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.

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.