critical writing, landscape, Victoria

Nature photography at Mt Arapiles

September 12, 2019

As mentioned in this post on the Mallee Routes blog I recently linked up with the Melbourne-based Friends of Photography Group (FoPG) for a weekend photo trip to Mt Arapiles in western Victoria. As mentioned in this post on the Encounter Studio photoblog the FoPG are primarily large format photographers of the natural landscape. In Australia landscape photographers have traditionally understood landscape photography in terms of the tradition of unpeopled or wilderness photography, no doubt due to the historical significance of the Tasmanian wilderness photographers.

It appears that the contemporary impetus and centre of the landscape genre of photography has shifted from Tasmania to Melbourne, Victoria. This is largely due to David Tatnall’s influence on nature conservation in Victoria through his landscape photography and   Ellie Young at Gold Street Studios in Trentham East, Victoria hosting the annual get together of large format photographers  and offering the alternative process workshops.

Castle Craig, Mt Arapiles, Victoria

Have the conceptual underpinnings of wilderness photography in Australia changed with this shift? In the Tasmanian version (eg., Olegas Truchanas, Peter Dombrovskis and others) of this tradition of wilderness photography was associated with Romanticism, nature as redeeming force, uninhabited  places worthy of pilgrimage that are also difficult to access, the European aesthetic tradition of the picturesque and anti-development. Their ethos was that if people could see the beauty of Australia’s wild places then they may be moved to protect them: to save a valuable environment under threat.

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architecture, urban

Coral Street Art Space at Victor harbor

August 16, 2019

Finally, Victor Harbor has taken its first step to establish an arts and cultural precinct with the first exhibition at the Coral Street Art Space. The Art Space is currently located in the former Victor Harbor Branch of the RSL and the old Library Building next to the Town Hall. The exhibition, which is entitled Living Arts, was curated by Patricia Marsland, President of the Victor Harbor Arts Society, and it is part of the 2019 SALA Festival in South Australia. It can be seen as launching or kick starting the growth of the arts and culture in Victor Harbor.

RSL building, 2014

The Coral Street Art Space is not planned to be a permanent art gallery with its own curator, as is the case in Goolwa with its South Coast Regional Art Centre and Signal Point, or the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery at Murray Bridge or Fabrik at Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills. The Victor Harbor Council is way behind its neighbouring regional councils in investing in the arts and culture–especially compared to Alexandrina Council, which successfully runs a popular yearly Just Add Water cultural and art festival. The Coral Street Art Space is a temporary stop gap, and it is designed to eventually become a multipurpose art space. I assume that this means that Victor Harbor will be without a permanent art gallery for the visual arts.

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coastal, exhibitions, rocks, South Australia

SALA 2019: Swatch at Fabrik

July 16, 2019

In contrast to previous years I have a minimal presence in the carnivalesque 2019 SALA ( South Australian Living Artists) Festival. This festival can be interpreted as a reworking of Mikhail Bakhtin’s idea of the carnivalesque as popular festivities and rituals as a form of celebration that has been successfully transposed into the visual arts in South Australia.

I am part of a salon style hang of a multiple medium exhibition at Fabrik in the Adelaide Hills that is entitled Swatch. The curatorial concept behind Swatch is that artists exhibit “a small sample [up to 3 9×9 inches images] that demonstrates the look of a larger piece– artists are asked to consider how they would represent their practice (their style, technique or subject matter) on a small scale.” I understand that as there are approximately 40 artists involved in Swatch, and probably around 120 very diverse works being exhibited, this style of exhibition can be interpreted as a curatorial response to Bakhtin’s idea of the carnivalesque.

The idea of Swatch explicitly references the history of the Fabrik building. The building was once the old Onkaparinga woollen mill at Lobethal, whilst swatch refers to a small textile sample that is usually taken from existing fabric, and is designed to represent a large whole. The textile manufacturer would bring together many swatches of their materials into a single sample book, thereby enabling a salesperson to show a wide selection of available designs in various colours to potential customers  without the necessity of having multiple rolls of fabric immediately to hand. So the Swatch exhibition of small works is equivalent to a sample book of many swatches of different materials.

granite + quartz outcrop, Kings Head

I am exhibiting a series of 3 9×9 inch framed prints that were made on my coastal poodlewalks along the southern Fleurieu Peninsula, and which are a part of the Fleurieuscapes project. The series in Swatch is entitled The Light the Morning Brings’, and it is based on this post on the poodlewalks blog. These images are along the lines of immediate bodily relationship to the light on objects and processes using the lower or popular media of photography, and showing them in the context of the higher and more authoritative media of the visual arts.

One of these prints being exhibited is an image is of a rocky outcrop from a photo session at Kings Head, and it is similar in style to the granite and quartz outcrop picture above.

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critical writing, Mallee, water

towards a critical climate aesthetics

May 11, 2019

This post on a critical climate aesthetics builds on this one at the Encounter Studio’s photoblog in the light of what has been currently happening in the lower Darling River region. There is some background here about why the Darling River has run dry. The general consensus is that state and federal governments have allowed way too much water to be taken from the system by irrigated agriculture, such as Big Cotton in Queensland and northern NSW.

The idea of a critical climate aesthetics underpins my contribution to the Unknown Futures section of the upcoming Mallee Routes exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery in December 2019.

lower Darling River

Over the last decade, scientists and humanists have renamed our current geological era the “Anthropocene” in recognition of the profound impact that human activities have had upon the earth’s crust and atmosphere. The argument is that the Holocene Epoch gave way to the Anthropocene Epoch in the mid-twentieth century, because of profound and lasting human changes to the Earth; and that there is no foreseeable return to the Holocene Epoch.

This argument would equate humanity with geological forces like glaciers, volcanoes, and meteors in the sense that the Anthropocene references an epoch in which humans are the dominant drivers of geologic change on the globe today.  It wasn’t just drought that has caused the Darling River to dry up. The catastrophe was partly the result of human activity. This suggests that the Kantian sharp division between nature and culture or technology is no longer tenable.

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landscape, roadtrip, topographics

the production of space

April 16, 2019

One way to think about history in relationship to the landscape, such as the Mallee landscape, is to adopt a geographical perspective, as geography is concerned with space and it has been informed by the idea of the production of space. This latter refers to how space has been made or produced in order to satisfy and expand human needs and possibilities. The key is to make or to produce space, rather than just to conceive it.

Dukes Highway, South Australia

But it is more than this, Trevor Paglen describes this idea in the following way:

In a nutshell, the production of space says that humans create the world around them and that humans are, in turn, created by the world around them. In other words, the human condition is characterized by a feedback loop between human activity and our material surroundings. In this view, space is not a container for human activities to take place within, but is actively “produced” through human activity. The spaces humans produce, in turn, set powerful constraints upon subsequent activity.

The production of space takes us beyond seeing nature in terms of the  impact of human habitation: ie., nature as ‘tamed’, ‘interpreted’ and ‘framed’, and as something deeply impregnated with metaphorical and poetic meaning.

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