twisted Pixel

Exhibition Lighting | Studio John Fish

Shadow Spirit Brand Identity | Jenna Lee

Shadow Spirit Animation | Patrick Hamilton

Sound Design | System Sound

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