ISEA2011 PANEL Crisis Narrative of Landscape

Chair: Dr. Lisa Anderson
2nd Chair: Josephine Starrs

This panel explores multi-dimensional works that interact and explore the narratives of damaged landscapes -urban and outback scars found on and within the structures of land and architecture and scars related to the movement of peoples. The speakers will present their artworks developed from the evidence of weather shifts that are woven through various forms, including personal documentary-style images, GPS data and satellite imagery.

These artworks use images of the earth’s surface to explore narratives of potential futures. Within past and present actions can be found a future that revels within the sense of belonging. The future could be based within a continuing paradigm or shift into greater understandings of new and ancient technologies that shift our potential for creating and investing in a future visible world. The projected images and context expand the premise that tapping into the narrative of place reveals an understanding of a future plan. This element begins to question and push the science of weather, the land and the movement of peoples to a frisson, wherein may lie a new approach.

Dr. Lisa Anderson, Josephine Starrs and Leon Cmielewski have all worked with Lake Mungo in the remote Australian outback and have drawn together some of these quests to look more closely at the implications of story in place. Dr. Anderson and Joni Taylor have both explored the elements of collision of the urban landscape against a wilder life,  that takes the city back at any opportunity. Dr. Anderson created Night Snow which explores the shifts of animals into the villages within the High Arctic and compares these stories to those of drought affected cities in Australia. Joni Taylor considers a shift in our architectural relationship to the wild to develop an academic understanding and smart world approach to the concept of architecture, to create an architecture that encompasses the changes in weather and movements of populations, in order to establish aware city surfaces and enclosures.

The panel will explore a range of factors to feed into an understanding of a future that is a brave new world architecture, that protects from the void, that inserts into this a possibility for a genuine story of place to guide/inform projects. The spectatorship understanding of past engagements includes the notions of national parks and wild life as outsider events and a pioneering approach to architecture.

The speakers seek to integrate narratives of land, architecture and urban movements to focus on the problems posed by the culture/nature divide. The future is inherent within this form of visual understanding and draws on the very different elements that concern these artists. They explore the social agenda of difference, imbedded within the question asked by the landscape works of the Qing Dynasty – Am I in Nature or is Nature in Me?
Incompatible Elements
Josephine Starrs,  Leon Cmielewski

Incompatible Elements is an ongoing project that evolved during an artist residency at Performance Space, Carriageworks, Sydney in 2009. The media art installation explores ways of representing the relationship between nature and culture, embedding poetic texts into animated satellite images of global landscapes at particular risk from climate change.

Starrs & Cmielewski engage in a kind of digital geochemistry, terraforming new waterways and barren patches of sand that tell stories in winding, cursive script. – excerpt from the catalogue essay for Incompatible Elements :  Bec Dean, Performance Space, Sydney, 2010.
The Changing Narrative of Landscape
Lisa Anderson

Extreme elements of weather,  in ongoing interactions with the environment, form a narrative of the landscape that Dr. Lisa Anderson has explored through references to past associations of place.  It is a story created by cultural and weather interactions. The shifts explored detail past tales and magic, past weather events and future possibilities – the stories of these events lead to the formation of new architecture, identity, culture and landforms. The project shinyshinycloud documents, questions and plays with our relationship to the environment and has formed the basis for several residencies and international fellowship/visiting artist programs that Dr. Lisa Anderson has undertaken.

Can a place change its story through the current series of world crises of weather extremes such as tsunami, floods, drought and temperature shifts? New technology, old world stories and a deeper understanding will be needed to account for these extreme shifts and loss of identity;  what will be needed to create new identities and new stories on a global level must be derived from the past amalgamation of identity, culture, and architecture otherwise there is the risk that the movement of people, because of these events over time will slap back at many past colonial countries.

