A selection of our writings from 2009 to the present. If you'd like to keep up to date with our latest posts, please subscribe below.

Love from Peter Tyndall too

A little while ago we were required to ask for support letters to apply for funding for the Food Forest. We naturally asked members of our local community – permaculture co-originator David Holmgren and seminal conceptual artist Peter Tyndall. Both David’s and Peter’s letters were very generous, to say the least.

Patrick, Meg and Zephyr are thoughtful, energetic, articulate and engaged members of this rich local community. What they live and learn and practice here they also offer, as the Artist as Family, for the consideration of others. Last year, I followed them, via their several blogs, through a residency at Newcastle’s This is Not Art festival. I hope to be able to do so again during their participation in the MCA’s In the Balance: Art for a changing world. I recommend them and their application for your support. Peter Tyndall

(Blush, blush, thank you Peter). The Food Forest is a fusion of art and applied ecology, therefore to have this level of support from these two good and brilliant folk gives us much strength and focus as we head closer to realising this work. The union between the conceptual and the ecological is not only about providing interesting (we hope) public art and free ethical food in one combined work, but to make a work that participates in what it represents in healing the apparent rifts between the mind and the body, nature and culture.

For the connoisseur, Peter Tyndall’s blog:

A Direct Action

The problem with so much of the art we see today is that it is reduced to the symbolic; it is a mediation, and is not really of the world.

What we are trying to do with our food forest project is say: abstracted life has lost its appeal, it has caused too much division and separation. With a forest of food as a public art work, we aim to show how art can again be of the world, a part of it and not merely a symbol of it. It can put back in, not just take and make waste.

Our systems, based on growth capital, have failed – resource wars, divided society, pollution, class wars, mental illness, alienation – and however glaringly obvious the fact of all this is, the level of denial remains in the symbols that surround us. Be they on billboards, television, online or in galleries, our symbolic medias are powerful and manipulative, they collectively report back to us that we are advanced and thoughtful people who can live in a world unrelated to the microbial world below our feet. This is ecological disembodiment, and the ramifications for this separated, abstracted life are proving to be disastrous for the planet.

As a mass culture we have been flattered by a sense of our own progress and sophistication, and artists and ad people have worked hard to keep this middle-class myth alive, but beyond the seductive veneers and images, progress, and the mediation of progress, is concretely killing us.
If we are to re-embed ourselves in the cycles of wild nature, and by doing so have a chance at surviving what lies for us on the horizon, then our symbolic and domesticated states have to be confronted. Our symbolic, mediated, head-only orientations require interventions by our bodies, and those things that are essential to life – air, water, food, soil, dynamic ecology, habitable climate – become again the things most highly valued and respected.
The project of world peace, to think big, is the project of dismantling the spells of mediation, symbol and image that annul, disempower and calibrate us to the dominant ideology.

Art requires a direct action that’s no longer ironising and cowardly, no longer self-conscious, anxious or innovative, but rather real and essential; a re-embodiment of natural systems.

Our Artist Talk

We presented our artist talk today in front of a small and enthusiastic crowd of temporary jailbirds. Our talk was the last scheduled event on the Critical Animals line-up. If you are reading this blog for the first time today because you were handed our card by Zeph at our talk, welcome and thanks for coming along today.

If you couldn’t make it to the Lock-Up today: our talk was about our project, waste, steady-state economics (in which economic activities fit within the capacity of ecosystems), permaculture, future scenarios, our Daylesford community and the Hepburn Relocalisation Network and our relationship with waste.

A big thanks goes to Gerry Bobsien from the Lock-Up for taking these photos and for her ongoing support. And likewise to Aden Rolfe, Co-Director of Critical Animals, for his enthusiasm for our project and for helping us pick up rubbish very early one morning.

The Aesthetics of Waste

Spending this past week gleaning waste has made us realise that we are a society happy to dispose of rubbish readily because we have little relationship to it. At home we don’t have a relationship with this sort of waste – we simply don’t buy these kinds of products. We grow food, compost and bulk buy as much as we can. We haven’t yet worked out how to do without plastic and other disposables altogether, but we’re working on it.

Did you know that humans are the only land mammals who defecate in their drinking water? Instead of seeing our bodily waste as compost to be used to help fertilise our food and environment, we avoid dealing with it at all costs. Surely if we have no relationship to our own waste, we will find it difficult to have a relationship to any other.

As we pick up rubbish each day, we are trying to build a relationship with it. One of the best ways we do this is through narrative: we make up stories about the situation that led to the discarding of that broken sunglasses arm, the split boogie board, the rolled up nappy, the beer bottle.

There are other ways to tell stories with waste too. The local primary school where Zeph has been in attendance for the last four days had a Marble Run competition, where students constructed courses made from waste for marbles to travel along.

Here are some of the entries:

Aren’t they great? The Marble Run is definitely one of the activities Zeph is excited to take back to his classmates at home.

Here is another example of creative recycling we have come across in Newcastle, from a shop of local designers called Make Space:

And then there are artists such as US-based David Edgar who uses recycled plastic to raise awareness about the ill health of our natural habitats.

Of course recycling our waste is better than just dumping it, but one of the potential problems of aestheticising it is glorifying its existence in the world. In the same way carbon offsetting has become just another way to justify a lack of environmental conscientiousness.

But we are guilty of that too. We flew to Newcastle because we figured the work we would do here justified our air travel. We are artists, therefore we are natural mediators. We have to remain aware of this. When we take a photo of our mounting waste at the end of each day, we are specific with our lighting and our camera angles, wanting to make the shot look as good as it can. Perhaps this is just another form of disconnection too? We are creating representations here. You can’t smell the stench that is beginning to emanate from the exercise yard, online.

About Time

Having our residency in an old jail really pronounces our ideas about time and how we choose to spend it. One of the important aspects of our project is time decompression. This morning we woke to blustery dustery gales outside, which would have made it difficult to ride our bikes anywhere. Although we were free to leave the building, we still felt like prisoners of sorts.

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.