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Open Cycle Ecology

After our first night, we woke early, left the Lock-Up and headed out into the morning’s sun.

Before we left Victoria we had a stamp made up to help us publicise our project. This morning we found some old boxes which we set about cutting into small squares. One of us cut, one stamped and one affixed some double-sided tape to the back.

Another thing we did before we left home was to contact Dan the Bike Man from the Newcastle Bike Ecology Centre to organise three bikes for us to use while we are here. So with our advertising propaganda ready we headed off to Dan’s house, the helmets that we brought with us from home, tied to our belts and banging against our legs while we adventured.

We walked and we walked. We filled our backpacks with as much plastic waste as we could carry, and we took turns putting our cards in all the many pockets of this city.

We walked and we walked (it was further than we thought). We sang and we sweated and we practiced social warming with all the locals that we met, some of whom outstretched their arms to embrace us when we told them about our project.

Dan the Bike Man established the bike library three years ago. It is made up of recycled and reclaimed bikes, collected and donated by volunteers and community people. A bike library! Isn’t that just the coolest?!

After we selected our bikes, we were handed spanners and instructions so we could modify them to our individual heights.

That’s James, one of the many generous volunteers on the left, and Dan on the right. (When Dan signs off his emails, he writes, Bike hugs, Dan.)

When you open up the newspaper to see it filled with ads for expensive watches and cars and flat screen TVs, it can make you wonder what on Earth we human beings are saying to convince ourselves that business is OK to carry on as usual.

When you visit a place like the bike library and meet some of the people whose energy goes in to its survival, you really come to understand the full capacity of social warming.

Day One

Greetings from the Artist as Family!

After a tour of our accommodation and the Lock-Up Cultural Centre we took to the streets. And after coming across this street-side line-up of herbs we were feeling very positive about our adoptive city.

All morning, Zeph kept asking, ‘When are we going to the beach?’ So. Our first stop: the beach. He hadn’t even been on the sand five minutes and he had collected this handful of discarded plastic. If you were to look out across the beach, you would think it was pretty clean, but take a closer look and you might find this amount in any two metre radius.

Waste proliferates along every coastline the world over. But it’s obvious not everybody is happy about this.

Our Proposal (excerpted)

The whole idea of detention in a closed space as a form of human punitive corrective action seems to have come in very much in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries – at the time perspective and pictorial space was developing in our Western world. Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, 1967

Waste and Time – an Artist-as-Family adventure
Newcastle Lock-up Artist-in-Residence Sept-Oct 2009.

The Artist-as-family includes Meg Ulman, Patrick Jones and Zephyr Ogden Jones. We propose a multi-tiered residency that includes gleaned waste collection, filmmaking, blogging and an exhibition about what we find while in Newcastle.

Things that may help you understand our working holiday.

3 types of waste.

1. Compostable waste – is not really waste at all as it is returned to the earth to feed new life as part of a closed-cycle system.

2. Non-compostable waste – is material that breaks down slowly, does not feed the natural world, and harms the environment as part of a broken-cycle system – aggregate-growth capitalism.

3. Social waste – wage slavery, anti-ecological schooling, punitive punishment.
3 types of time.
1. Cyclical and airy time – traditional cultures are very good at this type of time. Time decompression, as contiguous with biomimicry and permacultural practices, will be a main focus of our residency.
2. Linear time – birth, school, work, death as specific to industrialised culture. Time compression enabling wage-slavery and other forms of social bondage. Linear time is anti-ecological, it helps create a disposable and wasteful society.
3. Doing time – serving a prison sentence and being trapped in the cycle of offending. Much has been written over time of the interrelationship between privatising things and prisons. Prisons, it could be said, are a middle-class phenomenon, and part-and-parcel of class war.
The exhibition.

Patrick will build an installation with the waste that the AaF find in the streets. The exhibition’s theme will be based upon these lines: a reliance upon the importation of resources is our society’s zeitgeist. A centre large enough to rely upon importing resources will never be sustainable. Therefore the food has to be walking distance, and composting is the key to this future society.

Social warming.
Meg will build an offline-online community around the residency based upon chance encounters and by strengthening relationships already formed. She will keep this blog updated to record the AaF’s encounters as we glean materials and meet people in Newcastle. These entries will be based on chance encounters and shared stories. Through this social warming aspect of the work we hope to meet people who will offer their time here and there to collect materials with us, expanding the shared labour of this AaF activity.


As seven year-old Zephyr’s attention will come in and out of focus and be mainly concerned with play opportunities. While in Newcastle, we aim to structure the day with a good balance of work and play. We three will start the day with a two-hour drift, scouring for material, talking to people, exercising and generally being a part of the social space of the city. Then the rest of the day will be broken up with one parent concentrating on the requirements of the residency, while one parent concentrating on the requirements of Zephyr.

Zephyr is an outgoing child. He may like to speak to primary school kids who come to the Lock-Up about his experiences. Meg and Patrick will also speak to visitors to The Lock-Up, TINA festival goers and other interested parties about the work we are doing as a family in Newcastle.

The Lock-Up.

Interrelations with Lock-Up staff will be essential for the success of the residency. Whereas we will aim to carry out the majority of the work to ensure a successful residency and exhibition, we will need assistance and local knowledge to make sure the wider community access and enjoy the work and skills we bring to Newcastle. And while in Newcastle ensuring we also glean skills, ideas and social warming from staff and fellow Novocastrians.