Georgina Downey has usefully suggested that the collaborative project of photographing industrial Melbourne by Stuart Murdoch and myself can be usefully framed as belonging to what landscape architects, call drosscapes. We have been photographing in and around waste urbanscapes that are different from edge lands as it is a junkyard that is a by product of industrialisation and is in the process of being redeveloped.
The concept of drosscape was coined by Alan Berger (a landscape architect and associate professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design) in 2006 in his book, Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America to refer to the waste landscapes. Berger proposed classifying a differentiation between waste landscapes (places that store, manage or process urban or industrial waste), wasted landscapes (polluted or abandoned sites), and wasteful landscapes (huge extensions of developed land with virtually no use for the community).
wasteland, Nth Melbourne
The idea of drosscape applies to the industrial Melbourne site that Stuart and I have been photographing, as this wasteland is currently being redeveloped as part of the extension of the Melbourne underground. Berger says that a drosscape is:
“the creation of a new condition in which vast, wasted, or wasteful land surfaces are modeled in accordance with new programs or new sets of values that remove or replace real or perceived wasteful aspects of geographical space (i.e., redevelopment, toxic waste removal, tax revenues, etc.)”. As a verb, he sees the ‘drosscaping’ as the practice incorporating social programs and activities into the transformed waste landscape.”
He adds that one must not commit the mistake to call an abandoned train station by itself a drosscape. In this instance, a drosscape would be the integration of new horizons onto the unused site, which by itself it is only dross. Continue Reading…
On my first night camping on the camel trek in the northern Flinders Ranges I experienced a culture shock due to the degraded-landscape around me. Our camp at Bend Well (a water point) was west of Arkaroola and just outside the edge of the northern tip of the Gammon Ranges and I was stunned at just how degraded the ecology of this landscape of this part of the northern Flinders was. It wasn’t the dryness of the landscape that shocked me. This is a semi-arid landscape given the minimal rainfall (roughly around 150mm) that is highly variable and the hot, dry desert climate with cool to cold winters, and the periods of drought.
We were camped on Umberatana Station south of the dingo or dog fence that runs roughly east-west across South Australia. To the south of the fence, dingoes (wild dogs) have been destroyed It is north of the dog fence sheep that grazing is unviable due to dingo predation. The main grazing pressure south of the dog fence is from sheep, a few cattle and unknown number of rabbits and kangaroos.
trough, Bend Well, Umberatana Station
What really shocked me was the condition of the land—the ecological devastation–that had been caused by the long history over stocking by the pastoralists, drought and the plagues of rabbits since the mid-nineteenth century with little signs of contemporary landcare. I couldn’t help but notice the loss of vegetation and the subsequent destruction of the soil surface. This is certainly a human altered landscape that had been changed by the pastoral industry.
I appreciate that these pioneer settlers underpinned the general prosperity of South Australia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries since the various attempts at mining in the Flinders Ranges usually fizzled out quite quickly. The pastoralists also opened up the interior of the continent. Continue Reading…
After attending the Centre of Culture, Land and Sea’s informative workshop at Meningie in South Australia. I used the opportunity to explore around Lake Albert and the Narrung Peninsula with its legacy of settler agriculture before driving on down to Salt Creek for a photoshoot for the Edgelands project.
Lake Albert, along with Lake Alexandrina, is a part of the Lower Lakes of the River Murray, and is adjacent to the northern lagoon’s eco-system of the Coorong. Being at the bottom end of the highly engineered River Murray, Lake Albert suffers from the river’s minimal environmental flows. Those at the terminus of the River Murray receive what is left over after consumptive use in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Though the Barrages at Goolwa were constructed to maintain the Lakes as freshwater systems at a constant water depth, the Lakes/Coorong region is at the end of a major river systems, which means that this region is highly sensitive to changes in freshwater flows. Despite the Basin Plan, which has addressed the overallocation of water from the Basin’s rivers by irrigated agriculture, not enough fresh water currently flows into Lake Albert to flush the lake out, so it is salty, and all the contaminants from the upper part of the river end up in Lake Albert.
Lake Albert, South Australia
The irrigators around Lake Albert suffered from a lack of water during the Millennium Drought (from 2002- 2010)—-when Lake Albert was closed off from natural river flows by a Government constructed band at the entrance top the Lake. Exposure and oxidation of acid sulfate soils due to falling water levels from 2007-2009 in the Lower River Murray and Lower Lakes also resulted in acidification of soils, lake and ground water. The low water levels on Lake Albert resulted in many of the dairy farmers, who had relied on pumped water from Lake Albert, being forced to sell their cattle and even abandon their dairy farms. Continue Reading…
The ‘contemporary’ in contemporary art often suggests a qualification of the modernity rather than a counter to the modern. The counter to a now historical (Greenberg-style) modernism was postmodernism, with postmodernism marking a critical distance from modernism. For some reason postmodernism died into history’s dustbin, and it has been replaced by contemporary art, which is what now regulates the division between the past and present in the present.
What then is contemporary art, and where does photography fit?
Some say that it is art works produced now that offer a fresh perspective and point of view, and often employing new techniques and new media. The fresh perspective is that contemporary art challenges what was before and hints that there is more to come. It should confront prevailing notions as well as being seen as interesting, exciting, significant and fresh.
Mt. Lyell mine, Gormanston
The term ‘contemporary art’ is usually associated with the break with the prevailing object-based and medium specific art that emerged in the 1960s and the sheer diversity of forms after the end of the Cold War in 1989. It draws on the legacy of the conceptual art of the 1960, whose historical significance was its rejection of the over-valuation of the aesthetic dimension of art in Greenbergian formalism, but it is post-conceptual in that it understands both that art is necessarily conceptual and that its aesthetic dimension is ineliminable because its materiality means that it exists in time and space.
Contemporary art also exceeds or ruptures the historically received conventions that had previously defined the various artistic mediums, and the emergence of the global transnationalization of the biennale as an exhibition form. Hence the idea of the de-bordering of arts as medium and the de-bordering of the national spaces of art.