Sunday, August 14, 2011

Seeding the Cloud Treasury Gardens Melbourne

I recently presented Seeding The Cloud at CraftVictoria (as part of their Craft Cubed exhibition Material and extended an invitation for the public to participate in learning the process. We went out for a walk and ended up finding an incredible resource of plastic fragments in Treasury Gardens. It came as quite a surprise as the park appearsto be well maintained, however in amongst the mulch we found heaps. It would appear that
plastic is mixed in with the material that is put through the mulcher, such a pity, a bit of preliminary sorting could prevent this form of pollution from happening.

Anyhow, we managed to have a lovely time
walking, collecting, sorting and drilling in the park and mov
ed on to a cafe to thread the fragments together while having coffee and cake.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Plastic the next Geological layer!

Geologists press for recognition of Earth-changing 'human epoch'

Experts want the human imprint in the geological record to be acknowledged as a new epoch, the Anthropocene

These are epoch-making times. Literally. There is now "compelling evidence", according to an influential group of geologists, that humans have had such an impact on the planet that we are entering a new phase of geological time: the Anthropocene.

Millions of years from now, they say, alien geologists would be able to make out a human-influenced stripe in the accumulated layers of rock, in the same way that we can see the imprint of dinosaurs in the Jurassic, or the explosion of life that marks the Cambrian. Now the scientists are pushing for the new epoch to be officially recognised.

"We don't know what is going to happen in the Anthropocene," says geographer Professor Erle Ellis of the University of Maryland. "But we need to think differently and globally, to take ownership of the planet."

Anthropocene, a term conceived in 2002 by Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen, means "the Age of Man", recognising our species' ascent to a geophysical force on a par with Earth-shattering asteroids and planet-cloaking volcanoes. Geologists predict that our geological footprint will be visible, for example, in radioactive material from the atomic bomb tests, plastic pollution, increased carbon dioxide levels and human-induced mass extinction.

"Geologists and ecologists are already using the term 'Anthropocene', so it makes sense to have an accepted definition," says geologist Dr Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester. "But, in this unusual case, formal recognition of the epoch could have wider significance beyond the geology community. By officially accepting that human actions are having an effect on the makeup of the Earth, it may have an impact on, say, the law of the sea or on people's behaviour."

In the past, geological changes on a scale big enough to merit a new epoch have been the result of events such as the eruption of a supervolcano or a catastrophic meteor strike – things a lawyer might describe as acts of God. Now, instead of being just another one of the millions of species on our planet, humans have become the determining factor – the guiding, controlling species – and many of our changes will leave a permanent mark in the rocks.

The Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which is the body charged with formally designating geological time periods, met at Burlington House, London, last month, to discuss evidence for the planet having crossed into a new geological epoch.

The geological signal will be clear from industrial-scale mining, damming, deforestation and agriculture, as well as the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere and nitrates in the oceans. Even the presence of the first human-produced chemicals like PCBs, radioactive fallout and the humble plastic bag could be measured millions of years hence.

Putting humans at the centre of our planet's activity represents a paradigm shift in the way geologists usually think of our species – as a mere blip on the long timescale of Earth.

There have been seven epochs since the dinosaurs died out around 65m years ago. The last time we passed a geological boundary, entering the Holocene around 12,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, we were an insignificant species, just one of a couple of hominids struggling to survive in a world where so many of our cousins, like Homo erectus, had failed to make it.

Now our effect on the climate and our fellow species is having a global impact. "The fossil record will reveal a massive loss of plant and animal species, and also the scale of invasive species – how we've distributed animals and plants across the globe," Zalasiewicz says.

The working group still has some more evidence to gather before it presents its findings to the stratigraphy committee, "and then the real battle will commence", says Zalasiewicz. "These are slow, nit-picky debates, fraught with acrimony and issues of nationalism. Some members are very cautious and think it's premature to define the Anthropocene, because the Holocene has only been around for a short period in geological terms. Other epochs have lasted millions of years."

