Sunken Houses exhibition draws a crowd

RECORD numbers of visitors, both local and from outside the region have visited the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery (BRAG) to view Sunken Houses, an exhibition which examines Bundaberg North in the 12 months post flood through photographs and sound.

Local resident and photographer Brad Marsellos collaborated with Brisbane-based composer Heinz Riegler to bring a powerful, modern memorial-style exhibition to Gallery One, with a dimly lit space allowing for visitors to reflect and pause on the natural disaster and its after-effects.

After a near-300 strong packed out the exhibition opening in mid-March, the interest and outpouring from community members who have attended the exhibition has been at a record high for the gallery.

Exhibitions officer Trudie Leigo said the exhibition has seen by over 2500 people to date, which is far greater than any other exhibition in recent history at the gallery.

"The selection committee knew this would be a highly emotive and very personal exhibition for many members of our community and the visitor numbers reflect that," Ms Leigo said.

Sunken Houses is a very personal photographic account of the aftermath for Marsellos.

"I have been overwhelmed by the response to the exhibition. I never imagined such an emotional reaction from locals as well as visitors from out of town," Mr Marsellos explained.

"Every time I visit the space I read the many stories, messages of hope, recovery and continued struggles by members of our town that have been touched by this natural disaster.

"Everyone has an experience of the floods and tornados - whether it be as an observer from afar, a flood affected resident or someone who is still rebuilding both physically and emotionally today and I'm honoured to think this exhibition is assisting some with their recovery process."

The exhibition has attracted visitors from across the globe as well as locals, many of whom haven't previously visited the gallery space and the exhibition has seen visitors whose homes and possessions are included as part of the exhibition. 

Kylie Walters' former home is the first 'sunken house' that greets you as you enter the exhibition and she left her story as part of the community response wall.

"We lost so much in this house. But we found so much in the support of others. Thank you Bundy."

Other North Bundaberg residents have expressed the importance of Sunken Houses and have conveyed heartfelt thoughts and stories as part of the share your story wall.

"I remember walking through my Dad's house - my family home - just devastating . And dragging him out in a boat because he didn't want to leave his beloved home," Maria.

"I'm still finding people living in sheds. Others with no walls in their homes. But people's hearts are bigger than all this and I'm still greeted with a determined smile," Wayne.

"As part of the mud army I saw firsthand the tragedy and heartache of those who were affected. The memories and emotions will stay with me a lifetime," Maggie.

Community Services Portfolio and member of the Human Social Services Recovery Committee Councillor Judy Peters said the Sunken Houses exhibition has opened up conversation.

"Sunken Houses has opened discussion about recovery and where people are at, and I have been told that the message wall in the gallery has been extended so as to cope with the number of messages left for others to read," Cr Peters said.

The exhibition continues in Gallery One at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery (BRAG) until April 27 and more information can be found via www.brag-brc.org.au.

Mr Marsellos said he has received so many positive messages and most of them hope that Sunken Houses exhibition can tour or become part of a State or National collection as they feel it's a piece of history.

Stay tuned.