MECO360: The Day I Got Us Lost

Kim Williams | 1 September 2016

Camp 7: waterfall, tributary of Drysdale River near junction with Charnley River, Gardner Plateau, Caroline Ranges, Central Kimberley, July 2014.

Map reading: 16˚18’ S, 125˚ 51’ E

Kim Williams (with Jo Stirling) Central Kimberley map 2015

Kim Williams (with Jo Stirling) Central Kimberley map 2015

 

It’s the eighth day of our 12 day walk in the remote heart of the Kimberley. We’re on the edge of the 200,000 hectare Mt Elizabeth Station. Peter Lacy, the Aboriginal owner, had driven us a few hours along a rough track and dropped us off a week earlier, somewhere on the Drysdale River. Since then, we’ve been following watercourses in rugged stone country, navigating with maps and compasses. The last few days we’ve been heading along a magnificent steep gorge, absorbing the rock art, plants, animals and pristine waterways.

There are no walking tracks out here. Distance in kilometres is irrelevant. Sometimes it can take an hour to get through fifty metres of thick pandanus. It is so remote that I can imagine that we are the first white people to have walked in this place. There’s plenty of evidence of the Aboriginal presence here over millennia – stunning images of Wandjina and animals painted on rock.

We’re camped on top of a waterfall, with a giant rockpool below. Today is a ‘rest’ day – we’ll be staying two nights at the waterfall, so we don’t have to lug our heavy packs today. We’re doing a day walk up the Charnley River hoping to find more rock art, then walking in a circuit along another side creek and back to camp a different way. I’m feeling affected by the heat today.

I should have rested back at camp and read a book or done some drawing, but I don’t want to miss an adventure.

After perhaps 3km of walking upstream, we reach the side creek. Rox and Naja decide to turn back, to have a restful afternoon at camp. The other four of us press on up the side creek until we find a substantial rock art site. I’m not feeling well, so I decide to head back to camp after lunch. Mailin joins me, while Lou and Hannah keep going.

Notice the landforms around you – don’t always rely on others in the group.

As Mailin and I head back down the Charnley, we stumble upon Rox and Naja, sitting in a clearing near the river, distressed and very relieved to see us. They had gotten lost on the way back to camp, so they decided to rest to gather their wits. I have a map and compass – they relax in the knowledge that we’ll find ‘home’ together. It’s fairly straightforward: head downstream (north-west), turn northwards at the junction of the Charnley and the gorge, then a thirty minute walk to our campsite at the waterfall.

When you return the way you came, things always look very different from the opposite direction.

I march ahead confidently with the map and compass, the other three chatting happily behind me. It’s probably around 2pm. We walk alongside the mirrored water of the river. The reflection is so brilliant it’s hard to tell which way the river is flowing. Checking the map occasionally, I convince myself of our location.

When navigating by map, you are not always where you think you are. The physical features are far more nuanced and complex than the lines on a map.

We follow the Charnley for what seems to me an unusually long time. We’re seduced by the beauty of the river, which is now as straight as a highway. I don’t remember this. Slowly my anxiety grows and I begin looking for our footprints heading outwards from earlier in the day; I’m sure our turnoff to the gorge must be just ahead. It should be simple. The others are oblivious to my worry. They feel safe in my hands. There are no more footprints and the sun is getting low. I express my doubts, but the other three are in a happy bubble and are not ready to worry with me.

A combination of modest navigation skills and instinct can be confusing.

When I finally announce that we really are lost, the others quickly sober. We make a decision to go on for another half hour downstream, then turn back to try and find our hidden gorge in the opposite direction. Fortunately no-one panics: we have a couple of chocolate bars, there’s loads of fresh water, and Lou will eventually realise we’re lost and come looking for us. At worst, she’ll set off the emergency beacon and a rescue helicopter might arrive in a day or two. I’m comforted by the collective optimism.

When taking a map reading, why are the north-south lines called eastings, and the east-west lines called northings?

After half an hour, we agree to turn around and head back upstream. Now we are all on high alert, our senses vibrating with fear. I am looking at every contour on the map, constantly stopping and cross-checking with the compass. The sun behind us is getting low and we’re hot and tired. We’re all imagining a cold night huddled together with only a map for a blanket, but we keep walking.

When the wind is blowing from the south it is called a southerly, but when we’re walking from the south we’re heading north.

