“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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Crawick Multiverse connecting land, sea and sky through story

Event 15 September 2017 – linking Scotland with Vanuatu, Australia, Norway and the USA

Telling stories to see the beauty.

An Invitation

Ideogram - Call

Alluvial Amniotic Ambrosia

The most sacred waters are hidden

In the deepest of caves.

Deep deep deep within you.

wyrd

The secret sacred waters.

Source of all life.

Hidden quietly within life itself.

 

Sandy Sur photo

This water within also needs our love;

Needs our blessing.

 

 

sand-fruitbats-redrawn

Our body.

Our blood.

Our own salty goodness.

Our self.

 

belongil creek print

When we love our Self.

We bless the most sacred of waters.

 

And meet with the oceans of love

Trust

Bless your own waters.

Drink from your cup.

Then, let it flow out

To fill the lakes and rivers

 

Trust.

Way of the Turtle

Way of the Turtle is a collaboration between Yorta Yorta researcher Lee Joachim and artist Tracey Benson, initiated in 2014.

Lee, Tracey and Martin Drury at WPP, Parihaka Pa
Lee, Tracey and Martin Drury at WPP, Parihaka Pa

It is a multi-dimensional initiative exploring interconnected themes of place, country, health, creativity, technology skills transfer, intergenerational and intercultural knowledge sharing. We are focused on how these interactions could benefit the Yorta Yorta community through creative collaboration. For example, one dimension of Way of the Turtle is the creation of art works that express these interconnected themes.

In January 2016, Lee and Tracey participated in a symposium and residency event in Aotearoa New Zealand – Water, Peace, Power (WPP) where they developed an installation at Parihaka Pa. The installation titled Exchanging Breath used a combination of story and song in Māori, Yorta Yorta and English with LEDs driven by patterns in turtle data from Yorta Yorta country. 

The sound element of the work presented vocals of Parihaka descendent Jo Tito and Yorta Yorta Elder Sharon Atkinson, combining Māori, Yorta Yorta and English languages and stories.

This project is seen as a prototype to create a larger work that would be the result of ongoing community engagement. At WPP Lee and Tracey collaborated with Nigel Helyer, Martin Drury, Andrew Hornblow and Allan Giddy to create the work.

Another dimension of Way of the Turtle is the research that underpins it.

Through the collaboration a longitudinal approach is being applied and a methodology has been created that is informed by transdisciplinary approaches, action research, phenomenology and user centred design. The Way of the Turtle is supported by key scientific researchers Professor Dave Griggs, Deirdre Wilcox and Professor Ross Thompson, who have long-standing research relationships with Lee Joachim and Yorta Yorta Nation.

In April 2016, Way of the Turtle was presented at Balance UnBalance , where Lee and Tracey shared updates of the project through blogs and online discussion via Twitter.

Also in April 2016, Lee and Tracey presented a paper at the Land Dialogues conference in Wagga Wagga. Their paper outlined in detail their methodology and approach to intergenerational knowledge sharing, building strong communities and creative participation should be published later in 2016.

You can find Way of the Turtle on Facebook.