was the first exhibition to come out of the Bimblebox Art Project! This satellite event opened at Sawtooth ARI in Launceston, Tasmania, on Friday 5th April. Curator Samara McIlroy invited Bimblebox artists to document Bimblebox Nature Refuge, making their own personal record of their experience of this place. Participating Bimblebox artists: Alison Clouston and Boyd, Donna Davis, Samara McIlroy, Liz Mahood, Glenda Orr, Jude Roberts, Jill Sampson and Gerald Soworka.
Dates: 5 to 27 April, 2013
Venue: Sawtooth ARI Level 2, 160 Cimitiere St, Launceston, Tasmania 7250.
Gallery Hours 12-5 Wednesday – Friday 12-4 Saturday.
Curator: Samara McIlroy
Co-ordinator: Jill Sampson
Alison Clouston and Boyd
On Bimblebox, we spent a lot of our time walking around in the bush, looking out for signs of the fauna around us. We used a small movement sensor camera which records sounds as well as image, much as field biologists do to spy on creatures’ behaviour when humans aren’t near. Our first position for it was at the trough in the stockyards, as we’d noticed lots of birds were coming there to drink. We found our daily uploads of video intriguing, sometimes funny and they raised lots of questions. What is that satchel the Crow puts down when she stoops to drink? What are the Babblers chatting about? What water would these birds have used before humans installed pumps and troughs? This precious water drawn up from underground aquifers is vulnerable to the miners’ intentions. What will the animals do if the waters are gone, the aquifer depleted? Where will birds build their nests if the trees are bulldozed?
During the Bimblebox artist residency I explored the beauty and diversity of the flora found in the Heathlands region of the Bimblebox Nature Refuge. Having previously only seen this diversity represented as text on paper prior to my visit, I was captivated by the physical aesthetic of the area.
I collected a number of flora specimens from the Heathlands: storing each specimen in a plastic vial for identification, documentation and visual interpretation upon my return to the studio. Through this process I began to reflect upon the contrast between ‘text’ and ‘image’; exploring how our connection to the aesthetic, both visual and written, informs our ecological discourse.
REsource examines this aesthetic, reflecting on the fragile nature and beauty of the specimens captured within each vial contrasted with the physical flora file cards in order to elicit thoughts regarding the perceived value of our natural resources, in particular those found at Bimblebox Nature Refuge.
Are these specimens to become a document of what once was, or will they become a resource for our future?
On first encounter, Bimblebox is a sea of tall gold Spinifex dotted with clumps of rustling poplars, spiky shrubs and squat termite mounds. At eye level, the patterns seem to repeat across the flat landscape, making ‘getting lost’ easy and creating a false sense of uniformity. However, looking more closely, looking up and down and through the magnifying and distorting lens of an etcher’s loupe, there is a myriad of micro patterns and a rich diversity of plants, animals and textures to be discovered.
This loupe had formerly been a tool for me to visually check the depth of an acid bite while making etching plates. Discovering its new function as a means to explore the micro-world of Bimblebox was serendipitous. I found I had slipped it in to my drawing tool box and so, I started using it as a magnifier to look more closely. Photographing through the lens often led to an intriguing distorted, multi-focused image of the subject, shifting the focus from recognising discernable discrete objects to an exploration of multifaceted patterns, colours, shapes and textures. This search of the multifaceted micro-nature of Bimblebox, to go beyond the obvious perspective and the narrow focus to look at the ‘devil (or beauty) in the detail’, is accentuated by the montage of many micro photographic explorations.
With open cut mining the land is changed completely and forever. It’s history, stories, meaning, ability to re-grow and to heal its self, to provide food, nurture and create life are all utterly destroyed. No more can we read the patterns of thousands of years of evolution, lived lives, water memories or layers of earth history.
In Vanishing Food Bowls I am exploring an intricate web of life between Bimblebox Nature Refuge in the Galilee Basin with its watershed into the Belyando then Burdekin River and its connection with The Great Barrier Reef. This is a connection that is thousands of years in the making. On Bimblebox Nature Refuge there are trees dated at over 300 years and on the Great Barrier Reef coral dated over 400 years old, growing on a reef bed thousands of years old. Every flood year silt is washed from the land into the ocean waters and these flood events are recorded in coral. In long living corals these bands of growth, called coral luminescence, give us a weather record which pre-dates written records in Australia. The luminescence bands made by silt from long ago floods tell us what the pattern of La Nina and El Nino have been. These traces of time can also help to date trees on Bimblebox because the coral and the trees experience, benefit and suffer through the same patterns of drought and flood. The Great Barrier Reef and Bimblebox Nature Refuge (in fact the whole Galilee Basin) are bound together. A future for one is bound to the ability to survive and to have a possible future for the other.