At length, I spot a break in the rocks to our left (north). I’ve abandoned map-reading and am now operating on instinct and hope. The others follow me across the braided streams, a tangle of watercourses and rock formations that my all-too-human brain had not fully absorbed earlier in the day. What was simple in my mind is complex on the ground. Eventually the terrain becomes familiar, my hopes quietly rise, and fifteen minutes later we are hugging and whooping at the edge of our giant rock pool. Home. There are Lou and Hannah, standing at the top of the waterfall waiting for us. Throwing our filthy clothes aside, we all dive into the water. Even the freshwater crocodiles are happy to see us.

Kimberley slice

1 cup of rolled oats, toasted over the campfire with the seeds of 3 cardamom pods

100gm block of chocolate, any kind

A good dollop of tahini

½ to ¾ cup almonds, placed in a ziplock bag and pounded with a rock into small pieces

Handful of sultanas or raisins, chopped with a pocket knife

Melt the chocolate in a pan over the campfire. Stir in tahini, toasted oats, cardamom seeds, nuts and sultanas. Using a lunch box lid or equivalent, spread the mixture into something resembling a large family size block of chocolate. Place on a small rock in a backwater of a river so that it doesn’t float away; allow it to cool and set. Enjoy with good company.

Thanks to Jo Stirling for graphic support.

 

Thinking Landscape: Data, geography, arts, writing, patterns, collecting and interdisciplinarity

MECO and Global Challenges Seminar and Workshop

16th September 8.00am- 3.00pm

Mitchell Whitelaw Climate Data Walk 2009

Mitchell Whitelaw Climate Data Walk 2009

 

From data to drawing to writing and collections of material culture, scholars and practitioners have long developed a suite of ways to think and imagine the landscapes and environments in which we, and those we share the earth with, live. This day-long event will bring together interdisciplinary scholars and practitioners to explore and experiment with ‘thinking landscape’.

Landscapes are complex environmental, cultural and social entities, and artists, scientists and others continue to seek means of thinking and representing landscapes that can engage with and celebrate landscapes’ multi-dimensionality. This has made for centuries of practices of writing and painting, land and earth art, as well as contemporary advances in digital and geo humanities that focus on the evolution of data visualisation and sonificiation practices. The creation of immersive landscape experiences has expanded from the reflective performance within the landscape or gallery spaces to generative and critical data aesthetics.

In an era where global environmental change and social injustices are framed as ‘wicked’ problems requiring interdisciplinary solutions, and in which ‘creative experiments’ are framed as offering potential solutions to the temporal and spatial challenges of apprehending the changing conditions of our landscapes, this symposium suggests it is necessary to ‘think’ the landscape again. Such expanded senses of experimentation redistribute the sites, spaces, practices and subjects of knowledge—whether that be through the tools of environmental science or cultural histories and heritage; they make space for hybrid research practices and collaborative efforts, as well as redistribute expertise making new spaces for seeing, hearing and accounting for others in the representations and imaginations of landscape that are produced.

‘Thinking Landscape’ features a workshop exploring a range of practices of engaging with data about landscape, including visualisation and sonification data, as well as talks by Mitchell Whitelaw (School of Art, ANU http://mtchl.net/) and Harriet Hawkins (Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, www.creativegeographies.org).

To book a place and to see the full schedule please visit the eventbrite page: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/thinking-landscape-data-geography-arts-and-interdisciplinarity-tickets-27370917150

For any other questions please get in touch with Su Ballard (sballard@uow.edu.au) or Harriet Hawkins (harriet.hawkins@rhul.ac.uk).

MECO360: Finding a new way of looking?

Eva Hampel | 1 August 2016

Illawarra, NSW, April 21, 2015. Wild, wild storm.

There was pure power in that ocean, and I wanted it on film, but I could barely keep my feet or even see the water below me, for the gusting wind and the rain driving in my eyes. Most of all I had no wish to be closer to that churning, heaving water at the base of the cliff on which I rather precariously stood. Soaked and wind-blasted, I gave up and ran for the car.

Eva Hampel 2015, 'Untitled (Ocean I)', digital image

Eva Hampel 2015, ‘Untitled (Ocean I)’, digital image

Eva Hampel 2015, 'Untitled (Ocean II)', digital image

Eva Hampel 2015, ‘Untitled (Ocean II)’, digital image


Six useable photographs. The images form works in themselves, but also—in the natural sciences sense of the concept—‘fieldwork’. They will provide raw data for future works, in drawn and painted forms. As a series, the works will investigate the matter, energy, liveliness and agency of that element: an ocean boiled by storm.

