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reclamation

Robert Smithson, Bingham Copper Mining Pit—Utah / Reclamation Project (detail), 1973, Photostat and plastic overlay with wax pencil.

Robert Smithson, Bingham Copper Mining Pit—Utah / Reclamation Project (detail), 1973, Photostat and plastic overlay with wax pencil.

The routine aesthetics of ecological recovery (order, position, repetition, confinement, clearly defined boundaries) are becoming more prevalent in urban and non-urban landscapes globally. As we continue this trajectory of orderly nature-orientation, what influences do these aesthetic outcomes have on ecological memory? Further, what is the role of art within this paradigm of ‘nature’?

At sites where human-driven ecological recovery/rehabilitation is undertaken, natural, cultural and aesthetic outcomes converge to forge new ecosystems that are shaped by deliberate human choices and composed of elements with varied ecological memories (life-history, cycles of water and nutrient availability, experiences of disturbances in varying degrees etc.). If we consider that ecological memory is “maintained by two types of legacies – information and material” (Johnstone et al. 2016) then art’s ability to positively contribute to successful environmental reclamation projects becomes clearer.

If a rehabilitated site is populated by humans using trees grown in an external ecosystem (i.e. embodying a different ecological memory and life-history relative to the site being rehabilitated) then humans must also take responsibility for harmonising the newly introduced information and material aspects of these trees with the site being rehabilitated. Art in the expanded field can play a key role in this mechanism.

A fantastic and ethereal example of art in the expanded playing a key role in environmental equilibration can be seen in ‘Curse Mantra: How to Kill Factory Owners’ an exhibition featuring photographs by Mitsutoshi Hanaga curated by Koichiro Osaka. This exhibition focuses on the efforts of a small collective of Buddhist monks who used ceremony and ritual to bring justice to vulnerable people affected by environmental pollution in Japan in the 1960s. ‘Bingham Copper Mining Pit—Utah / Reclamation Project’ (1973) by Robert Smithson is also a great example.

When the inert is reactive

When considering materiality and permanence in art, Robert Barry’s ‘Inert Gas Series/Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon/From a Measured Volume to Indefinite Expansion’ of 1969 is key. As a gesture pointing to the real but imperceptible, Barry released five gases of known volumes of (then considered) noble gases into specific sites around Los Angeles to equilibrate with a boundless infinity.

I often think about how, at the time of making this work, Barry was guided by the scientific understanding that the gases he was working with were noble, nonreactive or inert. However, as science has evolved, the theory of the nobility of these gases was tested and it was proved that compounds of xenon, krypton and radon exist.

If an artwork is an idea tied to specificity but the boundaries of specificity then change, does the artwork also change? The answer would of course be framed by your definition of specificity; whether you consider the work to be defined by knowledge, space and location at the time of inception or action, or whether specificity is centred on substantiated fact, stability and practicability. From the title of Barry’s work, it appears that the decision to select these gases was at least partly based on the understanding by the artist that these gases shared a common ‘inert’ characteristic.

Barry’s work therefore signals a complex but often not discussed question of conceptual art: if the idea is paramount to the work but the ideas of the materials used to execute a conceptual work change, does the work still ‘exist’? This logic could also apply to the certificates and contracts generated by conceptual artists of this time to separate them from market influences, object which themselves have shifted as legal systems and definitions that influence their meaning also change.

Robert Barry, documentation of  Inert Gas Series/Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon/From a Measured Volume to Indefinite Expansion , 1969.

Robert Barry, documentation of Inert Gas Series/Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon/From a Measured Volume to Indefinite Expansion, 1969.

<second> affect

Mel O’Callaghan, Ensemble (still), 2013.

Mel O’Callaghan, Ensemble (still), 2013.

