Site-responsive field trips to Jack Hills and Erawondoo Hill
In 2020 I completed three experimental site responsive artworks on a field trip to the Jack Hills in Wajarri Yamaji country, in the Murchison district of Western Australia. My first artwork was a durational performance where I stood in place on Erawondoo Hill for a single rotation of the Earth—or, twenty-four hours. Erawondoo Hill in the Jack Hills is the home location of the oldest recorded terrestrial matter on Earth. Zircon crystals found in the pebbly metaconglomerate rocks of Erawondoo Hill can reach the age of 4 billion years old with the oldest recorded zircon dated at 4.404 ± billion years old (read peer reviewed journal article).
24 hour durational performance
My first artwork was a durational performance where I stood in place on Erawondoo Hill for a single rotation of the Earth—or, twenty-four hours. While this work, at its simplest, might be about scales of time and endurance in an embodied performance, it also sheds light on a number of things that I am thinking through as a contemporary artist. For example, the work brings up questions concerning the historical role the white male body plays within Eurocentric concepts of ‘nature’. My intended parody and caricature of the masculine tropes, ‘mastery and control over ‘nature’’ and the ‘abiotic as a mere resource’ are evident in the symbolism of the Hi-Vis workwear trousers—a style commonly used in mining—worn during the performance. Beyond the critical investigations, there was also a powerful personal connection made with the site—developed during the durational performance. This experience enabled a witnessing of land and celestial sky for a single rotation of Earth, underscoring my small yet contiguous part within time and space.
Survey Pin and Flagging Tape assemblage
Above: Allegories of Subjugation (2020). My first installation of survey pins, each with a handwritten phrase chosen to flag the folly of human exceptionalism in the geologic of the Anthropocene. In situ, on Proterozoic banded iron formation (BIF) rock. The BIF was formed through microbial life and mineral processes that created sedimentary structure as well as producing oxygen.
I created two experimental assemblages using two-hundred and fifty multicoloured survey pin tags bought at a geology supplies warehouse. The pins are routinely used in the WA mining industry to mark out subdivisions of ground—as markers of ‘territory’. Usually there is a corresponding location or coordinate written on each pin; however, in this case, I wrote out 250 phrases caricatures which signify the imagined exceptionalism of ‘humanity’ in the contemporary settler culture I exist within.
Above: Two hundred and fifty survey pins, each with a handwritten caricature to foreground the tropes that help build the idea of human exceptionalism in the ‘geologic’ of the Anthropocene (detail).
As an example I wrote: we see UFOs, we have the periodic table, we have books on animals, we have biology, we have geology, we breed dogs, we have taxonomy, we have the stock market, we use toilet paper, we have Darwinism, we believe in hell, we have geological epochs, we have Andy Warhol, we have E=mc2, we killed off the Dodo, we think we are our identity. The homogenised ‘we’, is the problematic in this artwork—as it sarcastically refers to the privileged neoliberal/patriarchal/western/high modernist totality that I am questioning. When bundled all together—in front of the oldest known material in the world—the chosen words and tropes that set this universalised humanity apart from the totality of ‘nature’ sounded unconvincing, even absurd.
Above: Explaining humans the oldest matter on Earth (2020). Two hundred and fifty survey pins, each with a handwritten caricature of the tropes that help build the idea of human exceptionalism in the ‘geologic’ of the Anthropocene. In situ, on ancient metaconglomerate rock known to contain the oldest recorded terrestrial material on Earth, located in the Jack Hills range, Wajarri Yamaji Country, Western Australia.
Beyond my intent for the text on the pins, the interplay of colour, on the stark plateau of rocks, made an elegant combination. There is a sense of playfulness in the bold hues juxtaposed with the muted tones of the surrounding area. The pins moved with the breeze and the colours oscillated in the space. Although there was the criticality of the inscribed messages, the work also functions as an expression of my affection for the site—producing an expanded reading. Once the pins where removed, there was no indication that the installation was ever there.
Above: Allegories of subjugation and the laughable delusion that political and mining governance can bring ‘the environment’ under ‘their’ control (2020). A colourful intervention of space, fifty survey pickets, each with a ribbon of flagging tape. Jack Hills, Wajarri Yamaji Country, Western Australia.
Both the survey pin and flagging tape series of installations engage an intentional humour, whereby the excessive number of pins, tape and pickets is obviously exaggerated, producing a pastiche of how the mining industry deploys these symbols to indicate the subjugation of land. It blends both my subtle humour and sorrow concerning Eurocentric environmental perception and governance in the Anthropocene.
Above: Untitled photos of Erawondoo Hill.
Above: Examples from my sketch book.