Drawing and documenting on water sites through inland Australia has allowed me to investigate issues such as groundwater on the Great Artesian Basin. I have observed the shifts, changes and human relationships to land, in particular its will to control these environments and its perceptions of permanency and boundaries.
I used found objects and objects of human habitation in the landscape as tools in frottage and stenciling and with various materials including natural sediments and oil crayon.
By its very nature, the Artesian Basin is challenging to visualise and to understand scientifically. Here I can imagine the transitional spaces between the terrain and the plutonic waters of the Basin by starting from the fencelines on the ground, a metaphor for the ceiling of the Basin and the connectivity of this water system.
Sitting in the land – the Bimblebox experience. Dry, dusty, monotonous exhausting heat, boredom, thirst…I arrive at Bimblebox Nature Reserve heavy with memories of long hot days working cattle. Memories from another time, another place, a similar landscape. It takes days before I see her subtle beauty, days before my senses recalibrate and I am truly here. This landscape doesn’t demand your attention with big statements of bold beauty and wild excitement. This is a subtle landscape, an unassuming landscape. The beauty is only revealed to those prepared to suspend the want of control and disengage from the attachment to time constraints. Those who are willing to quiet the noise in their minds and allow nature to be heard. I felt very privileged to have this opportunity to be here, to escape the distractions of everyday urban life and connect with the land and in doing so connect with myself.
Bimblebox Nature Refuge tells many stories. The story of the secret interconnected world of nature where every plant and every animal has a story within the big story. The stories of the people who saw this environment as valuable and worthy of preservation. The story of how the integrity of an agreement seemingly means little to the powers that be when a dollar is to be made. A story of conflicting values. A story suggesting connection with the spirit of the land and practising respect for mother earth are not part of our language. A story suggesting the energetic integrity of the land has no value in our current system.
Copy This is a comment on these issues and our inadequacy in righting our mistakes. There is a general attitude in the resources industry to do what needs to be done and worry about the consequences later. Rehabilitation ? A copy of the landscape is never going to have in place the essential history of the experiences of that landscape as it was formed and shaped by the elements over millennia. The data has a life of it’s own on paper….but can it translate into the multi-dimensional experience we call reality?
As one of the artists who couldn’t make it to Bimblebox, I responded to the notion of documenting Bimblebox in other ways. The challenge for me was to think and feel my way into the heart and soul of the place, a location which could only ever be an intellectual map – an abstraction in my head. In visiting Bimblebox in the flesh, I could have feasted on the sights and sounds, indeed, used all my senses. On this occasion, working at a distance, I rely purely on dry visual and audio traces. I am deprived of the taste, feel and smell of Bimblebox.
But I love research, so I spent some time with the new-media tool called Google, investigating all of the ways that mining interests present themselves to the media and the public. I also viewed the counteracting arguments presented by environmentalists and scientists. Online and in the media, this is largely where I believe the battle for Bimblebox will play out, and some voices will be louder and travel further than others. However, for me, resonance, which seems be located nearer the heart than the head, is a crucial component of effective storytelling. Works such as Titanic Too and Meanwhile…at Bimblebox, using collected voices, images and text in combination, explore the power of story to document place, and attempt to invoke resonance in the viewer.
If coal mining goes ahead at Bimblebox, it stands not only to destroy one of the last remaining nature refuges in Central Queensland and an environmentally significant area, but that coal will be shipped out of Australia through the Great Barrier Reef. The coal port expansions planned to accommodate it and the increased shipping will have a significant and deleterious affect on the reef.
Australian coal burnt in overseas power stations and steel foundries will contribute enormously to climate change, in turn raising sea temperatures, killing the Great Barrier Reef and increasing the likelihood and severity of droughts and floods in Queensland.
This is a very high price to pay for the short term profits of a very few people when technologically and economically viable alternatives already exist.