The relationship between power and feeling is a complex and significant aspect of art made and exhibited today. This relationship has many facets including (but not limited to) the:

  • affect produced by the placement of works or elements within a space in relation to proximity, eye height and configuration (hierarchies);

  • curatorial decisions to include or exclude underrepresented artists or socially marginalised individuals or groups in exhibition programming;

  • curatorial decision to or not to perpetuate colonial or other dominate narratives when constructing curatorial frameworks;

  • collective social understanding of the role, function and ‘value’ or art;

  • position of art and artists relative to privilege and class;

  • transparency of the art industry (commercial as well as public institutions).

The entanglement of institutions with external systems of power has also, in recent times, begun to play an important role in the power + feeling (+agency) equation. One such of example of this relationship is the 2018 decision of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) to end its contract with Wilson Security. This decision was publicly announced during the staging of protests by artists who questioned to the appropriateness of the gallery’s continued engagement with the security service provider.

The protesting committee drew attention to Wilson Security’s involvement in offshore detection centres on Nauru and Manus Island from 2012 to 2017. According to the Australian Border Death Database, a number of deaths occurred under security service provider’s management of the facilities, including the murder of 24 year of Iranian man Reza Barati who ‘died of head injuries on the way to Lorengau hospital in PNG following protests at the Manus Island Immigration Detention Centre. Violence resulted in the injury of 77 others, 12 seriously. It is understood that at least 2 security guards were involved in the altercation during the riots of 2014, they were later convicted of Barati's murder.’

<first> affect

Steve Bishop,  Deliquescing . 2018 (installation detail) via the  artist’s website .

Steve Bishop, Deliquescing. 2018 (installation detail) via the artist’s website.

In the absence of markers such as beauty, realism and the skilled application of structural devices that traditionally signalled the degree of ‘success’ of an artwork, how can conceptual artists evaluate their work?

It is interesting to frame this question in relation to the potential of works to prompt affect: the human experience of perceiving relationships between objects and aesthetics relative to space. Within this experience an extra-sensory state can be evoked that allows for the formation of non-didactic meaning. The ability for work to create this type of non-didactic meaning, I would argue, is a key factor in determining the relative success of conceptual artworks.

Affect is an important aspect of conceptual practice because conceptual art relies on individuals becoming agents: active participants in the (co)creation of meaning. However, complex ideas and their consequences often discussed in art are very rarely linear. Therefore communicating certain ideas to an audience requires an equally non-linear communication method that allows for ambiguity, experienced through the lens of an individual’s own history, to be understood by way of nuance and feeling. This aspect of ‘feeling’ is important because there is an inherent relationship between feeling, power and agency.

man-made

Grayson Perry, The Rosetta Vase, 2011. Glazed ceramic. British Museum Collection. Image courtesy the Artist, Victoria Miro, London and the Trustees of the British Museum, London © Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry, The Rosetta Vase, 2011. Glazed ceramic. British Museum Collection. Image courtesy the Artist, Victoria Miro, London and the Trustees of the British Museum, London © Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry’s 2015/16 exhibition ‘My Pretty Little Art Career’ was probably the first exhibition where I saw gender diversity and sexuality celebrated at a deeply personal level. The large-scale tapestries, ornate vases, meticulous drawings and irreverent photography constructed a schema of an individual who is complex and although influenced by social powers, has an ability to use the forces that would otherwise seek to shape them to generate something entirely their own.

Although Perry is most well known for his commentaries on class and identity, what fascinates me about Perry’s practice is the way his works reflect on thought. Thought, not as something active, but of something guided and directed through mass understanding, corporate messaging and the boundaries of ‘social cohesion’. Often wrapped in the thin veil of ‘the greater good’, what mechanisms make individuals subscribe and adhere to social politics?

More importantly, what do we give up in the process?

manifestations of sensing

Early on in his book ‘How Art Can Be Thought: A Handbook for Change’ Allan deSouza writes ‘individuals amass data through experience, surveillance, research, investigation, imagination and memory’. Although I agree with this statement generally, in our current age there is also a need to acknowledge ‘the unclear’ and ‘the undefined’ as an important part of contemporary experience as well as art generation, outcomes, documentation and discourse.

