The art of repurposing

The second half of Hannah Bertram’s installation Temporarily Unavailable is being launched at the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery this Friday.PICTURE: SALLY HEATHCOTE
By Sally Heathcote

Approximately 35 people braved the chill on Friday night to attend the closing of returning to a subject through a lifetime: part one which signalled the end of Hannah Bertram’s installation Temporarily Unavailable at the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery.

This large work was commissioned by the gallery in 2021 to celebrate and commemorate the reopening of the Gallery. Most materials used were those which had been salvaged from the Gallery to be reinterpreted and repurposed.

These included old floorboards, industrial plastic wrapping, and dust collected as sawdust from the sanding of new floorboards, from under the old floorboards and from the basement.

A can of sardines found beneath the floorboards recalls the building itself has been repurposed from its original life as Sully’s Emporium.

At the launch of the installation Hannah spoke about her exploration of how we define “worth” and “value” in art.


In working with materials such as dust she momentarily reverses our usual assessment of dust from a worthless material, we constantly battle to exclude from our lives to something that is precious for a short period of time.

During the interactive performance which concluded the life of the installation, more dust was scattered from the first level balustrade of the gallery until it gradually obliterated the stencilled patterns below.

It was then swept up, resuming the form and function of a valueless thing.

Those attending made their own interpretations from an it being “an analogy of the stopes of a mine which are never seen again once mining finishes”, “the symbolism of life and death” and a commentary of the role of art galleries.

Hester Lyon, Gallery and Museums Program Officer at the Gallery told the Barrier Truth “Hannah Bertram’s work alongside key work from the collection has been overwhelmingly received by the public, both local and visiting.

It has provided for some robust and engaged discussions around Collections and the history of the building as we reopened. Bertram’s work will be missed but we are so excited to present some lesser seen works from the Collection in the next part of the exhibition.”

The second part of the exhibition returning to a subject through a lifetime: part two presents work from the Broken Hill City Art Gallery Collection in conjunction with loans from artists and material from the Broken Hill City Library’s Outback Archive.

The exhibition will explore the work of artists, historians, and collectives whose different form of output emerge from sustained engagement with Broken Hill and the Far West of NSW, its stories, people, and landscapes across many years.

The exhibition will be officially opened on Friday 8 July with a special talk on Friday 15 at 6pm.

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