Monthly Archives: September 2012

Getting Into the Process

Filed under Reflections on Process, Residency 3: Kalamurina SA, Uncategorized

With the AWC I describe my role as embedded – by which I mean – I am here as a working team member as well as artist – I now have an expanding range of animal, insect and lizard handling, trapping and general building skills and camera trapping skills – which like any other crew member Im expected to use. In essence there is a survey to do and everyone who comes out to this remote spot is crew – this being the third year I believe that they have spent trying to determine what moves through this extraordinarily large property (1.6 million acres) :

I join teams each day – leaving before dawn to go out and check the traps that have been set (to pick up the creatures of the night – premominantly this season the long haired rat and a range of insects and geckos. My roles have included emptying the pitfall traps (tubes in the ground at the end of long fence runs – into which the animals and insects and lizards fall to be picked up checked, recored and released). We also trap in funnel traps – which landed us a decent sized snake – and we also check for mammals in elliot and cage traps. We do the same in the evening to pick up creatures of the day – in this case predominantly lizards and insects – these have been in diverse country including dunes, claypans, gibber plains and riverine woodlands. We work in three day rotations – which include the setting up of the sites – requiring digging, building and so forth – all team work – often in the heat of the day (its moved between 20 degres and 38 with clear skies, dust storms and lightning strikes since arrival .. ) ts hard work at times – but most often a lot of time is spent in the 4WD trips to get places – as the country is rugged and the roads are in many places really more rough tracks.

What this all creates is a very close culture – a tight community of scientists and researchers and the station managers – all working together to ensure logistics and data get collected. Each night the database is filled with the information from the days sheets – there are things as diverse as lizard lengths, mammal foot sizes, bird surveys, vegetation surveys, numbers of insects (beetles/bugs/scutigera, millipedes … caught in the pitfalls). Dingoes patrol the night and the morning and camera traps also reveal feral cats and foxes as well as the rabbit. All have to be controlled.

And all along the way I get chance to talk to everyone and progressively learn more about the cultures of ecological science – how people think their way through problems, why they make the decisions they do, what and where their sense of the big picture is: where the pervasive culture of observance, measurement, counting, careful scanning the landscape, observation and process (setup, establish, packdown move on) fits into their own philosophical positions.

Tasks ahead

Filed under Residency 3: Kalamurina SA

Now safely camped on the sand dunes – in tent not swag as Dingoes and Long Haired Rats call regularly here – the air is filled with kites, kestrels and eagles – the country looks good – exceptional rains.

Nothing on this arvo after a mornings work washing down cars and unpacking – so time to think about the kind of questions, provocations, idea sessions and image mqking that might be possible with a really lovely group of dedicated people .. but flat out probably from now on in –

bait balls made, cars washed down, tyres let down to attack the dune swales, pitfall traps, cages, fences and nets onboard, GPS primed and camera traps powered up!

The Road to Residency @ Kalamurina

Filed under Residency 3: Kalamurina SA

Today I begin the long trip to Kalamurina, North of Lake Eyre in the Simpson Desert – the distances are typically Australian in nature

Kalamurina Sanctuary is situated within the Lake Eyre Basin. The Lake Eyre Basin is a vast tract of land covering approximately 1,170,000 square kilometres of arid and semi-arid Australia; representing 17% of the continent (DEH 2004). Lake Eyre is the world’s fifth largest terminal lake and, unlike many other large river systems in the world, water flows in the Lake Eyre Basin are unpredictable and highly variable (DEH 2004). Lake Eyre is also one of the largest unregulated inland basins in the world.

I fly BNE-ADL – (carbon credits aside it a guzzler) ..
Pickup from in Adelaide in the AWC ute – Keith bellchambers
Drive to Clare – shop for 4 weeks food
Drive to Buckaringa Sanctuary in the Flinders – overnight stay – a day off – leant a 4WD to explore:)
Drive via Port Augusta through the Flinders up to Marree – enter the Birdsville Track – eight hours from Buckaringa and two flat tyres we are there ..

ϖ Kalamurina is situated approx. 260 km up the Birdsville Track, north of Marree, South Australia. It is 330km South of Birdsville QLD.
ϖ It is 60 km inland from the Mungerannie Hotel.
ϖ You will need to check road conditions before departing.
ϖ You traverse through two properties on the track from Mungerannie, keeping to the ‘old gate rule’ of leaving the gates as you find them.
ϖ 21 km along this track from the ‘3 5’ gate is the Cowarie homestead – Kalamurina’s immediate neighbor. Please drive slowly through here to avoid raising dust, and to avoid people and pets. Also keep to the left to avoid unexpected vehicle movements.