But how to communicate the sense of scale? The water surface looks frothed and wind-whipped, so there is a sense of windstrength, but it is very hard to get a sense of the size of those mountainous waves. It was a wild storm: weather records from the Bureau of Meteorology show wind gusts up to 135km/hr in the Illawarra and Newcastle regions (recorded at Wattamolla and Nobbys Signal Station), and wave heights up to 14.9m recorded at a buoy off Sydney Harbour. This was, according to the bureau, the most severe East Coast Low to affect the New South Wales coast since at least June 2007. The State Emergency Service reported the largest response operation in the history of the service. On the beaches below where I took these photographs, storm cut took out all the spinifex dune, right back to the banksias at the foot of the road embankment. The ocean roared, for days, but how to communicate that level of energy in a still image? In eliminating all information other than the matter of the ocean and its energy itself, scale and grounded reference, which might have provided an indication of power, is lost. Does this pared down image then suggest sufficient energy to allow that level of power to be appreciated? This is a question I have not yet answered, but I am continuing to experiment with approaching the construction of these images through new materialist thinking. In 1996, Cheryl Glotfelty, founder of the Ecocriticism movement, wrote the following:

If your knowledge of the outside world were limited to what you could infer from the major publications of the literary profession, you would quickly discern that race, class, and gender were the hot topics of the late twentieth century, but you would never suspect that the Earth’s life support systems were under stress. Indeed you might never know that there was an Earth at all. (Glotfelty and Fromm, 1996, p.xvi)

How far have we as Western artists moved since Glotfelty made this statement? Climate change, with its emphatic social relevance, could perhaps be considered the major trigger for a heightened contemporary focus on the natural world, but many qualities of the networked world and its histories, human and non-human, are being explored, with a realisation of the sixth mass extinction event, plastics in the oceans, ocean acidification, toxic chemistry, ecosystem simplification, and inequality in the distribution of harm amongst the urgent planetary issues being addressed.

Theorising in the new materialist and realist philosophical paradigms, influenced by theorists and philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze, Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Isabel Stengers, Timothy Morton, Bruno Latour, Jane Bennett, William Connolly and others, has shifted the field of enquiry to a focus on objects, agential matter, contingency, Morton’s concept of hyper-objects and Stengers’ of wonder, and ‘networks or assemblages across which agency and even consciousness are distributed’ (Joselit, Lambert-Beatty, and Foster, 2016, p.3). These strands of thinking fundamentally challenge the centrality of subjectivity, and perhaps even more fundamentally, shift thinking ‘from epistemology, in all of its relation to critique, to ontology, where the being of things is valued alongside that of persons’ (Joselit, Lambert-Beatty and Foster, 2016, p.3). Fundamentally non-anthropocentric, these new modes of thinking have implications for the sciences, sociology, ethics, even economics, as well as for art, and constitute effectively a sorely needed paradigm shift in the history of modern Western thinking’s conceptual relations to the natural world. My hope is that this shift in thinking will effect real political change on a global scale before it is too late to contain climatic and other environmental impacts. Perhaps this is optimistic.

Nonetheless, I find hope in this shift in thinking, and in the potential for transformation that resides in the work of prominent artists: such as Olafur Eliasson, who engages with and also deconstructs the romantic tradition, bringing the natural world into sharp focus; Subhankar Banerjee, who raises his voice strongly for the indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic as well as the biota; and of Ken and Julia Yonetani, who poetically address contemporary issues local to their homelands of Australia and Japan. And there are many others.

The focus has shifted in some of this work to a sense of our inextricable immersion in the world, a sense of entanglement with networks, or in Tim Ingold’s preferred representation ‘meshworks’ of the human and nonhuman. This is an approach that resonates strongly with the theorising of ecology, now championed in art and cultural theory by Timothy Morton, Tim Ingold and others. With the material turn, thinking is moving from a Judeo-Christian viewpoint of command over nature towards what political scientist William E. Connolly suggests is

an ethic of cultivation grounded in care for this world….. a care derived not from a higher source or a transcendental subject….. but through a positive ethos and practices of cultivation… giving… some priority to the human estate, but… by emphasising our manifold entanglements with nonhuman processes (Connolly, 2012, p.399).

