Bimblebox: art – science – nature @ Redland Art Gallery (through 29 June)

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Alison Clouston & Boyd, Coalface 2014

 

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Luke Roberts, All Souls Day (Tree) 2009

 

Anyone living anywhere should see Bimblebox: art – science – nature or learn about it and view it online (or with the amazing iPad app available free)… Because even though it’s about the nature refuge called ‘Bimblebox’ in Central Queensland (that was to be protected forever and is now slated to be ruined by coal mining), it’s really about everywhere. This is most surely happening – or something a lot like it – near you, too.

 

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The Hunter Bros aka Gerald Soworka Bimblebox Art Project – What’s yours is my coal mine 2013 (details)

 

‘NIMBY’ – ‘Not In My Back Yard’ – what was once envisioned as an issue locally, in Williamsburg, Chaco Canyon, Bophal or Rio: now we know we share only one ‘back yard’ and it’s the Earth in all her beautiful, vulnerable entirety, all parts are the whole.

 

             

Approximate location of Bimblebox Nature Refuge

Bimblebox Nature Refuge is a peaceful 8000 hectare sanctuary in central west Queensland (hear the sounds of Bimblebox bird song at dawn here). Threatened by a massive new coal development proposed by Waratah Coal (owned by Clive Palmer, businessman and Member for Fairfax in the Federal Parliament), Bimblebox was created by private citizens and government and meant to be protected in perpetuity. Waratah Coal has announced that its ‘China First’ mine (otherwise known as the ‘Galilee Coal Project’) would involve open cut mining in more than half of Bimblebox and underground mining of the remainder.

This one mine (among others also slated for the Galilee Basin) would extract 40 mega-tonnes of coal per year, which would be transported on a yet-to-be-built 468km rail line up to Abbot Point and shipped through the Great Barrier Reef on its way to China, to be burned for energy production. The Queensland Government approved the proposal in August 2013, and the Federal Government in December 2013.

Bimblebox was secured in 2000, an era when Queensland’s land clearing rates were amongst the highest in the world. It was purchased with the savings of a number of concerned individuals, as well as funding from the Australian National Reserve System program. Tragically, Nature Refuges and the protected areas that make up the National Reserve System are not automatically protected from mineral exploration and mining, which in Australia are granted right of way over almost all other land uses. (1)

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Jill Sampson, Out in the Paddock, Bimblebox Artist Camp 2013 

 Jill Sampson-Vanishing Food Bowls-detail-photo Carl Warner

Jill Sampson, Vanishing Food Bowls 2013 

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Fiona McDonald, Mining Alpha from the Mining Galilee Series 2013

 

REsearch_(detail)_DAVIS,donna_2013,mixed media installation, pigment print, sand, animal tracks_Image courtesy of artist(LO-RES) Donna Davis, REsearch (detail) 2013

 

Emma Lindsay 2014 endangered black-throated finch lineup_Poephila cincta cincta_ oil on linen Photo_Elouise_web size Emma Lindsay,  15 endangered black-throated finches (Memento mori for Bimblebox) 2013

 

Carbon Dating 2013, Alison Clouston and Boyd, for GRAG What Lies Beneath  Alison Clouston and Boyd, Carbon Dating (detail), 2013

 

“The scorched-earth policies of a late and increasingly desperate capitalism,” is how the American art and social critic Lucy R. Lippard describes the current state of mining companies’ activities in the American Southwest. Her new book, Undermining: A Wild Ride In Words and Images through Land-Use, Politics and Art in the Changing West tells multiple stories similar to Bimblebox’s, and looks at art that has focused on the land, land use and related issues of the environment.

Lippard talks about undermining in all of the senses of the word – ” as in pits and shafts that reflect culture, alter irreplaceable ecosystems, and generate new structures; undermining’s physical consequences, its scars on the human body politic; undermining as what we are doing to our continent and to the planet when greed and inequity triumph; undermining as a political act- subversion is one way artists can resist.” (2)

Bimblebox: art – science – nature  as an exhibition is not meant to be subversive in a manner we’ve come to expect. It will tour for two years throughout Australia, and venues will include towns and cities where mining is the biggest employer. The works in the show range from quietly oppositional to in-your-face don’t f*ck with me. And so viewers will be exposed to a whole range of responses from artists… but there is very little irony in the show, and no one would leave the exhibition unsure as to where the artists stand, much less lacking information as to how the Galilee Basin will be affected by the large scale mining proposed.

