A collaboration between artist and urban planner Damien Laing and the Wyndham Interfaith Network, Religions on the Fringe celebrates the religious cultural diversity of Melbourne’s west.
Situated in one of the home's bedrooms, this photographic and installation work is derived from Laing’s long-running research into expressions of religious identity in Melbourne’s sprawling suburban fringe.
Made in the wake of rapid suburbanisation of areas such as Tarniet and Rockbank, the images document places and vestiges of faith in the context of commercial development, which – between the subdivided houses and concrete supermarkets – leaves little space for what would be traditionally considered public space.
Suburban development in Australia has become increasingly secularised in the 20th and 21st centuries – particularly in Melbourne’s west. The end of the Second World War ushered in a period of social redistribution that made way for an urban planning focused on driving economic productivity. Meanwhile, since the end of the White Australia policy in the 1970s, Australia continually looks to migrants from diverse backgrounds to bolster work markets, and the process of post-industrialisation has led to an increased focus on encouraging ‘knowledge’ workers. These migrant workers often find their first homes on the fringes of suburban greenfield development, bringing their cultures and faiths with them into what are hyper homogenised spaces.
Religions on the Fringe captures the creative ways communities use, adapt and – in many ways – improve private spaces in this built landscape to make room for the public and communal enjoyment and retention of religious ritual.
Damien Laing is an artist and urban planner. Laing primarily works with photography and moving image, and also applies planning and organisational methods to create artistic interventions in public space. He has held two solo exhibitions: Affordances of Space with Si Leong (City of Brimbank Public Art Commission, Sunshine, 2023) and Religions on the Fringe (George Paton Gallery Project Space, Melbourne, 2020). He has also exhibited in a number of group exhibitions, including as a finalist in the Wyndham Art Prize (2023), and has curated and organised a range of exhibitions, most recently as part of the Churchill Public Art Event (2022). In 2023, he was a teaching associate at Monash University and the University of Melbourne. He holds a Graduate Certificate of Public Art (Monash University, 2023), a Master of Urban Planning (University of Melbourne, 2020) and a BA in Philosophy and Comparative Literature (Monash University, 2014).