Conveying a sense of some of these nonhuman processes is what I am seeking to do in my ocean images. I think it is fair to find hope in the shift Connolly describes, and in the power of artists to aid this shift after almost half a century of environmental activism that has barely dented the machinery of capitalism. Donna Haraway is surely right to use the term ‘Capitalocene’ as an alternative to the more distant and neutral ‘Anthropocene’, and I rather favour the concept of ‘Anthropo-narcissism’ (Cohen 2012) to express the Western world’s collective hubris. But I will continue to find hope where I can.

References:

Cohen, T., Ed. (2012). Telemorphosis: Theory in the Era of Climate Change. Critical Climate Change. Ann Arbor, USA, MPublishing – University of Michigan Library

Connolly, W. E. (2012), “The ‘New Materialism’ and the Fragility of Things”, Millenium – Journal of International Studies 41(3): 399-412.

Glotfelty, C. and Fromm, H. (1996), The Ecocritcism Reader : Landmarks In Literary Ecology, University of Georgia Press, Athens and London

Joselit, D. Lambert-Beatty, C. Foster, H. (2016). A Questionnaire on Materialisms. October Winter 2016 (155): 3-110.

MECO CAMP 2016: Collaborations on Collaboration

Kim Williams | July 2016

Eva Hampel

Photo by Eva Hampel

This time we weren’t going to get caught out, no! Most of us came prepared with Arctic-style clothing and bedding to insulate against the dry, biting cold typical of mid-winter at Riversdale. Of course it was warm and wet this year. A balmy 23 degrees, then a full night and day of rain, transforming our spectacular view along the Shoalhaven River into an atmospheric arrangement of muted greens, greys and silver, with rising mists over mirrored water.

Photo by Louise Boscacci

At Riversdale (The Boyd Education Centre), 20 July 2016. Photo by Louise Boscacci

The view is compelling – your eyes are drawn along the broad, straight avenue of water flanked by forested hills on one side and rolling farmland on the other. It is one of the reasons that the MECO camp has become a highlight of the academic year. It is a camp to quieten down and slow down, allowing us to rest, reconnect and regenerate. Now that the MECO camp has a rhythm, this being the third gathering, there are stronger connections and collaborations forming within this research group. This year’s camp was a hive of quiet and not-so-quiet activity: reading, writing, making, thinking, sharing, planning, walking, talking and of course eating. MECO members continued and built upon existing collaborations, formed new connections and planned future projects. Some of these projects are:

  • Jo Law and Agnieszka Golda: Workshopping their contribution to Bundanon’s Siteworks
  • Su Ballard, Joshua Lobb, Cath McKinnon: Developing a project on “learning to write” a critical reflection on non-fiction practices.
  • Brogan Bunt, Lucas Ihlein and Kim Williams, with guest contributor Eva Hampel: Walking Upstream: Waterways of the Illawarra
  • Louise Boscacci, Su Ballard, Eva Hampel in collaboration with Bridie Lonie (Otago University, via Skype) worked on content for a forthcoming panel, Affect, Capital, and Aesthetics: Critical Climate Change and Art History, to be convened at the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand (AAANZ) Conference, The Work of Art, ANU, December 2016.
Collaborative work project by Kim Williams, photo by Louise Boscacci

Collaborative work project led by Kim Williams; photo by Louise Boscacci

Emerging from this year’s camp is a whole-of-MECO project: we are planning to produce a book/object using the term ‘Atmosphere’ to frame the collaborative work. The idea came from a fruitful roundtable discussion, a product of the cumulative experience of three winter camps over the past three years since the inaugural CAST (Contemporary Arts and Social Transformation) in 2014.

A big thanks to those whose hard work and careful planning makes this camp happen. Special thanks this year to Jo Stirling, whose menu planning, co-ordination and mammoth shopping trip provided us with fresh, healthy food for thought.

MECO360: Expiration Aesthetics

Etienne Deleflie | 1 July 2016

If it is possible to characterise the response of the humanities to the Anthropocene, I would suggest that there is a central tension that arises when the impulse to adopt non-dualist abstractions is met with the requisite challenge to human agency. Simply put: in exploring the possibility that there is no clear line between self and world we seek to redress our relation to the world, but we must subsequently also question the degree of control we hold over that world. We move towards a non-dualist stance to ‘act’ in the face of the Anthropocene, but in so doing we necessarily question whether we can genuinely ‘act’ at all!

