In starting to work on the Fleuriescapes project once again I can now see that it is more about place and homecoming, with the photographic style more in the form of poeticising. The project is about being at home in this particular place, and it is about exploring what that means through poeticising what is familiar and taken-for granted in our everyday, pre-reflective life.
After we left living in the CBD in Adelaide to shift down to Victor Harbor (ie., sea change) it slowly dawned on us that the southern Fleurieu Peninsula was our home Adelaide is now where we go to do business then leave to return home–it is a world of instrumental value and rushing about. Though we were once comfortably at home in the city’s everydayness and its local neighbourhoods we no longer are at home where we used to live.
We often dip in and out of the consumer society of the city; an urban life that is based on unending economic growth and gaining satisfaction from consumerism. We no longer miss living in the urban world of the city 0f Adelaide, with its coffee shops, entertainment, businesses, art galleries, film labs, corporate universities, people and politics. Our experience of the city is now akin to one of homelessness–a passing away of belonging to a world based on unlimited economic growth.
One of the side trips on the Mallee Highway silo photoshoot in Victoria was to look for, and scope, edgelands around Ouyen to continue part two of the project. I did this on the last day when it was bright and sunny and of no use to me for taking photos of silos with a large format camera. Bright and sunny is normal in the Victorian Mallee, with overcast days being the exception. From my travelling around I could see that the Mallee is a specialist grain growing areas diversifying from livestock production (sometime in the 1980s).
I spend the Wednesday morning driving around the boundaries of the town and I stumbled on this behind the golf course just over a kilometre form the centre of town:
felled trees, Ouyen
It wasn’t private land so I wandered around to have a look. The trees were being felled so that large basin could be dug out. I kept on walking around to discover why a basin here. A sign lying on the side of the road said that this basin that was under construction was for a man made recreational lake. It’s ambitious as it 700 metres long by 200 metres wide, with a depth of five metres when full, and it will cover about 14 hectares. Continue Reading…
I am planning a large-format road trip to the Coorong where I will work with the 8×10 Cambo monorail, black and white film, and one 300mm normal lens. I will also have a 5×4 field camera with me to use with colour film and for when I am walking through the wetlands. The photo trip is to build material for the second part of the Edgelands project.
I will attend a workshop at Meningie run by the Centre for Culture, Land and Sea on the ecological state of the River Murray and Coorong on Sunday 3rd April. I will then drive to, and base myself at Salt Greek for 3 days. The work from this roadtrip will be part of a group exhibition at the South Coast Regional Arts Centre (in the historic Old Goolwa Police Station building). The exhibition is a part of the Alexandrina Council’s 2016 ‘Just Add Water’ program.
Before you think a road trip with an 8×10 monorail is crazy, here is a precedent from the 1980s: then Doug Spowart (using a Sinar P 8×10) and Maris Rusis (he was Queensland’s only committed 10×8 image-making practitioner at the time) did a road trip from Brisbane to Canberra, Kosciuszko and Suggan Buggan in the late 1980’s with 8×10 monorails. Continue Reading…
There is a forthcoming conference on Land Dialogues at the Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia. It is an interdisciplinary approach to place/space and human/non-human convergence discourses. The conference blurb says that this involves the following themes:
(1) Analysis or application of existing or emergent dialogues with land in indigenous, pre-colonial, post-colonial and anti-colonial contexts.(2) Explorations of the limits (or perceived limits) of sustainment principles, sustainabilities, ecologies and agriculture.(3) New/Old Frontiers, Land and the Digital and explorations of, or reflections on potentials for new topographies including data visualisations in relationship to land. (4) Experimental or experiential works or non-standard items including exhibition or performance towards dialogue with land.
Theme (4) includes a photographic exhibition that is curated by James Farley
entitled Land Dialogues – Contemporary Australian Photography (in Dialogues with Land)
. The Photographers involved include Christine McFetridge, Kate Robertson, Renata Buziak, James Farely
, Chris Orchard
, Jacob Raupach, Felix Wilson,
and Amy Findlay. However, it is unclear what kind of dialogue with the land these photographers are engaged in since there is no curatorial statement online apart from the general statement that photographers involved are exploring and reevaluating how the Australian community identifies, represents and values the spaces that we create and occupy. Surprisingly, there no abstracts of the conference papers online.
Currently we have a vacuum about the nature of dialogues with nature in contemporary photography within the gallery system that was once premised on the modernist divide of nature and culture as mutually exclusive. Nature was landscape rather than country, and nature existed in a repressed state in the galleries through the 1980s and early 1990s. So what kind of dialogues with nature are happening in the second decade of the 21st century, given that agricultural industrialisation, which was an early cornerstone of Australian modernity, has left us with parched catchment areas, salt encrusted soil and degraded rivers?
My own work in the Edgelands project —here
—-can be considered to be a dialogue with the land as opposed to country. This image of the Murrumbidgee River
near Hay is an example:
The Murrumbidgee River runs through Wagga Wagga and it is the second largest source of water flows into the Murray-Darling system. The 1,600 km long river is ranked as one of the two least ecologically healthy of 23 tributary rivers in the Basin. Lake Burley Griffin, which is a part of the upper Murrumbidgee, is pretty much a fetid carp pond. By the mid 1970s, almost all of the water in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area had been allocated to irrigators, and today we are seeing an example of river system collapse with the signs of an ecological disaster are all too clear.
The Coorong in South Australia is basically a string of saltwater lagoons sheltered from the Southern Ocean by the sand dunes of the Younghusband Peninsula. It is still largely seen as a pristine wilderness rather than an edge land. Nature from this perspective is a by-word for “wilderness areas”.
The Coorong is identified as a National Park, which is then reduced to a pristine wilderness that is a sanctuary for many species of birds, animals and fish. It is held to be a pristine wilderness (an elsewhere beyond human culture and society), despite the existence of walking trails; the waters of the Coorong being a popular venue for recreational and commercial fishers; and it being a remote space where we go to in our SUV’s on weekends and public holidays. The idea of wilderness area is a social/political construction as not all parts of the Coorong are a national park or a pristine wilderness.
The concept of nature underpinning the idea of the Coorong as a pristine wilderness means that it is seen as a self-contained, harmonious set of internal self-regulating relations that always return to harmony and balance so long as they aren’t perturbed by humankind. Because nature is seen as harmoniously self-regulating, any technological intervention in nature is seen as inviting harm, disaster and catastrophe.
This conception of nature as a pristine wilderness goes back to the Romantics, who constructed nature as offering a respite from the transgressions of so-called civilised European society then undergoing the initial phases of capitalist industrialisation. Nature is seen as sacrosanct and is venerated. Nature as “over there,” somehow separate from our daily lives, is then set on a pedestal.
at the salt site
The next step is to argue that the ultimate cause of our ecological problems is modern technology, Cartesian subjectivity, within which we are abstract beings somehow outside nature, who can manipulate nature, dominate nature. Nature is an object of our manipulation and exploitation. Modernity is based on a hard and fast distinction between Nature and Culture, where the two domains are to be thought as entirely separate and distinct. Continue Reading…