The pointed nature of the exhibition, whose works were almost all made during two artists’ residency camps at Bimblebox (the first time many of the artists had visited there), is supported by the excellent quality of the work. Curated by Beth Jackson of Artfully, the Redland Gallery space is beautifully choreographed throughout — not an easy task given the number of artists and their diverging styles.

Jill Sampson, Project Coordinator and contributing artist, is a tireless advocate for the Bimblebox Nature Reserve. Her vision for the exhibition grew out of her concern “that much of Australia is being claimed for mineral and gas extraction regardless of ecological value”. (3) Bringing artists to Bimblebox to be on the land, immersed in its particular kind of beauty, and to creatively respond while on site – results in an exhibition that brings Bimblebox to the viewer in a way that is unquestionably contemporary, timely and of the moment. If you walk in the gallery and look at the work, you are further implicated if you turn away from the issues. The show will act as an educational tool as well as a visiting point for school and social groups.

As Jackson states in her curatiorial essay, “Viewing is an active part of an ongoing process to learn from Bimblebox, not about it.”

Seventeen artists in total are included in Bimblebox: art – science – nature. Alison Clouston and her collaborator, Boyd, created Coalface at Bimblebox from walks in the bush “looking for life, spying with binoculars and a small movement sensor camera.” Donna Davis’ REsearch proposes “scientific research as a vehicle to discover new green technologies to replace resource mining…” so that native flora and fauna survive in situ rather than as specimens in science museum displays. Fiona McDonald uses found archival photographs as the basis for her digital drawings of mine maps. Her Mining Galilee series talks about “undercurrents in social processes of inclusion and exclusion… throwing into stark contrast the tragedy of the European presence compared with millennia of Aboriginal occupation of the same space.” (4)

Other artists include: Pamela CroftWarcon, Howard Butler, Kaylene Butler, Emma Lindsay, Liz Mahood, Samara McIlroy, Glenda Orr, Michael Pospischil, Jude Roberts, Luke Roberts, The Hunter Bro’s aka Gerald Soworka, and Shayna Wells.

For further information on how to download the digital catalogue go to: http://www.bimbleboxexhibition.com

For information about Redland Gallery and gallery location and hours go to: http://www.more2redlands.com.au/ArtGallery/CurrentExhibitions/Pages/default.aspx

You can also follow the Bimblebox Art Project at the blogsite:
http://bimbleboxartproject.wordpress.com/category/bimblebox-art-project/

Bimblebox: art – science – nature App for iPad

Anyone interested in the future of digital publishing might want to check out this Digital Art Exhibition Catalogue with its content rich environment and embedded interactivity. Artworks in a real world gallery are one thing but this app provides a virtual experience of a remote place – the Bimblebox Nature Refuge in central western Queensland; 17 artists interpretation of that place, including photography and video footage of artist interviews, artist camps, studios and artmaking processes; and information on the social, scientific and environmental context of the Galilee Basin where proposed massive-scale coal mining threatens to destroy this precious place. Search for Bimblebox on the app store and download to iPad for free. Published by Tangible Media.