The species-anxiety caused by humanity’s potentially dismal future is an expression of the belief in a genuine, independent human agency. We feel we are responsible and we feel we should act to change that potential future. If this human agency is not genuinely possible, as is suggested by certain monist ontologies, then the anxiety has no cause.

Expiring Object No. 1 is a work that seeks to give expression to a dismal future that is free of anxiety. A battery’s energy reserve will expire, and the flashing LED light will cease to flash at some point in the future. Its dismal future valorises its present beauty. The work thus asks: freed of anxiety, can the Anthropocene valorise the present beauty of the anthropos?

The impulse to explore non-dualist ontologies is evident amongst New Materialist philosophies. But those who cannot subscribe to the notion that everything must have a material existence, still challenge historical and contemporary dualisms, from Descartes to the more modern variants. I propose that the common practice of re-labeling the ‘anthropocene’ is precisely grounded in a desire to challenge these dualisms. Whether it be the Capitalocene (Moore, 2015), Chthulucene (Haraway, 2015), Entropocene (Stiegler, 2015), or Negentropocene (Stiegler, 2015), each new conception seeks to identify the line before or after which a human agency might be possible. As suggested by Wark (2016) this re-labeling might even be understood as a ‘pathology’ of the Anthropocene.

The tension between the inclination to conceive of a deeply interconnected world and the reduction in human agency thus implied, can be seen in the work of Haraway. Consider the passage in which Haraway (2014) argues for a broad understanding of the symbiotic nature of the human relation to the world:

We are all lichens now, we have never been individuals, from anatomical, physiological, evolutionary, developmental, philosophic, economic, I don’t care what perspective, we are all lichens now.

Now consider the paragraph, in which Haraway’s (2015) call-to-arms re-affirms the importance of an assumed human (or ‘mammalian’) agency:

Bacteria and fungi abound to give us metaphors; but, metaphors aside (good luck with that!), we have a mammalian job to do, with our biotic and abiotic sym-poietic collaborators, co-laborers. We need to make kin sym-chthonically, sym-poetically. Who and whatever we are, we need to make-with—become-with, compose-with—the earth-bound (thanks for that term, Bruno Latour-in-anglophone-mode).

On the one hand, there is the insistence that humans cannot be conceived as distinctly separate on any level. On the other hand a distinctly separate agency is assumed that would allow us to execute our ‘mammalian job’ (mammals are largely defined by the presence of a neocortex) with our ‘collaborators’ / ‘co-laborers’, which are now articulated as collaborative, not constitutive. So where is that line? Is it between the material and the ideal (surely not!)? Where is the line, on one side of which to be human means to be a biological / abiotic / (whatever else) complex, and on the other side of which an agency remains possible?

I understand this tension, between the articulation of humanity’s un-separatedness from ‘other’, and the tenacious subscription to the possibility of a separate agency, to be at the core of the humanities’ response to the Anthropocene.

Expiring Object No.1 is an ‘art-object’ whose worth is limited to the life-span of its embedded energy source. To live with this object means to wait for it to die: a matter of months or years. Every flash of its light is both a celebration of its finite energy source and a movement closer to its expiration.

The form and material constitution of the cube is partly inspired by 20th century American minimalism. Its material simplicity is complicated by the embedded electronic device: a flashing LED light and associated circuitry designed to do nothing other than drain the embedded battery. Once the battery has drained, Expiring Object No.1 ceases to function in its designated form and becomes disposable. Its disposability is dictated by its access to energy, not to its solid material presence; now wasted.

 

Etienne Deleflie 'Expiration Aesthetics' 2015-2016

Etienne Deleflie ‘Expiring Object No. 1’ 2015-2016

Expiring Object No.1 has now been active for over 8 months. It lives in my dining room. Its presence is often forgotten. When there is little or no ambient light in the room it provides a dramatic ticking glow. It is somewhat like a ticking time bomb whose subject is not the event at the end of the ticking, but the anticipation of that event. Its expiration is anticipated to occur at some point next year.

REFERENCES

Haraway, Donna. “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the Trouble!”. Transcript of presentation (https://vimeo.com/97663518 , 2014). Accessed 1 July 2016. http://opentranscripts.org/transcript/anthropocene-capitalocene-chthulucene/

Haraway, Donna. “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin.” Environmental Humanities, vol. 6, 2015, pp. 159-165 www.environmentalhumanities.org

Moore, Jason W. Capitalism In The Web Of Life. Print. Verso, 2015.

