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Although we still picked up the larger trash items today, we mainly concentrated on the small. Slowing down and focusing gave us time to contemplate and wonder and ask, How did we get here? How did we arrive at a place in our society that nearly every broken wave upon a beach contains some fragment, however small, of oil-based waste?
These questions make us think about this book, that we adults were both read as kids. We bought it for Zeph a few days ago in an op shop, for him to find on our shelves when he becomes more curious.
The questions we asked ourselves today both started and ended with these foodstuffs, gifted to us by Gerry, the Director of the Lock-Up and the co-keeper of the soil and chickens from whence these goods did come. We are missing our garden and our hens so these gifts are much appreciated.
To help us answer the question of how our culture got so tangled up in this anthropocentric mess we looked to the walls of the Lock-Up’s exercise yard for some answers.
Each marking tells a story of circumstance and place, that is rich with history and individual misfortune, but doesn’t quite answer our question as specifically or collectively as we’d hoped.
Our search continues.
Around the corner from that café is a laundromat we took our washing to this morning. Outside it are some planter boxes in which the owners have planted vegetables and herbs. “Why have flowers when we can grow vegetables?” They asked us. “Why don’t more people grow their own food?” We wondered back.
We found other food today. Though unfortunately not all of it was edible.
Mostly we just found rubbish. I guess because that’s what we were looking for.
At one point in the afternoon we found some trash that was a little out of our reach.
So we had to ask some of our feathered friends to help us.
Normally nimble Zephyr would have climbed that fence in one swift swoop and retrieved the rubbish from atop. But today Zephyr spent the day at the local primary school where he joined a class of other grade ones. School holidays have already begun in Victoria, but being the sociable kid that he is, Zephyr jumped at the chance to hang out with some peers and talk about his experience as one third of the Artist as Family. Here is some of the work he did today:
Although we’re meeting lots of people, kids have an innate knack of social warming wherever they may be. And Zephs’ brand new school was no exception. When we went to pick him up at the end of the day, we were invited over for a play at Perry’s house, one of the kids from his class.
We ate delicious cake and drank tea (Meg’s first good cuppa since we arrived)
and helped out with another art project: making Xmas tree decorations to be sold at Perry’s school’s upcoming school fair.
But not everything is always fair. Zeph declared it was most unfair that we couldn’t move to Newcastle so he could play with Perry and his other new friends every day.
Meanwhile, our own project continues to grow.
As we bobbed up and down on the sand filling our bags with plastic, we joked that those lifesavers were for the humans and we were for the ocean; for the birds, the fish, the seaweed.
We spent the majority of the day picking up junk, singing, laughing, having competitions to see who could pick up the most lollipop sticks in the shortest amount of time (five in a single minute).
We looked high.
We looked low.
We looked like happy holidaymakers when we took this photo of ourselves.
Then we took the day’s wealth of waste back to the exercise yard at the Lock-Up. Underneath our collection are two holes in the concrete, where two tall poles once stood. Legend has it that the dangerous prisoners were tethered on a short chain to one, and the slightly less so on a slightly longer chain, to the other. Society used to dump their social waste here, so it’s a fitting site for our project’s exhibition.
After we dumped our waste, some visitors came in to see what we’d been doing. One of them said that it looked like someone was camping there. Patrick made up this sign to leave nearby in case anybody tried to remove our goods, as the cleaners did at this little show a while ago.
The This is Not Art festival starts this coming Thursday, so we are pressed for time to get some kind of exhibition of our work ready. Having a looming booming deadline is a great motivator, but it’s also a great tool for compressing time. Today we tried to strike the balance of working towards something and drifting at the pace of our own clocks.
After the wind quietened down, we biked here and there, picking up rubbish as we went, ending up like storm-water inevitably does, at the beach.
Our goal was to pick up as much plastic as we could to add to what we have collected up until now:
The beaches here are so beautiful, one of the reasons we thought Newcastle the ideal place for an Artist as Family adventure. While the littlest artist busied himself with paying homage to the land art movement of the 60s,
we two older ones combed the beach for waste, looking much like our chickens at home do as they forage in the soil for grubs.
Here’s a pic of what we found today, soaking in the sink when we got home.