Notes:

(1) http://bimblebox.org/about/, accessed 04/06/2014

(2) Lucy Lippard, Undermining: A Wild Ride In Words and Images through Land-Use, Politics and Art in the Changing West (The New Press, New York, 2013)

(3) and (4)  Bimblebox: art – science – nature exhibition catalogue

Artwork Captions and Photo Credits:

Alison Clouston and Boyd
Coalface 2014
Soundtrack, video, electronics, aluminium, coal, rubber, greenhouse gas audit and offset
1050 x 1710 x 900 mm
Photo: Stephen Oxenbury

Alison Clouston and Boyd
Carbon Dating 2013 (detail)
Soundtrack, electronics, aluminium, rubber, coal, carboniferous mudstone, greenhouse gas audit and offset
1800 x 6000 x 300mm
Photo: Alison Clouston

Donna Davis, REsearch, 2013, (detail), Mixed media installation: pigment print, timber, sand & animal tracks, 1800 x 1200 x 300mm, Photo: courtesy of the artist

Jill Sampson, Out in the Paddock 2013, work in progress during artists’ camp.     Photo: courtesy the artist

Jill Sampson, Vanishing Food Bowls, 2013, (detail), Mixed media installation: wire, silk, thread, paper, wool, wood, plastic, steel, 600 x 1530 x 1060mm, Photo: Carl Warner

Fiona MacDonald, Mining Alpha from the Mining Galilee series, 2013, Inkjet print on 180gsm archival paper, 720 x 560mm
Artwork source and reference images: Mercer Studio portraits courtesy the Central Queensland Collection, Rockhampton Regional Council Libraries; The Alpha Mine Test Pit, Galilee Basin, Queensland – cqnews.com.au
Photo: courtesy of the artist

Emma Lindsay, 15 endangered black-throated finches (Memento mori for Bimblebox), 2013, Oil on linen, 310 x 910mm, Photo: Elouise

The Hunter Bros aka Gerald Soworka , Bimblebox Art Project – What’s yours is my coal mine. 2013 (details)
Pair of artist’s books in hinged slipcase – mixed media drawing
Book 1 – 38 cm x 700 cm; Book 2 – 38 cm x 1624 cm. Image courtesy of the artist

Luke Roberts, All Souls Day (Tree), 2009                                                   Photographic performance from the series All Souls Day,                                    Pigment ink on cotton rag paper, 1800 mm H x 1200 mm W unframed              Camera: John Elliott – Image courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane

 

 

 

 

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National Divestment Day – Tell Your Bank ‘No Fossil Fuels’ – ANZ Chose Fossil Fuels – So I’m Choosing a New Bank

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National Divestment Day – Saturday, 3 May 2014

Yesterday I had the great good fortune to attend Brisbane’s Divestment Action at ANZ’s Queen Street Mall branch. While I’m personally in the process of divesting my money from ANZ – so I wasn’t able to join in on cutting up all my cards (drat!) – I was able to lend my support and take some photos to share with everyone who visits polycentrica.

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Think about it – It’s a no brainer – Your money invested in companies that make money (and lots of it!) from practices that increase global warming. Alternative energy sources are much smarter investments. It’s only a matter of time and attrition before fossil fuels are outmoded… why not make it a clear choice that you can feel good about right now?

It can feel a bit scary to make the change from a bank that you’ve been using for a while. But now I know I can do it easily after getting some more info. Check out 350 Queensland’s video about this 96 year-old wonderful woman who has left Commonwealth Bank after 70 years!!

https://www.facebook.com/350Queensland?fref=nf

Here’s a link to MarketForces’ info about banks with regard to ethical practices: http://www.marketforces.org.au/banks/compare/

And another link to MarketForces’ Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MarketForces

And read this article in the Ecologist about how mega-fund Blackrock is divesting from fossil fuels. Coal and oil companies’ projected profits rely heavily on ‘unburnable’ reserves that will have to be left in the ground to meet carbon emissions standards.

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2378866/ftse_and_blackrock_join_to_fight_fossil_fuel_investment.html

GOMA’s Summer Show – ‘Falling Back to Earth’ – Artlink Review

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Detail of Head On, 2006 by Cai Guo-Qiang

 

Photo by Christina Lowry

Here’s my Artlink review of the summer show at GOMA (that’s closing May 11th).

I was glad to have the opportunity to comment in print on this show because the work is mainly about spectacle. And while it treats an important subject – the environmental crisis – my experience of the art itself left me pretty much unmoved.

That so many people have been wowed by this exhibition: that’s interesting.

Have a read and I’d welcome comments from any and all of you.