Stiegler, Bernard, (trans. Ross, D). “Escaping the Anthropocene”. 2015. Accessed 1 July 2016. http://www.academia.edu/12692287/Bernard_Stiegler_Escaping_the_Anthropocene_2015_

Wark, McKenzie. “Make Kith Not Kin!”. Public Seminar. N.p., 2016. Accessed 1 July 2016. http://www.publicseminar.org/2016/06/kith/

FutureLands II

 

Ian Milliss " Welcome to Kandos" 2013

Ian Milliss ” Welcome to Kandos” 2013

We are really excited to announce that MECO is working with the Space, Place and Country research cluster from Sydney College of the Arts, and  Cementa Inc. to stage Futurelands II, a public forum to take place in Kandos, NSW, November 11 to 13, 2016. The weekend will bring together artists, academics, agricultural innovators, ecological scientists, environmental activists, Indigenous custodians and the broader community to explore our changing relationship to land and the emerging art forms that are engaging with it. Among the confirmed speakers is Bunarong, Tasmanian and Yuin man, Bruce Pascoe, whose historical account of pre-contact Indigenous farming practices and aquaculture, Dark Emu, was recently awarded NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Book of the Year.

Futurelands II will also mark the establishment of the Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation (KSCA), a collaboration between Alex Wisser, Ian Milliss, Lucas Ihlein, Diego Bonetto, Gilbert Grace and SPC member, SCA’s postdoctoral fellow Laura Fisher. Having recently been awarded an Australia Council grant, KSCA’s first project will be a landed artists’ residency that grants artists who work with ecological phenomena and agricultural innovation access to land to make long term projects. Gilbert Grace (SCA MFA) will be resident artist at Maloo in 2016/2017, a farm that is currently being rehabilitated by farmer and educator, Stuart Andrews, using the Natural Sequence Farming method developed by his father Peter Andrews. Grace will be growing a crop of hemp for the production of hempcrete, an alternative to concrete, formerly the key industry of Kandos.

Information about KSCA and Futurelands II will be updated on http://cementa.com.au/ and http://ksca.land/. If you are interested in attending Futurelands II or want further information, please write to laura.fisher@sydney.edu.au. MECO contacts for this event are lucasi@uow.edu.au and sballard@uow.edu.au

MECO360: Hope remains while the company is true…

Agnieszka Golda | 1 June 2016

ForEverything that is1

Agnieszka Golda and Martin Johnson, “For Everything That Is,” 2016, installation detail, ink on canvas.

The sound of a familiar voice directs my attention towards my favourite movie. The opening narration to the cinematic rendition of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings told by the elven Lady Galadriel of Lothlórien:

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was, is lost…

surely strikes a chord in all those particularly sensitive to climate change and shifts in ecological conditions. It’s uncanny how Galadriel’s poetic expression of lament evokes Paul Crutzen’s important remarks: “The world has changed too much… we are in the Anthropocene.” While Tolkien’s fantastical Middle-earth exposes the devastating impact of industrialised modes on nature, the geologic concept of the Anthropocene warns of an approaching climate tipping point. Lets hope, that it becomes an affective device, as the Last March of the Ents (urged by the most unlikely creatures imaginable, the Hobbits) for shifting beyond a state of human centred perspective.

Agnieszka Golda and Martin Johnson, "For Everything that Is," 2016, installation detail, ink on canvas.

Agnieszka Golda and Martin Johnson, “For Everything that Is,” 2016, installation detail, ink on canvas.

I’m yet again captivated by the view outside my studio window. There, in close proximity, stands an ancient mountain called Mt Keira. Lush and green, its peak surrounded by a crown of puffy white clouds, serves as a timely reminder of forests’ extraordinary capacity to influence local weather and stabilise regional climate. This remarkable ability to manage water has earned forests the prestigious status of being the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. In fact, while more than two thirds of all terrestrial species survival directly hinges on forests, the ecological resilience of forests depends strongly on their biodiversity. Sadly, the long-term, cumulative effects of anthropogenic impacts on forests have brought about their colossal disappearance and therefore equally irreversible loss of the diversity of life on Earth.

Agnieszka Golda and Martin Johnson, "For Everything that Is," 2016, installation detail, found wood, amethyst crystals on found concrete.

