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Ochre Spinifex & Foil

Contesting incorrect and anachronistic ideas of cultural materials

'Ochre Spinifex & Foil' presents new pathways in Australian design knowledge arising from the two-way exchange of Indigenous and non-Indigenous science.

Across the main space of the gallery, visitors will move between the spinifex and foil exhibits, to a darkened tableau of ochres in an adjoining room.

Simultaneously, visitors will move between three design agendas concerning: the ethical exchange of scientific and cultural knowledge (the conservation of ochre); the legal place and protection of traditional intellectual knowledge (the commercialisation of spinifex); and the exercise of discretionary knowledge (the delineation of the architectural dressing).

The applied research selected for display is styled by skilled practitioners working in Australian conservation, manufacture and architecture.

It is selected for its design quality. It is selected for its capacity to contest incorrect or anachronistic notions of cultural materials. And it illustrates the new knowledge that has evolved in Australian design disciplines over the last decade concerning questions of authenticity, preservation, cultural capital and energy efficiency. This nationally-significant design exhibition is an exclusively Australian exposé of ochre, spinifex and foil.

Ochre, Spinifex & Foil is presented by the University of Sydney Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning in association with the Tin Sheds Gallery in support of the University’s 2015 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Integrated Strategy Wingara Mura-Bunga Barrabugu, Thinking path to make tomorrow.


Warmun Art Centre
Gija Contemporary Art, Warmun WA 

Robyn Sloggett
Director, Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne 

Alex Byrne
NSW State Librarian and Chief Executive 

Gina Levenspiel 
OSF Curator 

The Myuma Group 
Camooweal QLD 

Paul Memmott
Director, Aboriginal Environments Research Centre, University of Queensland 

Terri Janke 
Solicitor Director, Terri Janke & Company 

Alison Page
Founder, National Aboriginal Design Agency 

Kevin O’Brien 
Director, Kevin O’Brien Architects 

Ken McBryde 
Principal, Hassell 

Michel Bostrom 
Foundation Director, Aluminium Foil Insulation Association 

Michael Tawa 
Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney 

Jakelin Troy 
DVC (Indigenous Strategy), University of Sydney, Acknowledgement of Country 

Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council 
Welcome to Country


This project is an initiative of Michael Tawa (Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning) and Shane Houston (Deputy Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Services). The OSF exhibition and symposium is curated by Gina E. Levenspiel. We gratefully acknowledge the exhibition collaborators in particular: The Myuma Group & the University of Queensland Aboriginal Environments Research Centre & Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology; Warmun Art Centre & the University of Melbourne Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation; Ametalin; and the individual efforts made by Jakelin Troy, Robyn Sloggett, Dr Alex Byrne, Paul Memmott, Terri Janke, Alison Page, Kevin O’Brien, Ken McBryde and Michel Bostrom, whose knowledge has benefitted the project enormously.