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Open Water: The Offering

Open Water: The Offering

Anna Nazzari & Erin Coates

Opening 03.05.18 6-8pm
Artist Talks 25.05.18 6-7pm

In Open Water: The Offering, Perth-based artists Erin Coates and Anna Nazzari incorporate underwater video and scrimshaw to portray their unique vision of an Australian Oceanic Gothic.

Taking a true event as a starting point, Open Water: The Offering is based on an incident that occurred in 1965 in the coastal town of Albany when a well-known whaler and gunner on The Cheynes III (a whale chaser) lost his leg after it became entangled in a rope attached to a harpoon fired at a whale. The film charts the imagined journey of a detached human leg, gifted to the Southern ocean and its inhabitants by an otherworldly cetacean. The bloated, grotesque leg is gradually colonised by endemic marine species of fauna and flora, transformed into a dark, phantasmagorical island.

Shot entirely in the coastal waters off Perth, Open Water: The Offering merges nature documentary with Cronenbergesque body-horror. It offers a darkly magic realist version of maritime history in regional Australia, considered from the perspective of the ocean and its inhabitants. Coates and Nazzari draw on their skills in silicon prosthetic prop making and sculpture to create subtly moving forms within the film. These sculptural appendages also occupy subtle architectural intrusions within the gallery space.

Accompanying Open Water: The Offering is a series of scrimshaw – the ancient artform of engraving into whale teeth. Coates and Nazzari learnt this skill while on residency in Albany and their use of scrimshaw is deployed to provide alternative imagery and divergent narratives to the predominantly heroic engravings of man conquering leviathan. Displaced from the mammoth body housing them and the immense body of water containing it, the artefacts emphasise their “un-homeliness” on land. Haunted and dispossessed by their territory and history, the teeth generate a sense of mystery and unease.

The exhibition builds upon Coates and Nazzari’s most recent foray into the Australian Oceanic Gothic, an internationally award-winning screen work: Cetaphobia, and draws from the existing knowledge of maritime histories, specifically those connected to Erin’s seafaring heritage and the whaling industry in Albany, Western Australia.


Erin Coates is a Perth based artist and creative producer working across video, installation and drawing. Coates’ work explores the limits of the body and the potential of physical interaction with an environment. Her recent work draws together her background as a rock climber with her interests in architecture and built space. She has also begun developing a series of works with collaborator Anna Nazzari that explore a new vision of the Australian Gothic, focusing on oceanic species, histories and mythologies. Coates is an artist in the current exhibition The National, held across at The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Art Gallery of NSW and Carriageworks, Sydney.

Anna Nazzari is a Perth based artist and writer. Her practice focuses on the investigation of otherworldly myths, superstitions and events that emphasise moral certainty and foster a reading of the absurd. Her practice is multi-faceted and often encompasses drawing, sculpture, electronics and film. In 2011 she completed a Doctorate of Philosophy (Art) at Curtin University. Her exhibitions and screen works have been shown in Australian galleries and International film festivals. She currently works as a Lecturer at Curtin University’s School of Design and Art.