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.
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/
This is a very tardy post about an event that the TransArts Alliance led in organising in July 2017.
Through our partnership with Intercreate and University of Canberra’s Institute of Applied Ecology and the Inspire Centre, we created a 2.5 day workshop in Canberra to focus on the theme of Ocean*Energy From the Mountains to the Sea.
The overarching theme of Ocean*Energy would seem to be a strange fit for the inland city of Canberra. But if you look at the geological history of the city, it occupies what was once an inland sea which opens up a conversation about deep time and change over time. Close to Canberra is also the source of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers, which have provided hydro-electricity to the region through the Snowy River Hydro-Electric Scheme.
The theme was deliberately open and provides for a diversity of readings on what ‘ocean’ and ‘energy’ can be. It can be a literal reading of energy in terms of electricity, renewables and solar or be defined as the effort, passion and focus of community to make positive environmental changes. It also allows for discrete discussions on place about islands, oceans, mountains and rivers. This forum provided the opportunity to look at areas like the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers and connect with existing research and knowledge about Country that could be contributed by participants.
Ngunawal Elder Wally Bell did a wonderful Welcome to Country as well as a healing ceremony at the opening and as part of the Water Blessing held at Lake Ginninderra with Loving Waters. Despite the cold, it was a beautiful ceremony followed by a group dinner.
Documentation of the weekend by Shelley Darling
Documentation of the weekend by Shelley Darling
It was cold! Documentation of the weekend by Shelley Darling
Tracey and Stephen with the Cross Media “Save the Bees project” Documentation of the weekend by Shelley Darling
Water ceremony – Documentation of the weekend by Shelley Darling
Participants included: Dian Booth, Sandy Sur, Jacintha Bezgovsek, Desna Whaanga-Schollum, Josiah Jordan, Stephen Barrass, Julie Armstrong, Shelley Darling, Lee Joachim, Tommy Dick, Martin Drury, Siwan Lovett, Damian Wrigley, Kate Genevieve, Leah Barclay, Ian Clothier and Tracey Benson.
Following on from the Call (Sep15) I participated in the Noten Aelan Arts Festivol (Northern Islands Arts Festival) which was a part of the provincial celebrations in the north of Vanuatu. The ceremonies had begun several months earlier, and in fact were all leveraging work over the last decade by Delly Roy Nalo of TEKS and Further Arts. It is not possible to convey the richness and beauty of the experience of witnessing and participating in the rituals and ceremonies: in either words or pictures. This was a celebration of the sacred fullness of life through an intricate layering of embodied and relational art of the highest quality. The public presentation of the performative aspects of the ceremonies took place in the centre of Luganville town, while other less public activities continued within communities and between families for several days before and afterwards. Technical issues are frustrating attempts to upload more diverse (and better quality) images. Meanwhile, the Manaro volcano on Ambae erupts 42 miles to the east. A state of emergency is declared. I gather my things and my thoughts and prepare to head north to Gaua. Words by Thomas Dick. Photos by Maya Haviland.
Chief Stanislas (in the singlet) leading the Port Orly welcome ceremony with bamboo flutes
Rarely seen ritual from Big Nambas in Unmet, Malekula, with breathtaking colouring and body paint.
Warriors from Vao showcasing their shields
Sea snake dance from the Banks Islands
Master composer, Chief Warren, and ranked woman, Sina, leading the Maewo ritual
Event 15 September 2017 – linking Scotland with Vanuatu, Australia, Norway and the USA
Telling stories to see the beauty.
Alluvial Amniotic Ambrosia
The most sacred waters are hidden
In the deepest of caves.
Deep deep deep within you.
The secret sacred waters.
Source of all life.
Hidden quietly within life itself.
This water within also needs our love;
Needs our blessing.
Our own salty goodness.
When we love our Self.
We bless the most sacred of waters.
And meet with the oceans of love
Bless your own waters.
Drink from your cup.
Then, let it flow out
To fill the lakes and rivers