Others feel that the new epoch is upon us and we should come to terms with its implications for the planet. "We broke it, we bought it, we own it," Ellis says. "Now we've got to take responsibility for it."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

images of seeding the cloud on the body

I am working through the design of an instruction booklet in preparation for more extensive public interaction with the project. Recently I was fortunate to have documentation taken of the process in action by the generous and very talented photographer Alison Bennett. She also took some great images of the test piece being worn.
I love the way Alison captured this work on the body. It always feels a bit risky when you hand your work over to a photographer (well to anyone actually) as you can never be sure how they will interpret it. I loved the way Alison worked with this piece, placing it around the body covering the back and front, almost as if the body were a landscape to be chartered in itself, such an intelligent response.
The work is modeled by Alison's daughter Mieke who was totally cool and gorgeous. She didn't seem to blink an eyelid at the proposition of wearing something a bit weird and made from..... well rubbish.
The piece is quite dynamic when worn, it makes a beautiful sound - sorry no sound file!
Have a look at more of Alison's work here

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Seeding the Cloud was referred to in a paper presented by Dr Damian Skinner at the recent SNAG conference in America. His paper received some coverage on this blog and i was thrilled to see my work had made an impact!

The Dr. is In – Damian Skinner @ SNAG Seattle

Dr. Damian Skinner (editor Art Jewelry Forum blog, writer, curator) headed off the afternoon of SNAG Seattle Day 2, following the captivating talks by Glenn Adamson and Lola Brooks quite well with his “All the World Over: Ambitions of Contemporary Jewelry“. You may recognize him from The Pocket Guide to New Zealand Jewelryexhibition and catalog that had it’s US debut in 2010, or his various articles on In this presentation he quotes largely from Peter Dormer and Ralph Turner (writers of The New Jewelry: Trends and Traditions) on locality vs. universality of contemporary jewelry.
Europe vs USA This image says it all, I love how crude but effective it is. Basically, jewelry from Europe is regarded as the International standard for Contemporary Jewelry, whereas American jewelry is not held in such high esteem and is by the rest of the world only referred to by locality as “American Contemporary Jewelry”. How do we feel about this? “Liberation occurs when you destroy the hierarchy”, Skinner remarks.
The Human NecklaceIn the “New Jewelry Movement” (in which we find ourselves now) there is an ongoing critique of preciousness that allows for a deeper engagement with society. As with Australian jeweler, Roseanne Bartley, her “surface archeology” work repurposing found items, such as in her “Human Necklace” (photo, left), where people became the structure of jewelry shapes in public places. The notion of a jewelry piece solely existing for a small blip of time, only to live on in the photographic form, recurs often over the course of this conference.

Roseanne Bartley Seeding the Cloud
Roseanne Bartley’s Seeding the Cloud

Her “Seeding the Cloud” acts of walking about town, tools in hand, making jewelry from discarded materials she finds along the way, “demonstrates the potential of jewellery to counterbalance the increasing physical isolation of contemporary life in info-hubs” ( She is endearingly coined a “neighborly ornament”. This leading into my favorite quote by Damian, one that I truly believe and would like to see more of:

“The Greatest Art is created when there is no boundary between art and community.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

Working on Site

Finally getting around to posting a few images of the process in situ. The beauty of this work is that it seems it can be done just about anywhere. This first image is taken in a national park camping ground on the east coast of Australia and the material i am working with is collected from around the surrounding empty camp sites.

This one is of my sister in law Rita who joined in on the project for a day alongside the Cooks river. We didn't have to walk far that day as there was plenty of material to work with.

I have started to invite people to join me in the process and we meet at their house and trial the project in their neighbourhood.

This the lovely Tiff in a sunny park in Brunswick.