Here’s the review: Cai Guo-Qiang at GOMA

Link to GOMA’s website: http://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/exhibitions/current/cai_guo-qiang

Virginia Jones’ Recent Installations – Journal of Australian Ceramics/ November 2013

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I can now share with you the article I wrote about Virginia Jones’ ceramics practice.

Virginia’s gentle approach to speaking about her deeply felt connection to the Earth is none the less strong for using some of the simplest materials — ochres, sand, clay and text. Truly sustainable and in keeping with natural systems, Jones’ inquiry is quite radical in its purity of spirit.

I hope you enjoy!

Virginia Jones: Gentle Radical

Janet Beckhouse @ Melbourne Now

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Portsea Rock Pool 2013
Stoneware, slip and glaze, 114x45x45cm
Photo: Christian Caputo

Janet Beckhouse and I first met at the Neon Parc booth during the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair last September. I had been looking at her strange and wonderful ceramic sculptures, just drinking them in – with all their amazing colour, detail, gesture, flora, fauna and ultra-phantasmagorical, super-alive and sensitive vibe. I was chatting a bit to Geoff Newton, Neon Parc’s director, and thinking, ‘Wow! I can’t believe I’m seeing these! This work puts into 3-D exactly how I think and feel about Nature…’

Janet’s love of organic form and what she calls the ‘chaos in the order of the natural world’ combine in ceramic sculptures that are both elegant and over-the-top. Her work is currently on view at the National Gallery of Victoria in ‘Melbourne Now’ – an exhibition of over 175 Melbourne-based visual artists and creative practitioners at The Ian Potter Centre: National Gallery of Victoria Australia and NGV International through 23 March 2014. 

We have spoken several times since our first meeting in Sydney. What follows is the result of our conversations, as well as some thought and research on my part…

CS: Your work seems to favour the vertical, is that true?

JB: Yes, I do work on the vertical often, even though I think of my work as landscape. I began as an artist making two-dimensional work but I wanted to go to three-dimensional and to find a material that I loved and would behave the way I wanted it to.

12-13_Beckhouse Installation Shot @ Melbourne Now

Working with clay is a slow craft and a slow process – and it fulfills what I need to do. I love the touch of clay.

The verticality means it’s like a person, a body, a statue – the presence of it. I started doing human figures as an expression of my own feelings and emotions – a manifestation of myself. Originally it was more of an objective thing, yet the sculptures have become more personally and emotionally intense over time.

jb4Malady 2010-11
Stoneware, slip and glaze, 133x52x38cm
Photo: CS

jb3Malady (verso)

People can relate to the human body. Years ago, I remember standing in front of a Greek sculpture in Thessalonika and it was like love: this beautiful woman a couple of thousand years old. I had an exchange with her spirit… There was a vibration from the sculpture so compelling and life-like, even though it was sculpted marble.

It really affected me and made me want to make three-dimensional work. People still identify with something organic: they can still relate to the figure.

0O6Y8971. Listening to My Heart, 2009, stoneware, glaze, lustre, H 16cm x W 15cm
Listening to My Heart, 2009
22x15x15cm
Photo: Jeremy Dillon

CS: I was very excited to follow up on your mentioning the 16th century French ceramicist and early natural historian Bernard Palissy as an influence. I read this amazing research paper online entitled, Casting Life, Recasting Experience: Bernard Palissy’s Occupation between Maker and Nature by Hannah Rose Shell (web.mit.edu/~hrshell/www/files/CastingLifeShell.pdf‎) in which she describes his work, the systems he created to cast from life and his pioneering attitudes toward everything he touched. For Stone, through Palissy’s work:

“clay emerges as a vital new medium for inquiry into terrestrial and organic processes, and for the expression of philosophies of nature… Palissy created a correlation between ceramic practice and natural terrestrial processes… that… helped usher in a new material culture of knowledge production…”

and that influenced natural historians the likes of Leonardo and Francis Bacon, identifying Palissy as a precursor of Darwin and the theory of evolution through natural selection.


