spoken word/poetry/performance for Healing Ground at St Johns Park, New Town, Tasmania

I have lived in the midst of Lies; in my family, the Anglican Church, and as a person of British ancestry in a country invaded and occupied by the British government. I am a white, privileged male, conceived of Empire. Australia, as I have experienced it, only exists within a colonial paradigm. The original inhabitants, the Aboriginal nations, have never ceded their Lands. The British remain as occupiers. Colonialism is not just my history; it is my very presence.

I am a ghost among the ghost gums, an apparition of imagination, sent here, born here from those sent, sentenced, given a new life in a new Land, Diaspora, the chosen ones, the forgotten, the despised, excess of an Empire; Lost. I did not choose to be here, my fate was sealed on distant shores, by desperate folk, living disparate lives, unknown and uncertainty befell them, no land to claim, no home to shelter, sent sailing to the four winds, many never to see land again, buried; At sea. the Land I dwell in is not my own, never was, never will be, covered with names so familiar, with buildings upon Places, hiding Knowledge I will never fully comprehend, the fate that befalls me is that I live out a lie under the premise of a nation fabricated; Alone.

St Johns Park, New Town, is situated on Crown land, claimed by the British in the early 19th century. Buildings commissioned by Governor Arthur include the Anglican Church and the boys and girls orphanages. The Anglican Church was complicit in the invasion and colonisation of Tasmania, the forceful removal of Aboriginal children from their families, and the Aboriginal nations from their Lands.

Photograph by Amy Brown

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Our Lady of the Gyre rises from the ocean to plead for us to stop the destruction of her oceans. There are five major gyres in oceans around the world. They are natural currents that act like a giant whirlpool drawing water in and then out again in a cyclic fashion. what has happened in recent decades is the amount of plastic entering the oceans has increased exponentially, and the floating mass of plastic is drawn into these gyres, forming gigantic, floating garbage patches. The largest and most well known is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It weighs around 7 million tons. It is estimated that by 2050 the biomass of the oceans will be equalled by the mass of plastic in the oceans.Plastic thrown in the ocean kills around 1 million sea creatures every year. Around 13 billion plastic bottles are thrown out each year. Every piece of plastic ever made, still exists today.

Our Lady of the Gyre was made from 'ghost nets' found along the isolated south-western coast of Tasmania. These are nets loosed from fishing boats and left in the oceans, not only causing a hazard to marine life, but being synthetic, like plastic, photodegrade, and break down into smaller and smaller pieces, then eventually tiny polymers. These polymers don't break down any further, but instead, absorb many times their weight in petrochemicals found in the oceans. These polluted polymers are then ingested by marine life, where the chemicals then release into their systems causing serious health problems or death. We humans are at the top off this food chain, and polymers and pollutants are already entering our  own systems.

Photograph by Luke Bowden

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for every mile 

Kellys Garden Curated Projects

A performance-based installation around a handcrafted shrine. Referencing the iconography and ritual of religion the performance and shrine will create a metaphorical and literal platform to connect with the quandaries of contemporary living. The shrine is in no way intended to promote existing religions, but rather to investigate the idea of a carbon-based religion. We are a carbon-based life form and the consequence of our existence, in any manner, produces carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming. Rather than trying to neutralise our carbon footprint, this work acknowledges our footprint and responds, by gesture, in a manner that attests to our humanity.

We are in a state. A state of being like never before. The Anthropocene. The geological age where humankind is the most significant agent of change. Change on a global scale. We have taken from the earth that which cannot be replaced. Not in millions of years. Coal. Oil. Gas. Organic matter laid down upon the earth and buried eons ago. And now all but gone. 1000 barrels of oil per second. Our current global consumption. If only we were consuming at this rate because we had no other choice for survival. But no. We waste. We support inefficiency. The global oil industry is subsidised $10 million every minute. But even when we attain efficiency we squander it needlessly.

Economist William Stanley Jevons in his 1865 book, The Coal Question, predicted that when technological progress increases the efficiency with which a resource is used (thereby reducing the amount necessary for any one use), the rate of consumption of that resource rises because of increasing demand. Technological advancements has made air travel increasingly efficient, and often more efficient than other forms of transport. But we simply fly more and more and more and more and more. For my grandparents, travelling to the other side of the world was a once in a lifetime experience. For many of that generation it simply never happened. The opening of borders around the world and the proliferation of events have us clambering onto flights at any given opportunity. After all it’s so cheap. Isn’t it? This is the dilemma. It’s cheaper for me to fly to Melbourne than it is to take my car across the Spirit of Tasmania. And why would I want to take my car when Melbourne has such a great public transport system? It’s complex.

There are no silver bullets or bullet trains or shiny machines that will save us.

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monument

 

If necessity is the mother of invention, then modernity is the father of obsolescence. Humans have had plenty of experience being wasteful. History is marked by periods of greed, extravagance and injustice. However, these times were often the impulse of powerful men, whose desires could not be satisfied. In the twentieth century, modernity appeared to be the beginnings of a utopian civilization where there was opportunity for everyone to live well, through the development of science, technology, mass-production and cheap materials, like plastic. Sadly we know all too well that this didnt eventuate for everyone, and many millions around the world still live in abject poverty.

It is ironic that with all the potential of modernity, we westerners, have together, taken on the greed and injustice of so many rulers of the past, that we now consider to have been so un-civilized. The west has exploited the world through colonization, and continues this travesty to this day with corporation-owned sweat-shops and unregulated factories churning out millions of products to fill our shopping malls. Worse still, these products will quickly become obsolete, and all too soon be buried in landfill. What a desecration of valuable resources. If only we could truly be confronted with the enormity of this horror that is our own.

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We sit in a period of time that has been described as the Anthropocene period, that is a ‘new human’ geological age of our own making.

First coined by Nobel Prize winning chemist Paul Crutzen in 2000, it is a way of describing the significant global impact industrialization has made on the Earth’s ecosystems. As an artist responding to the ecological, and indeed, geological impacts of consumerism, I am seeking ways to convey this effect through my art practice. For me, there is a correlation between the way we consume and the way we value materials.

There is also a relationship between the methodology of art practice and the perceived and prescribed value of art materials. Studio based art practice tends to emphasise materials that art institutions consider valuable, like oil on canvas, bronze and marble. However, new ideas are emerging. According to Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Art encompasses ‘a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context.’ He also suggests the term Altermodern, which he describes as a way ‘…to translate the cultural values of cultural groups and to connect them to the world network.’ The materials used then, can be superseded by the social outcomes of the art practice.

The process of collecting, cleaning and cutting the aluminium cans in the art room, during my residency at Bridgewater High School, became the interface for dialogue with the students. The stories that I relayed about corporations, consumerism, and environmental consequences, were, in the above sense, more important than the artworks produced. This is not to say the artwork itself has no value. The containers have been emptied of their contents and meaning, both literally and metaphorically, and the resulting homogenized appearance conveys more of the cans material origins than the syrupy contents or the campaign to sell you a brand.

The title of the work displayed, Alumination, references the illuminated manuscripts of celtic christianity, as well as the material processes involved to manufacture the cans. These cans now tell a story of the way we live and the value we give materials. What were once single use containers are now ascribed Accultural value through an art practice. That is, the resulting value is a combination of the interaction between myself, the artist, the people interacting with my art practice, the audience viewing the artwork, plus all the various prescribed and perceived values of the material, as a container, a brand, a drink, a source for recycling, or simply rubbish to be discarded. The value that is now created is new and unique in the context of time, people and place.

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