Agnieszka Golda and Martin Johnson, “For Everything that Is,” 2016, installation detail, found wood, amethyst crystals on found concrete.

My recent collaborative projects are driven by a strong interest in deep ecology, mindfulness and unearthing ecocentric strategies for responding to the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event. This ecological crisis raises important questions for artists: how can artistic actions and imagination, bolster and safeguard Earth’s energies? Even though, portrayals of diminishing ecosystems give rise to feelings of dread, collaborations often instigate unforeseen alliances and resistances that can instill feelings of hope – a desire for change in a particular place. As Galadriel reminds us: Yet hope remains while the company is true.

Agnieszka Golda and Martin Johnson, "For Everything that Is," 2016, installation detail, found wood and amethyst crystals.

Agnieszka Golda and Martin Johnson, “For Everything that Is,” 2016, installation detail, found wood and amethyst crystals.

MECO360: Between Expansion and Collapse

Madeleine Kelly | 4 April 2016

In the mid seventies, biologists Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock described the earth as ‘autopoietic Gaia’, a living system, a body analogous to our own, composed of interdependent symbiotic relationships. ‘We are walking communities …Ten percent or more of our body weight is bacterial [in its evolutionary origins], and it’s just foolish to ignore that’, Margulis stated (Mann 1991, 378). So, to explore these relations, my paintings sometimes depict things as part of flow charts or systems, but just as natural systems are disrupted by culture, these are fictional orders that disrupt accepted orders.

Madeleine Kelly Man’s Place In the World 2008 Oil on polyester 90 x 115cm

Madeleine Kelly Man’s Place In the World 2008 Oil on polyester 90 x 115cm

The world surrounds us with life-sustaining systems, including solar energy and fossil fuels. The fossil fuels were developed during the carboniferous period from plants like these ancient club mosses. Their burning relentlessly contributes to greenhouse warming. Petrol is time.

Madeleine Kelly Ground Control 2004 128 x 193 cm, oil on polyester

Madeleine Kelly Ground Control 2004 128 x 193 cm, oil on polyester

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. The second law, also known as the entropy law, states that in any closed system, when energy and matter are used there is an increase in entropy, or disorder. Increasing entropy can be thought of as the disorder in the universe, of disrupting Gaia’s balance, and of draining limited resources.

It is generally accepted that people in Australia want more than they have – bigger houses, more money and more time to spend it. But by historical or international standards we are very wealthy. Today’s average house is almost twice as big than houses were 50 years ago, with double the volume of bedrooms, bathrooms and cars. When I contemplate this situation, it is surreal. Everyday life requires we consciously behave as if unconscious of future ramifications. Economic growth dominates social policy and distracts attention from the need to redistribute wealth, halve consumption and burn less fossil fuels.

Madeleine Kelly The Electric Thinking House 2007 Oil on Polyester 200 x 148cm

Madeleine Kelly The Electric Thinking House 2007 Oil on Polyester 200 x 148cm

The Australian government, in maintaining infrastructure suited to burning fossil fuels, fails to acknowledge that degradation of the environment is a corollary to economic activity and energy consumption. Gross National Product is still regarded as the primary indication of our nation’s health. Production and consumption occur in a closed system that cycles forever, without limits.

Madeleine Kelly Melted Silver on the Sea 2007 Oil on polyester 100 x 140cm

Madeleine Kelly Melted Silver on the Sea 2007 Oil on polyester 100 x 140cm

Our own success as a species is still the biggest threat we face. Like melted silver on the sea, current environmental policy escapes us.

References:

Mann, Charles. ‘Lynn Margulis: Science’s Unruly Earth Mother’. Science. vol. 252. 1991: 378 – 381. Print.

http://www.madeleinekelly.com.au/

The MECO Picnic

On the 4th March 2016 we held the MECO picnic, a chance for members of the network to share recent projects and plan for the year’s activities. We discussed the involvement of members of the network with international conferences, and celebrated the successes of 2015. We resolved to expand the listings of people on the MECO blog to highlight the participation and input of HDR students. We extended our congratulations to Lucas Ihlein for his DECRA.

Future plans include

  • a make do workshop focused on critical and creative use of drone technology
  • the third MECO research camp that will examine Future Archaeology
  • a collaboration with Cementa in Kandos to hold a public forum ‘in the field’

 

2MECO INVITE