Particularly since the 1990s, the art world has emphasised clarity, rationality, definition and precision as signifiers of ‘good’ contemporary art. However, as our local as well as global financial, social, political and environmental systems are driven into ever-increased states of uncertainty the high cost of clarity, definition and precision are becoming too obvious to continue to ignore. Under such conditions, maintaining states of being unfinished and unresolved is a difficult but, I would argue, important part of contemporary practice.

Although approached from a more historical and process/outcome perspective, the 2016 Met Breuer exhibition ‘Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible’ that explored ‘the evolving concept of unfinishedness as essential to understanding art movements from the Renaissance to the present day’ provides significant insights into what stands on the horizon line.

Image: Alice Neel.  James Hunter Black Draftee , 1965. Oil on canvas. COMMA Foundation, Belgium, © The Estate of Alice Neel (detail).

Image: Alice Neel. James Hunter Black Draftee, 1965. Oil on canvas. COMMA Foundation, Belgium, © The Estate of Alice Neel (detail).

at the centre of the field

The art of the 1960s pushed the boundaries and relationships between concept, outcomes, documentation and document. Yet looking again at Agnes Denes’ 1982 installation ‘Wheatfield - A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan’, I wonder whether the question of the role of documentation within the context of ephemeral art has ever really been answered.

The monumental nature of ‘Wheatfield - A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan’ has been acutely documented in photographs depicting the artist standing amongst the expansive field of golden wheat. Highly alluring and graphic, it is almost difficult to comprehend the massive human power it took to remove debris and prepare the site as well as sew and maintain the vast field.

As a work that was created with the intention of bringing attention to our misplaced corporate priorities and construction-focused identities, does the work’s documentation contradict its intention? Does the documentation of ‘Wheatfield - A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan’ imbue the work with a sentiment of indifference? Considering that the work’s documentation processes included the harvesting of the wheat grown for the purpose of exhibiting it internationally, can we ask of documentation what we ask of a work? Or are we asking too much? Does documentation have a responsibility to truth?

counter construction

“Counter-construction” has become a significant philosophical framework in my practice. Counter-construction and the sculptural/spatial methodology of ‘removal’ describe an approach to art-making that I feel resonates with the current zeitgeist of untangling or ‘undoing’: undoing damage to the planet, ourselves, other people, other species, soil, plants, environments and ecosystems. “Counter-construction” is an acknowledgement that dominate knowledge systems are built on foundations of violence and exclusion, and although these foundations may have been relevant or even necessary at one point in time, need to be revisited and transcended. In short; there is a need for society at large to revise our primary reference points of which the Peace of Westphalia and the origins of modern statecraft stands as an example.

The Peace of Westphalia was a series of treaties signed on 24th October 1648 that marked the end of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), a destructive and violent series of religious and territorial wars in Europe that caused the death of approximately eight million people. The treaties together ushered in a new era of peace, diplomacy and sovereignty that is the foundation of the prevailing world order. With the Peace came the division and establishment of non-volatile territorial borders that (mostly) still exists today. However, as marine and terrestrial life (including humans) increasingly need to cross borders to find food, safety and shelter the consequences of enforcing invisible and entirely man-made and historical divisions are becoming increasingly event.

What would art in a border-less world be?

Ren Gregorčič, wilder (test-site), 2019.

Ren Gregorčič, wilder (test-site), 2019.

shadow. over

Leigh Ledare,  Mom and Me on bed (frontal),  2006. via  photography-now .

Leigh Ledare, Mom and Me on bed (frontal), 2006. via photography-now.

Unconscious participation in social and political meta-narratives sits in many of our uncomfortable blind spots. Blurred, difficult or not possible to define they are uncomfortable truths that when left unfaced can become daunting and lingering shadows. Leigh Ledare’s photographic works describe such shadows: how do structures unseen, unfelt, unknown and often unloved impact not just the way that we see the world, but also impede us from seeing other potentialities without fear, judgement or derision. Raising questions of transgression, the laws of physical intimacy and the limits of self-affirmation and expression Ledare provide methods for viewers to discover their own biases, unconscious or otherwise.