Attributed to Bernard Palissy, Paris, 1550

JB: Yes! And he was incredibly innovative in inventing new glazes, particularly translucent, lead-based glazes. His use of flora and fauna and his observations of Nature and his will to learn were so influential for me. He employed taxidermists to do his casting until he learned to do it himself. His work was wild stuff for that time – that’s what drew me to it – and the stories of him breaking up his furniture to fire his kilns when he had no money or support.

If you look at his plates that replicate the life systems in pools of water, you can see that he knew how everything has its own way of growing, its own flow. This morning my partner and I went for a swim down at Elwood Beach, and watching the currents, you could tell that even though it looks like all the water is coming the same way, there are hidden currents and layers.

From Pallisy I’ve been able to balance a strange contrast using my base vessel as ‘order’ and the embellishment I add as ‘asymmetry.’ I’d rather hand build because it’s not perfectly symmetrical – it’s the way Nature is. Of course, I like the piece to look good to the eye and the gestures of all of the leaves, animals, shells and other embellishment has to flow. There’s some art that’s just cold and some art that’s so compelling… and that’s what I want my work to be.
I don’t like symmetry: I like the dichotomy of chaos with symmetry. If you look at Nature, everything is perfect, but nothing is the same.

jb1The Four Elements (The Sea,Water) 2006
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jb2The Four Elements (Air) 2006

CS: So, in one of the three pieces at Melbourne Now that you call The Four Elements, the four faces depict Air, Water, Earth and Fire?

JB: Yes. The face that is the Sea represents Water, and she is surrounded by coral. Some of the coral is bleached – to talk about the loss of living coral that’s occurring in the Great Barrier Reef and other areas where a lot of coral are dying. I think people are more and more removed from real responsibility and love for each other and for the environment. It really saddens me… but it doesn’t mean I’m a sad person.

… People don’t surprise me too much but whenever I go out into Nature – out of town or to the beach – I always see something that is different or beautiful or that attracts my attention. The non-human world is more interesting. I would die without plants and animals. I look at things that are different to the generic look. I’ve always liked different things as long as I can remember.

CS: I’m very interested in the way you use the word ‘embellishment’ to describe your process of adding flora and fauna to your pieces.

JB: Twenty years ago nobody wanted embellishment, but I think humans need that. Minimalism as an art movement is very beautiful, some of it, but I didn’t get a lot out of it. People throughout history have put a bloody bit of decoration on everything – Cave paintings, painting their bodies, tattoos, their weapons. They are compelled to do it and it’s denying part of the creatures we are if we don’t.

We are more anarchic in Australia than in other countries. In Australia you have more of an opportunity to do whatever the hell you like. I feel very privileged in that respect because a lot of people don’t have that option in life. It was part of my upbringing that my mom would say, ‘I know you kids will come home when you’re hungry,’ and then we were off in the paddocks or bush or beach all day long.

Art is meant to be part of everyday life. When I travelled in Cambodia, I saw Angkor Wat and other temples. If you look at the bottom layers of the buildings, they are the most embellished. There are fragments of colour left from when the temples were originally painted, and there also holes that used to hold semi-precious stones.

We had a guide who took us on a ‘mystery tour.’ He’d been a Buddhist monk as a child, as are many children as a way to escape poverty. He showed us the little stone room he had lived in outside a modern monastery way out in Woop Woop.  Everything was painted, and I mean everything – orange and pink, and green and gold. It’s psychedelic! This is something that really inspires me as an artist.

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The Mystery of Love 2009
22x15x15
Photo: Jeremy Dillon

CS: Your work is so expressive and potent. You tap into an incredible wellspring of energy and creativity that’s simultaneously gorgeous and a bit repelling. Can you talk about the source of this?

JB: I can’t bear the subjugation or dominance of others. So much of this is based on greed. I really like a simple life – it’s all I need. It’s what I prefer and what makes me happy.

My current work reflects the fact that I had previously subjugated myself in all the intimate relationships I had with men up until now. I thought, ‘this is what I have to do for love.’ But I’ve changed – it’s really important to choose the energy you want to be around and now I know it’s not about losing yourself.