We ended up having some lunch in a Cafe and used garden area as a work space for the afternoon.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

little piles of plastic

Not long after I began Seeding the Cloud i came across these images depicting the skeletal remains of Laysan albatross chicks who fed on a diet of plastic starve to death.(Copyright Chris Jordan images from the series titled Midway: Message from the Gyre2009 After the soft tissue decomposes the remaining bones and feathers of the chicks frame a pile of ingested plastic fragments. These images were taken at the Marine and Wildlife Park on Midway Atoll, a small land mass in the North Pacific Ocean located in an area where oceans converge known as the North Pacific Gyre or Convergence Zone. Petroleum based plastics are insoluble and create a toxic marine pollutant. Initially they concentrate in the pelagic zone (floating near the surface) and mimic in colour and size wildlife food sources thus undermining the viability of many marine and bird species known to feed in the area. The loss of generations of Albatross is a direct result of human action and inaction – their death primarily a result of poor waste management and a lack of public interest/imagination in establishing counteractive measures. This environmental problem occurs in international waters and current political inaction is a direct result of out of sight out of mind.

When I view these images there is evidence of a collection process that while it occurs at the other end of the moral spectrum in a perverse way reflects something of my own. Obviously there is a differing and more tragic outcome but as I collect and process the fragments of plastic I have a sense of connection to an event or issue that extends well beyond myself.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

step by step

Here's a brief description of the STC working procedure:

I begin by going for a walk – it’s more of an amble, my pace is slow so that I can scan the terrain for fragments of hard plastic.

I wander, along main roads through suburban streets down lane ways, across playgrounds, train lines, car parks and sporting grounds ...

I often take my dog for company, although lately I invited a friend or two to join me.

I carry with me a prepared pack of hand tools – hand drill, scribe, a woodenwedge with a hook attached, G Clamp, a wooden block with screws drilled into the top, silk thread, threading needles, pearlescent plastic beads.

As a wander I collect fragments of hard plastic

Run over chopped up, swept into crevices and corners as they break down fragments tend to evade all mechanical methods of rubbish removal.

The only way to remove them is to pick them up by hand.

I pause at intervals along the way.

Usually at bus stops, park benches or other forms of public architecture. I carry tools to clamp on or wedge in to adapt these spaces as a temporary workstation.

I sort, drill and thread the found plastic with pearlescent beads. I repeat this process until I have gathered and threaded a necklace length of plastic fragments. The time it takes and the distance I travel is dependent on the amount of material I find.

I repeat the procedure Walking, collecting, drilling and threading. Over time I create a string of beaded fragments.

Upon my return I add it onto an intricately bejeweled looping matrix that can be read or interacted with as a wearable object or as cartographic trace of my engagement with matter, time and site.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

seeding the clouds

A few years ago I heard Australian of the year Scientist Tim Flannery discuss global warming. He outlined several science-based solutions, one of which involved propelling sulphur particles into the atmosphere creating a protective shield to promote cooling of the planet.

While I admire Flannery's advocacy on climate change the scale of human intervention into the environment he proposed came as a shock to me. While clearly thinking on a global scale the sulphur solution seemed to suggest that Flannery, and by extension science, held no faith in the ability of humanity to work collectively towards solutions for living sustainably on the planet.

Confronted by apocalyptic science and failing political leadership I noted the way solutions are constructed are subject to our field of expertise or power base. I was compelled to think through my own area of practice and began to explore the conceptual, material and social potential of jewellery as a structure through which to invite public engagement with the larger issues of our time. Its idealistic I know, but why should the scientists get all the fun!

Seeding the Cloud: A Walking Work in Process is a project I have been developing over the last 12 months. The design of the project was drawn from my experience of creating interactive/performative works that reflected upon the symbolic language of jewellery and making wearable objects from discarded material collected from the urban environment.

The work is initiated in walking, and the experience is deepened through observing, collecting and processing residual fragments of hard plastic. Initially performed as a solo work I have begun to develop its potential as a civic work that can be taken up by individuals or small groups anywhere/anytime in neighbourhoods around the world. My hope is that with time the project will help us to recalibrate an understanding of the individual vs public need, waste matter vs resource material, land value vs habitat etc

My intention with this blog is to document the project, it may appear as if it proceeds with a linear momentum but this has more to do with my inability in HTML design. Hopefully it will unravel as a series of ideas and experiences, wanderings that first occured and held meaning in my neighbourhood and hopefully continue in the direction where they are taken up and engaged with in yours.

Please comment and contact me if you are interested in participating.

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