Earlier this year the Warrnambool Community Garden put out an Expression of Interest for the creation of an installation/interpretive signage that acts to educate the public on the water cycle and the impact of domestic water use on natural ecosystems. The project is part of a longer term campaign by the Heytesbury District Landcare Group’s “Going Upstream” project.
I thought that this could be right up my alley and put together a proposal for how I would approach the work. In July I got the phone call to say that my idea had been selected and that the committee wanted me to get started right away…
The idea I put forward was for the creation of an outdoor sculpture that would mimic a domestic shower and convey the interconnection of our domestic life with the ecosystems in which we are situated. This is part of broader conceptual themes that have developed through my PhD Research which began back in 2012. My research is concerned with how we imagine and understand our connection to our environment- I have been looking to find the material basis for this connection which is so readily felt yet much harder to directly see.
In my first year of research I spent a great deal of time looking at and research the Australian landscape around Warrnambool and around my ancestral home near Albury Wodonga. I spent the second year of my research focused on my more immediate environment, the domestic home that I share with my husband and our three children. Through these processes the extent to which these apparently disjointed spaces overlap and permeate each other became more and more evident. Within this context water emerged as an importable symbol of this interconnection and interchange.
In 2013 I visited the exhibition Talking Water at Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre Gallery, Canberra. It was an exhibition of work created through an artist in residency program in which four artists use creative practice as a basis to examine our relationship with water. In the catalogue I found a rather profound and simple question from artist Marily Cintra,
“Do we realise that when we open a tap in Canberra we are diverting the river into our homes?
This question prompts us to reconsider the apparent division between our mundane and ordinary domestic worlds and the natural world which we imagine as being “out there”, beyond our urban lives.
The sculpture that I offered in my proposal is one that hopes to develop this line of thinking, one that hopes to stimulate the realisation that when we stand in the shower, wash our clothes, water our gardens or brush our teeth, we are doing so in a river. The Gellibrand River in the Otway Rainforest provides a large amount of Warrnambool’s drinking water. This sculpture aims to honour that particular ecosystem.
The sculpture is a fairly simple structure that mimics or recalls a domestic shower. It will be made from reclaimed timber- kindly donated by the W’Bool Community Garden, coloured acrylic sheet and metal work created by the very talented local craftsman Murray Adams. The top of the structure will have two layers of metal framed, coloured acrylic paddles into which I will etch the images of different plant, bird, animal and fish species that depend on the Gellibrand River.
I am heading out to Murray’s shed this afternoon to see how the metal work is progressing. I have order my acrylic sheet and commenced the drawings from which my etchings will be made- here’s a sample of my colour scheme:
I am pretty excited to see what will emerge from this process. It will all be installed and ready for the public by the second weekend of October… what this space