ϖ 10km from Cowarie is Kalamurina’s front gate, which is locked at all times unless arrivals are expected. Ring from Mungerannie to sort out arrival times otherwise you could have a wait at the gate until we are available. Mungerannie’s phone box only takes phone cards.
ϖ Mungerannie to Kalamurina is a public road and can be closed by S.A. Roads. The sign is at Mungerannie (check your car insurance to determine if you are covered for driving on ‘closed’ roads. AWC vehicles are not covered if driving on closed roads. Hire vehicles are not usually covered at all in this part of the country. There are some companies that hire vehicles out check with hire company.
ϖ The nearest towing service to recover vehicles and repairs is Copley Motors (RAA; 08 86752618) based approx. 420km from Kalamurina, his closest pick up point is Mungerannie. Kalamurina does not have a vehicle recovery trailer.

Some history of the residency

Filed under Reflections on Process

I was looking through the emails – remembering how this came about – the development and the experiences ..

The residency had been first mooted in 2009 on a visit to Scotia Sanctuary – as an interested donor – Scotia manager Joe encouraged and advocated – and through working as a volunteer I was able to show my willingness to both research my project and engage deeply in the work and working life of the filed ecology teams with whom I chose to spend my 16 weeks. Strongly Supported by Shauna in central office and senior ecologist Matt Hayward who I had serednipitously been able to introduce to my work in Midura – the project unfurled .. In this letter to Shauna I unfurled the ideas – somewhat idealistically – but in essence the project remains tre to these first ideas..

Hi Shauna

It was good to speak to you the other day about the proposed project that I have spoken about with Joe at Scotia.  I look forward to the information you were collecting up for me and also results of converstaions that you were planning with some of the people in your organisation.

Ive been spending a bit of time looking through the supporters magazine to look again at some of the great work that you are doing – clearly there are so many important projects in train and of course the network of reserves is stunning – as an artist Im always drawn back to that idea of mobilising culture/hearts and minds alongside and in step with the mobilisation of science (again clearly your strength) is my realistic contribution.

The question that preoccupies me as both an artist and a passionate environmentalist is how to make the cultural leap from ‘knowing’ (the facts tell us there is a massive problem)  to ‘learning’ from that information (In general we dont act in a way that in anyway acknowledges the weight of the facts we are given).

 I think these are the challenges that cultural practitioners face and where we can co partner with scientists who have the data but may in some (I stress not all 🙂 ) cases have less experience in creative ways to get the core concepts they are finding across to the general populace.

It may be that more data on its own is not enough – broadly we seem not to be getting through to them (ie the general populace) to a point where they either feel empowered to act or even, more profoundly, to emotionally and intellectually connect that which is being achieved at places like Scotia with their own sense of’ well being’.

So for me any future project would probably have a number of general aims

1: Raising awareness that the issues AWC face – and are tackling intelligently and methodically – are universal – what we lose now is both an ‘experience deficit’ for future generations  (something we need to make the the GP acknowledge and care about)  – and ultimately something that will profoundly affect our health and wellbeing (mental and biophysical factors we typically care about more than things that clearly seem abstract to some, esp in cities, – eg  mammal biodiversity). 

2: Theming some kind of experiential work around the extraordinary experience of being in a biodiverse location such as Scotia – its often not enough to sit down with someone and tell them the facts – they need to experience something for themselves (either directly as I have albeit briefly there, or more realistically through other artistic approaches) –  and use  that as the springboard.

3: Thinking about how such work can ‘live through time’ so that its impact can contribute  to the longterm efforts of the kind of work AWC excels at. 

This underlines the importance that with everything we do we must better think ‘in and through’ time – just as you factor time/future planning into your conservation management decisions at the AWC – so must we all too in our daily lives – so that we can conserve/give back to our collective futures – rather than continually taking away from them. The ecological connections between remote sanctuaries such as yours and the concerns of urban and regional Australians needs to be somehow made clear!

So ..

What that means initially is two fold – As Joe knows –  Id like to come out this year again to Scotia soon – Im already working on an existing interactive installation project called Finitude (Mallee:Time) (I typically work in new media forms)  themed as you might expect from the title by the mallee – and Id like to spend some time at Scotia collecting sound and image and idea for that (That work will be shown in Mildura in September)

At that stage Id both of course pay any costs and also Id like to volunteer some labour too (maybe the mammal survey in May) – and through working with the scientists and people on the ground talk through some possibilities – in short Id like to do some of my own research which I will of course self fund –  but also be useful to the ground crew there – the more I experience the more I can understand how I might contribute.  Anyone else I could speak to about this in the AWC would also be helpful.

Once a clearer idea emerges – I can at my end then apply both for art-science style funding from Federal arts bodies – or through my part time role as a senior research fellow at QUT Creative Industries I could also apply feasibly for an ARC Linkage – which we cultural pratitioners (Working as artist-researchers) are now eligible for.  In these cases – working in partnership with a respected organisation like your own would I think really attract the funders – they like to see arts money being applied into ‘real world’ situations.

Ok – well let me know if this makes sense .. I hope to hear from you shortly 🙂