Tom Nicholson

Indefinite Substitution

6 - 9 July 2014
Geelong Gallery & public sites in Sorrento, Indented Head & Geelong

Tom Nicholson’s Indefinite substitution (2014) involves the literal movement of the images – in the form of clay busts – of William Buckley and John Batman around the Bay. Members of the public will be invited to participate in a four-day performance in which they carry and exchange (or substitute) the clay busts of Buckley and Batman across the sites of their encounter – from Sorrento to Indented Head and culminating in a public event in the Geelong Gallery. Referencing analogue film as both a material and an apparatus, Indefinite substitution is the result of a constant movement or displacement of images from place to place.

Figured into a number of important sites in and around Geelong, Indefinite substitution centres on the busts Buckley and Batman being exchanged between shifting sites over four days. Beginning with an exchange between Sorrento and Indented Head (by means of a boat across Port Phillip Bay), and then between Indented Head and Eastern Beach in Geelong, the project will end in the Geelong Art Gallery with the two heads exchanged hourly between two positions at either end of the Richardson Gallery. Each bust is unfired wet clay, and fashioned from a number of pictorial records of the appearance of the two men. As the busts are substituted repeatedly between the two sites, they will be changed by the touch of the people handling them, each bust also leaving part of itself on the hands of those who participate.

Indefinite substitution is one of a number of recent works that attempt to figure a new kind of monument, and specifically a new kind of colonial monument. This engagement with the monument gravitates around Buckley and Batman, and the contradictory meanings associated with each man and their contact with Woiwurrung and Wathaurung peoples. Indefinite substitution is an attempt to give form to these histories and their complex meanings, but also to re-think the monument itself, and to re-cast what might be regarded as a constant of the monumental tradition, either overtly or tacitly: to articulate an idea of sovereignty towards a collective future.


Indefinite Substitution is a participatory performance and we invite participants to join us in realising the artwork by carrying the busts for William Buckley and John Batman across four different sites in Bellarine and Geelong over four separate days.


  • 6 July – Sorrento to Indented Head
  • 7 July – Indented Head to Eastern Beach
  • 8 July – Eastern Beach to Geelong Gallery
  • 9 July – Geelong Gallery

There will be three sessions each day: 9-11am, 11-1pm and 12-2pm, except for the final day when there will be the latter two sessions only. If you are interested in participating in Indefinite Substitution please email us. Further information regarding the call for participation is also available on the news page.


5.30pm Wednesday 9 July at Geelong Gallery, 55 Little Malop Street, Geelong



Tom Nicholson works with archival material and the visual languages of politics, often using public actions and focussing on the relationship between actions and their traces. His work often engages with aspects of Australia’s early colonial history, using combinations of drawings, monumental forms, and posters to articulate these histories in relation to the present, as part of an address to our collective future. Nicholson has a PhD from the University of Melbourne. Recent solo exhibitions include Camp Pell Lecture, with Tony Birch, Artspace, Sydney, 2010, and Proposition for a Banner March and Black Cube Hot-air Balloon, with Raafat Ishak, Shepparton Art Museum, 2012. Significant recent group exhibitions include Gestures in Time, Qalandiya International, Ramallah and Jerusalem, 2012; Parallel Collisions: 2012 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia; Marking Time, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2012; and Sonic Spheres: TarraWarra Biennial, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, 2012.




This book celebrates the first iteration of The Cinemas Project. It includes essays on the commissioned artists' work and reflections on cinema history.



Tom Nicholson

Indefinite Substitution

6 July – 9 July 2014

Geelong Gallery55 Little Malop St, Geelong VIC 3220

Public sites in Sorrento Indented Head, and Geelong


Christian Capurro – photographer

Mark Walker – videographer

Project Partners/Sponsors:
Geelong Gallery

With thanks to: City of Greater Geelong, Bellarine Bayside Committee of Management, Indented Head Community Association, Friends of Collins Settlement, Morningtonshire Council.