It is this quality of non-judgemental questioning and soft diplomacy that I find so alluring. Looking at photographs from Ledare’s infamous series “Pretend You’re Actually Alive”, I get the sense that each work subtly asks a simple and direct but powerful question: but why? Why or why isn’t this image confronting? Who defines for the rules of what is confronting? Speculation drive the dominant narrative. Yet all the while an alternative narrative sits parallel to this speculation; why ask any questions at all? Can an image of consented expression be something that we don’t question? Can people ever be simply what they present to the world?

invisible entities

Hans Haacke,  Helmsboro Country , 1990 via  Frieze .

Hans Haacke, Helmsboro Country, 1990 via Frieze.

Drawing on the complex nature of the connection between inside and outside; internal and external; private and secluded; power and liberty, the socio-politically charged conceptual practice of Hans Haacke is revealing in it’s ability to discuss specific power structures and systems while also allowing individual works to retain an element of ambiguity. The ambiguity of Haacke’s works stem from their deep connection to knowledge, time and context; a knowledge or at least a peripheral understanding of the social systems, political conditions and/or natural systems that form the basis of his works is often needed to understand them entirely. For this reason, Haacke often presents contextual didactic panels in proximity to installations.

Yet for me the magic of not-knowing, of being confronted with half-understood slogans, logos, arrangements and political messages is the most intriguing aspect of Haacke’s practice. Particularly when considered it in the present context of the Trumpian “Fake News” era. For example, one may not entirely understand why the American Bill of Rights has been printed on a larger-than-life pack of Helmsboro cigarettes cascading out of its deck (Helmsboro Country, 1990) but that is exactly the point. Not being able to completely understand a situation we are presented with or confronted by or even simply being allured by the aesthetic qualities of political messages, advertising and symbols reflects the smoke and mirror tactics that corporate and political systems use to disguise intents and achieve objectives. Most of the time we only ever know corporations or political systems present want to tell us, as opposed to what we want or need to know, i.e. motivations for wars, the health impacts of products or decision making processes.

As Australia transitions into a new cycle of political leadership, now squarely defined by the Australian Federal Police’s ABC Raids, Haacke’s works provide a timely reflection on the nature of power.

space-predictability

The template familiarity of urban spaces isn’t something I overtly notice, but it is something I feel when moving through these cities and towns; familiar paving patterns, similar plant species, the even spacing between trees, the predictable levels of light and shade. Colours and colour combinations also often seem all too familiar – a universal urbanism in which space is arranged in a few commercially purchasable designs.

The topic of the homogenisation of urban and architectural spaces is a current topic of academic research. In May 2018 Sonia Curnier published a thesis with EPFL analysing homogenisation trends of public places in Europe, lending great insight into the aesthetics of repeatable space. Far from being confined to the public realm, space-predictability is also being played out in commercial, public and private architecture. Looking up at the small black and white James Turrell prints on my entrance wall it occurred to me that if urban and architectural spaces were becoming familiar, then perhaps this is influencing both the shapes, colours, texture and forms that artists are producing as well as the type of work people are attracted to (and by extension, also buying and collecting).

As our world divides in discrete, compact units without consideration for the impact that urban and architectural repeat-ism has on the whole, are our art-forms also narrowing? For further reading, check out this article by geo41 ‘Homogenisation of Landscapes’.

Image credit:  geo41

Image credit: geo41

the consequence of what you do to me

In the 1920s Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company standardised the work week to five days. This initiative introduced the work-free weekend and with it gave Ford workers the time to re-invest back into the company with their higher than average wages. It’s difficult to not feel a little disappointed that the reward that many persevere for is in many ways the carrot at the end of the proverbial stick. Which begs the question: who is holding the stick and why?

