“She the River” collaboration for Untaming the Urban

The below text is the artist statement which accompanies the creative work She the River being presented as part of the Untaming the Urban exhibition, curated by Tracey Benson at the Australian National University, December 2018

A curatorial collaboration by Liz Barker, Louisa Miranda, and Thomas Dick

Statement by Liz Barker

As an artist, I make creek prints in rivers. I stand ankle or shin deep in the water and place my paper on the waters surface and gently peel it off again. I then dry and varnish them. The prints are beautiful and lyrical and they sing songs of the river. Songs of decay. Songs of new life. Songs of cycles. The surface scum is made up of phytoplankton, which is the base of the oceanic food web. Collectively these microscopic organisms while floating around on the surface level of the worlds oceans and waterways, provide up to 80% of the worlds oxygen through photosynthesis. This surface scum is source of all life on this planet. It is in this way that the creek prints are guiding me into the world of science. Perhaps they are the maps themselves. Landmarks along the way. They are non linear pathways, maps to unknown places, maps of the river themselves. A glimpse of the beauty of the whole. A journey back to wholeness.

This is a collaborative exhibition that explores these meandering maps and pathways. My creek prints are featured in digital format for the first time, presented on a large screen. But this exhibition is primarily about giving an aesthetic expression to Tom’s PhD research with communities in Vanuatu. Privileging multiple subjectivities and make them accessible through visual means. Understanding traditional wisdom as science. Curating science into art. Working with artist, poet and dancer Louisa Miranda the three of us are curating his research. Tom, Louisa and I worked together in Bangkok making prints like these from the overburdened waterways around the city. Almost 20 years have passed and this exhibition marks our creative and scientific reunion.

Along with the prints we take sonic recordings of the submarine environment, documenting more-than- human entanglements with the riparian setting through poetry and creative writing, while scientifically analysing the health of the waterways over time.

See:

Thomas Dick ‘Reconciling kastom, tourism, and art in the Pacific: the case of the Leweton Cultural Group and “water music”’ available at http://epubs.scu.edu.au/theses/560/

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