The work still expresses the disappointment and hurt, but it also shows the power of the female incarnate and the fear of her power. It’s an alternating between the fearful and the beautiful that I’m after – there’s order and chaos in humans, too, and I’m interested in working with both sides because it’s what’s real to me.

0O6Y8981. I Have to Defend Myself, 2011, stoneware, glaze, lustre, H 27cm x W 18cm
I Have to Defend Myself 2011
22x15x15
Photo: Jeremy Dillon

CS: Besides Palissy, who else has influenced your work?

JB: A lot of what I do definitely harks to the past – Goya, Arcimboldo. I just like people with that madness in their work. Gustav Klimt… Frida Kahlo because she expressed her own feelings her own way and depicted them in so many ways. She didn’t have an easy life. She experienced a lot of heartbreak. She loved her animals and plants.

Abstract expressionism is one of the last great art movements for me because it dealt with the subjective and wasn’t always pretty. Pollock just moving and making stuff and going with what the work was telling him to do. Rothko using colour the same way. I find that at a certain point with each piece, I can really describe the process with the phrase, ‘the work dictates itself to me as I am going and I realize it as I go along’ – – it becomes itself.

CS: Thanks, Janet.

JB: My pleasure.

More about Neon Parc at http://neonparc.com.au/

More about Melbourne Now at http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/melbournenow

 

Artlink – Mining: Gouging the Nation – Take Two

I am reposting this article since quite a few people have had trouble downloading the pdf. Apologies!

Below is my article for the latest issue of Artlink. Four Technologies focuses on how international big business in the role of sand mining, First Nation ancient laws of caring for country, the annual Lines in the Sand arts festival and Queensland state politics converge every June school holidays at North Stradbroke Island.

Of course, the issues reverberate globally. Mining is an age-old human activity, and it’s not going away. As I did the research and spoke with people for this article, I learned about the complexity of players’ concerns and goals – and the more I realised it’s so important to stay informed.

For instance, Santos – one of the top 30 richest Australian companies – has caused environmental disasters like the 2013 Jackson Oil spill in Queensland’s remote southwest, and was a partner in the natural gas and oil drilling that lead to the 2008 Sidaorjo mud flow in East Java, Indonesia (which displaced over 10,000 people and covered whole towns, farms and industrial sites). Santos funds many wonderful projects that are environmentally-related, like the Santos Conservation Centre at the Adelaide Zoo. Cai Guo-Qiang’s current sculptural installations entitled, Falling back to Earth, at the Gallery of Modern Art here in Brisbane, is partially underwritten by Santos as well, and is environmentally-themed. There’s a great deal of ethical irony here, no?

Most mining companies in Australia and internationally fund the arts and social programs very heavily as part of what they term their ‘social license to operate.’ This is not a regulated, government-sanctioned ‘license’, but rather what the mining and petroleum industries have acknowledged as their means of presenting a kinder, gentler face to the communities in which they function — so that they can function. Read more at http://socialicense.com/.

Here is the article I wrote. If you click on it, a pdf will open in a new window:

FourTechnologies

Four Technologies – from Artlink’s December Issue – Mining: Gouging the Country

This latest issue of Artlink is a must read and a courageous, timely effort to focus on Australia’s mining industry and links between it and the arts. So, we’re talking large-scale funding of museum exhibitions (like Santos and the Cai Guo-Qiang exhibition at GOMA) as well as art that’s made about mining (like Simryn Gill’s photos of Western Australian mines that she exhibited at the 2013 Venice Biennale).

Of course, the issues reverberate globally. Mining is an age-old human activity, and it’s not going away. The more I learned about the complexity of all the players involved and their concerns and goals, the more I realised it’s more important than ever to keep informed.

I had the opportunity to write for this issue on how international big business in the role of sand mining, First Nation ancient laws of caring for country, the annual Lines in the Sand arts festival and Queensland state politics converge every June school holidays at North Stradbroke Island.

You can read my article below and have a look at the current Artlink issue at http://www.artlink.com.au/issues/3340/mining-gouging-the-country/

FourTechnologies