I’ve recently finished putting together a photographic work that interrogates the circular truth of the contemporary system of vacations and the often unknown environmental and social impacts of travel. The title of the work ‘If you lived here, you’d be home by now’ is taken from an infamous real estate truism that connects the human longing to escape the mechanisms of capitalist life to physical, purchasable commodities that feed back into capitalism. The title accurately demonstrates the aim of the installation: to present the confusing nature of the leisure in it’s intended form as a capitalist device that ‘create[s] the want it seeks to satisfy’ (John Kenneth Galbraith). Now to, ironically, find the funding. More on this work to come.

Duane Hanson, Flea Market Vendor, 1990 via  saatchi gallery

Duane Hanson, Flea Market Vendor, 1990 via saatchi gallery

ZERO

Silence and the possibilities that can emerge from nothingness, the Zero Group is a significant post-war art philosophy and counter movement of new beginnings co-founded by Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, Zero in the 1950s. Now an intentional movement, ZERO (capitalised) artists include a range of practitioners connected by art processes that make use of action and reaction, nature and incidence, an exploitation of the familiar and destructive processes as a vehicle for creating the new.

It’s interesting to note that the movement has received sustained critical attention since the 1990s, rising concurrently with our increased understanding of the links between capitalism and environmental degradation; a time characterised by a type of destruction that in some ways mirrors the post-war era from which the Zero Group emerged. The use of materials and methods sympathetic to capitalism (i.e. commercially available products and the use of popular media to spread the group’s messages) as a means of critiquing capitalism also means that Zero is perpetually ‘modern’; it is contemporary as long as capitalism (the reference) survives. And perhaps, as the movement moves into its 7th decade, that is what Zero is revealing over time; not that something can emerge from nothingness, but that in capitalism the starting point is always zero, preventing things to move forward to avoid the obsolescence of capitalism.

Mono-ha

Lee Ufan, Relatum-silence, 1979. Via the  artist’s website .

Lee Ufan, Relatum-silence, 1979. Via the artist’s website.

On May 5, Dia:Beacon is launching a major exhibition of a selection of pioneering early work by Lee Ufan; avant-garde, visionary artist, critical art theorist and philosopher. Ufan’s oeuvre, encompassing tangible and intangible media, reveals a philosophy of existence that is considered, tactful, sombre and relational. All things are connected and contingent on a interplay between object and human-sense.

Ufan is commonly associated with the もの派 (Mono-ha, Japanese) movement, a school of thought and practice that developed in Japan in the 1960s. It is said that the term もの派 was adopted some time after it had formed and that, similar to the Impressionists, the name of the movement was originally used by critics in a satirical manner to dismiss もの派 work as a faction of artistic practice. Commonly translated as School of (派, ha) Things (もの, mono), the use of 派 suggests that もの派 practice was seen in a philosophical as well as socio-political sense. This is fitting considering that もの派 would have been viewed and analysed within the complex social-political context of 1960 and 70s Japanese youth movement; one that was decidedly anti-US imperialism and that clashed with the dominance of American minimalism in the Japanese art industry at the time.

Ufan has published widely on the subject of もの派, his philosophies and artwork. ‘Selected Writings by Lee Ufan 1970-96, Lisson Gallery, London, 1996’ is a good introduction to this internationally-significant artist and art movement. Ufan’s website also has a list of other publications (click here to be re-directed to Lee Ufan’s website) for further research.

breeze between the clouds

Concept image for my new work titled ‘Breeze’.

Concept image for my new work titled ‘Breeze’.

I’m presently creating a new sculptural installation using internally gilded, concrete cloud-form breeze blocks to interrogate through structure, form, light and shadow, the commingling of human and non-human narratives that occurs in our post-natural (the intentional and heritable alteration of nature by humans) contemporary urban reality.

Breeze blocks were an architectural feature commonly used in commercial and residential construction in the 1950s and 60s. Contemporary symbols of suburbia, they are a hallmark of the social and cultural expansion of post-war Victoria. Often used as decorative wall detailing, breeze blocks mark the division of spaces in places such as boundary walls, were gardens meet houses, as patio screens or carports. As a partially solid construction material, breeze blocks have a unique duality that emphasises solidity and permeability as well as division. This duality makes breeze blocks an ideal material to interrogate the commingling of human and non-human narratives.

