Art-Science Dialogues @ AWC Kalamurina..

Filed under Residency 3: Kalamurina SA, Uncategorized

Building on the last post, it reminds me of asking my son what he did at school today – the conversation doesn’t start well there – it starts more richly over shared activity – sitting in the 4WD on the way back from a survey, as we are digging in a pit fall trap, over coffee (needing a few with the 4.45am starts).. a chance to speak a little about my own research perspectives and ways of doing things – as a means for understanding crossovers and permeations.

NB – with our eye on the sources of crashing biodiversity here ., the pics are all of feral animals caught on ‘camera traps’ mostly in infra red light – we have about 50 cameras on site I think .. (some beauties – see the dingo with the feral cat in its mouth) – All these images are by courtesy of AWC Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary station manager Mark McClaren.

Dingo secures the scourge of Australia, the feral cat .. Image Kalamurina Station Manager, Mark McClaren

Over time I begin to think about the processes we have been going through – and with a fully bonded team working together closely – we all get a pretty good sense of each other – that’s something that works so well out here – there is a low key sense of each others space, a shared respect due to lots of proximity and the fact that we are all so remote and therefore absolutely co-dependent.

Slowly I begin to see the culture of the surveying that is underway – the population sampling – particularly in this case of the long haired (or plague) rat (which is in gross abundance throughout every kind of environment – riverine, far from water, gibber, dry shrubland – everywhere you look there are the burrows – feet collapsing into the dunes due to their runways).

This was once your house cat?, now living in the Simpson.. Image AWC Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary, Mark McClaren

I go back to my original question – the purpose of the whole project ..

“Whilst AWC is taking a clear, national leadership role in helping to stop and reverse this tide of extinctions the problems we face are both ‘cultural’ as well as ‘technical’. To effect long term change we need to foment a cultural shift in thinking to recognise the threats facing us and provide impetus to effectively action them. Arguably, the possibility for such fundamental change lies in the hybrid space between science and culture, and so it is here, through this new interdisciplinary collaboration, that as scientists and artists we will work together towards achieving these common interests.”

This leads me to imagine asking a team of researchers to undertake an ‘opportunistic cultural survey’ at a time and place that suits them (everyone is busy – its important I respect this and dont slow their processes) – and so – just as we do opportunistic bird or vegetation surveys (or Mulgara scats, rats droppings, dingo turds, hair, DNA) as we go through the pitfall trapping processes – why not therefore opportunistic cultural surveys?

White Dingo Male, AWC Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary, Station Manager, Mark McClaren

And so – having re-introduced the (Re-introduction) project one evening in our regular gatherings after dinner .. I deliver a targeted artist talk to give everyone some perspective on where I’m coming for. And having explained the purpose again the survey is handed out .. with a significant pre-amble so everyone is clear of who I am, what the purpose is and the ethics of the survey , with particular note to the anonymisation of the data.

And so everything here is involved with the catch, the trap, the recording of very particular characteristics (ie for rats weight, PES (foot length), sex, DNA (ear sample)) or for insects simply numbers (beetles, bugs, scutigera, scorpions ..): so my thinking was to design a survey about failing to be trapped – starting loosely with all the things that can go wrong with a pitfall line (fence too high/broken, traps not camoflaged etc – also playing with all the ideas, things and processes that bind us on a daily basis – as, I explain, as a means for trying to get us to each speak about what we might not easily be able to say – to extract parts of the unspoken from a vast databank of ecological relational knowledge that literally hums in these teams!

So I choose a cultural pitfall (coming ahead – that we need to avoid) that everyone can understand: “Crashing Biodiversity”.

The survey pre-amble/design states ..

Thank you for participating in the ‘Pitfall-Pre-emption’ trapping survey. This survey is phase 1 of the ‘Re-Introduction’ Project (2012-13) – a year long art-science project instigated by Keith Armstrong in collaboration with Matt Hayward and the AWC. and supported by the Australian Network for Art and Technology and the Australia Council For the Arts.

The project aims to build long term partnerships between ecological science and the arts in the joint pursuit of sustainable and sustaining futures. Ideas will be developed collaboratively during 16 weeks of active on the ground volunteer service across multiple AWC properties. During this time I will undertake on the ground research to later design powerful new ‘images’ (in the form of experimental publically exhibited artworks) that stimulate thinking and action around sustaining futures.

and continues..

A pitfall is an unapparent source of trouble or danger; a hidden hazard: Today we all face, or will soon be facing ecological pitfalls of many kinds: Crashing biodiversity is just one.
This ‘opportunistic survey’ is about pre-empting these pitfalls ahead and considering diverse strategies for avoiding them. Your task as a survey team member is to playfully record your thoughts on this ‘pitfall pre-emption and avoidance’.

The AWC’s practical on the ground, science-based conservation strategy is a remarkable, ambitious example of doing what needs to be done in the face of this crisis.
The ecological problems we face today are mostly human-created. Therefore, ecological problems require both scientific AND cultural solutions. What happens here (in thought and action) at the AWC could therefore have much to teach others.

The pitfall pre-emption ‘survey’ records snippets from your storehouse of scientific and cultural knowledge in ways that are playful, open and relatively free of constraints – but ultimately directed to our common purpose.

SO ..
Please fill in your ‘opportunistic cultural survey’ – at a time (or times) you choose here at Kala. In order to draw upon what you know but cant necessarily ‘say’ you are licenced re-interpret the questions. Move beyond the literal wherever you feel comfortable. No answer/response is right or wrong, good or bad – and the outcomes may be wonderfully unpredictable. NB If you work separately then we may well get a broader spread of data.

For this first survey the declared ecological pitfall is “Crashing Biodiversity “

Further responsive surveys may be announced before we leave .
For the ‘survey period’ you will record your mood, and then your ideas and thoughts around avoiding being ‘trapped’ by this pitfall.

Feral cat caught on night camera trap: Foxes, cats, weeds, herbivores - crashing biodiversity incarnate, Image AWC Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary, Manager Mark McClaren

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