The idea for the sculpture is play with perspective; as viewers approaches the work, they will see a solid concrete screen. As they move closer and away from the work, their perspective relative to the sculpture will change to reveal and obscure the highly reflective gold internal structure, patterned forms and sections of the landscape visible through the work. More on this work to come.

time, materials and entrapment

Earlier this year I was doing some research on bio-feedback art and came across ‘Eudaimonia’ by Lisa Park, a phenomenal work that translates thoughts into visualisations (click here to visit Park’s website). The black pools of rippling water got me thinking about how humans (mostly unconsciously) translate subjective thoughts into materials to create objective, shared experience. I also started thinking about the role of sculpture within this process and am planning to make a new body of work that interrogates the sociocultural position of sculptural practice to either re-enforce or dismiss subjectivity or objectivity.

The practice of Sekine Nobuo (関根伸夫) came to mind as one that provides a schema for how artists can use sculptural and spatial practice to critique human perspectives and senses of nature. By drawing attention to the surface of natural and industrial materials, Sekine presents us with an interrogation of how we perceive 'solid’ objects and the way we form associations and use personal references to shape our understanding of what is around us. Beyond a critique of sensory experience, Sekine’s practice as well as other members of Mono-ha, are also interesting in their political perspectives of overturning the dominance of art-as-commodity. Mono-ha provides a framework for exploring how one can, through sculptural practice, provide a counterbalance to tricky modern relationship between materials, existing, influence and owning.

Sekine Nobuo, Phase of Nothingness–Black No.1, 1977.  Click here  to visit image source.

Sekine Nobuo, Phase of Nothingness–Black No.1, 1977. Click here to visit image source.

honesty in the mirror eye

Elina Brotherus, I hate sex , 1998, c-print, mntd on aluminum. via  artnet

Elina Brotherus, I hate sex , 1998, c-print, mntd on aluminum. via artnet

The Enlightenment taught us that the environment had been conquered; all places were either known or predictable and reducible; everything understandable and within the grasp of human logic. That has been the message for a very long time. However particularly since the 1990s, individuals and collectives, prompted by the urgency of climate change, are beginning to realise that nature has in fact never and cannot ever be conquered. We’re also coming to understand just how problematic the contemporary global pursuit of human desire fulfilment is both for us and the earth.

As the collective human ego battles with its responsibilities, relevance and position in the world, incompatibilities between for example; need vs. want; love vs. desire vs. lust; feeling vs. perception; and concepts of future vs. present vs. past, within Western-capitalist corporate and social paradigms are becoming increasingly visible. This disharmony between dominant human knowledge/perceptual systems and the realities/limits of things outside us (i.e. nature, geologies, structures and space) is a growing theme in contemporary art practice.

The photographic and video works of Elina Brotherus poignantly captures the struggle of the ego in this discord. In ‘I hate sex’ (1998), Brotherus masterfully renders the tensions between human perception and expectation, natural cause-effect relationships and the influences of feeling on the world outside. This is a quality that I’m trying to capture in my own practice.

urban reality

Concrete is dense, vast and ubiquitous. The material has historically been used in many ways and has such a loaded and varied vocabulary that allows it to be transformed in many ways. I’m currently working with concrete breeze blocks to interrogate through structure, form, light and shadow, the commingling of human and non-human narratives that occurs in our post-natural (the intentional and heritable alteration of nature by humans) contemporary urban reality.

Breeze blocks were an architectural feature commonly used in commercial and residential construction in the 1950s and 60s. Contemporary symbols of suburbia, they are a hallmark of the social and cultural expansion of post-war Victoria. Often used as decorative wall detailing, breeze blocks mark the division of spaces in places such as internal and external boundary walls, as patio screens and carports. As a partially solid construction material, breeze blocks have a unique duality that emphasises solidity and permeability as well as division. This duality makes breeze blocks an ideal material to interrogate the commingling of human and non-human narratives.

This week I also saw the announcement of CONCRETE: art design architecture, an exhibition at JamFactory, Adelaide that looks at the material and conceptual poeticism of the material. I’m very much looking forward to seeing this exhibition. More info at the JamFactory website https://www.jamfactory.com.au/.

Durbach Block Jaggers, Tamarama House, 2015. Photo: Tom Ferguson. Via  Art Guide Australia .

Durbach Block Jaggers, Tamarama House, 2015. Photo: Tom Ferguson. Via Art Guide Australia.

APPROACHING THE POST-NATURAL: PART 2

Ren Gregorčič, One another other (installation detail), 2019.

Ren Gregorčič, One another other (installation detail), 2019.

One another other, my sculptural installation in ‘nature, post-nature’ of composed of a series of 5 solid concrete sculptures each with gold detailing. The gold is highly reflective and so it picks up ambient light, casting warm yellow onto the harsh stone surface. It’s a mesmerising quality that reflects my research into the role of intimacy within the context of the Anthropocene.

As Timothy Morton discusses in ‘Dark Ecology’, climate change is linked to our physical and mental distance from geological and ecological systems that are not. Closeness to physical aspects of nature (i.e. rocks, plants, animals) that are not changed or augmented for the purposes of human use (forests, wild animals, natural fields, cave systems etc.) generates a feeling of place and interconnectedness that promotes awareness and empathy. Distance on the other hand folds nature into simplified versions of complex systems consistent with human logic.

Most people’s relationships to nature, I would argue, sit somewhere between these polar opposites; nobody is ever full removed from human-limited nature. However, our access to these places is becoming increasingly limited and so, in our changed world, there is a need for us to establish empathy with the white plaster walls, grey concrete and cold steel materials that now dominate.

I’ve found that soft light and rippled reflections have an interesting ability to create intrigue that seems to establish this closeness of mind and so I’ve incorporated it into One another other. I’m very excited to continue to test the effects of soft light and rippled reflections in upcoming works.

If you’re in Melbourne, make sure to check to see One another other in ‘nature, post-nature’, my collaborative exhibition with Jessye Wdowin-McGregor, at Rubicon Ari (309 Queensberry St, Melbourne) from 21 March to 5 April.

approaching the post-natural: part 1

Over the past couple of months I’ve been working on a sculptural installation for an upcoming collaborative exhibition with Jessye Wdowin-McGregor titled ‘nature, post-nature’, on show at Rubicon Ari from 21 March. The exhibition concept focuses on how natural/native geological and ecological systems in urban Melbourne and greater Victorian regions are responding to disruptions caused by human activity (resulting in the rise of ‘post-natural’ landscapes). It has been a challenging task to translate these concepts into an artistic outcome.

The challenge hasn’t been in the physical production of a work, but rather how to make something that would allow people to intuitively locate themselves within the psychologically distant concept of the ‘post-natural’ (as an outcome of climate change).

After conducting a large amount of research on ecological philosophy (mainly Guattari and ‎Næss), cognitive dissonance theory, the psychology of how people understand and process information about climate change and eco-logic (particularly Dark Ecology by Timothy Morton), I began to realise that the normalisation of post-natural landscapes meant that they are largely invisible. This normalisation means that most people aren’t able to, on a meaningful personal/individual scale, grasp the idea that the landscapes they commonly experience are outcomes of major disruptions to natural/native geological and ecological systems. Grasping the idea, impact and scale of the disruptions that have historically and continue to occur is an important step in creating ecological empathy; a willingness to act in a way that protects the environment that can translate into positive climate action.

Below is a concept image of the sculptural resolution that I came up with. I’ll discuss the work in next week’s post ‘Approaching the post-natural: Part 2’.

‘nature, post-nature’ installation concept image demonstrating my artwork concept

‘nature, post-nature’ installation concept image demonstrating my artwork concept