In 2007, Dr. Anderson was the artist-in-residence on the Kapitan Khlebnicov, a working Russian icebreaker on expedition through the Northwest Passage and beyond – to Inuit communities, science/weather stations and the last point of contact for the High Arctic. Her film work, drawings, recordings, paintings and a video installation,  The Truth About Snodomes (included in several international curatorial programs) push into our ideas about place and extreme environment shifts – causing and shifting identity.  Several of the sculptural forms, with inlaid texts and images, were created using paper made with a group of artists working out of the art/activist group Farmlab located in Los Angeles. (Their project is to plant wild seeds in the cracks in the concrete of the city to literally break down the structure of the city and return to nature. The paper was made from these plantings.)

Further residencies in Paris and London have allowed Dr. Anderson to develop the idea of ownership of space through the markers created. The images of the statues in the Jardin des Tuileries of Paris and the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum push the sense of belonging and story into the patriotic boundaries set up by ownership and political will over the environment.

The shinyshinycloud project traveled to Central Java to Borobudur, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to create a narrative of this site – a site contested by religions that is undergoing reclamation and renovation. (Borobudur has also recently experienced further changes as a result of volcanic eruptions and fallen ash.)

The shinyshinycloud project has involved several residencies with Redgate Studios in Beijing to explore issues of modernization in the movement of populations in China, such as the collapse of the traditional hutong neighborhood in Beijing, in favor of dwellings that reflect western individuality (within a structure that is constantly under pressure from the winds of dirt from the deserts that Beijing is built on).

Finally,  in the sand:bone:clay installations and images of the Australian outback, the anecdotes and personal gestures of the local people are mixed with the stream of consciousness of the isolated yet burgeoning magic of these sites.

These works and other installation works developed with the shinyshinycloud project have been shown in international platforms; they will be discussed within the contested notions of the narrative crisis of environment and brought together for an online gallery of video works/images during the ISEA2011 conference.
Landslide – a New Urban Ecology
Joni Taylor

The paper will address how the Australian landscape continually forces its way back into the built environment.  It will attempt to examine how a new urban ecology can be nurtured, an ecology that does not define separate spaces for nature in addition to the built environment, but one that embraces these wild ecosystems as part of its own workings. In Australia these dynamic forces have come to include the now increasing cycles of fire, flood and extreme weather conditions. Similarly, the already vital flora and fauna within our cities need to be preserved and not eradicated. By utilising new technologies, can buildings exist in harmony with rising floodwaters, and architecture be in sync with the annual bushfires or migratory patterns of birds? The paper will examine how future urban design can incorporate the wild and the untamed, making cities open to adaptation, time and contingency.  The current urban condition bears witness to a future where the acts of human design, be they via architecture or infrastructure, often contribute further to resource depletion and pollution. Similarly, the push towards carbon neutral skyscrapers and eco-friendly architecture often fails to constructively cultivate environmental conditions that are already present.

In the blurry haze of utopia and dystopia, should the crisis not be averted, but adapted for a new futurology?
Bios of the Participants
Leon Cmielewski and Josephine Starrs are Australian artists whose video and new media works have been shown extensively in Australia and internationally. They have created numerous projects including Seeker an installation that explores issues of migration, territorial boundaries, conflict commodities and human displacement. Seeker won an Award of Distinction in Interactive Art from the 2007 Prix Ars Electronica, Austria. Cmielewski and Starrs have been invited to participate in several international residency programs including Banff, Canada 1998, Sarai, New Delhi, India, 2006 and Future Lab, Linz, Austria, 2009. Cmielewski lectures at the School of Communication Arts, University of Western Sydney, Starrs is a Senior Lecturer and Chair of Film & Digital Art at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.
Joni Taylor is a researcher and curator with a focus on the urban environment. She is a founding member of the international art group Free Soil. She has been the recipient of grants from the Australia Council and ANAT, and scholarships from the Goethe Institute and the APA. She worked in Berlin for five years as a journalist and has written extensively for publications including Realtime, Artichoke, POLoxygen, DAMN and Landscape Architecture Australia, and contributed book chapters on architecture, locative media and land art.  She organised the Urban Transformations roundtable discussion series DIY Urbanism and Wildlife in the City at the Performance Space and an Urban Wildlife Safari for the MCA exhibition In the Balance: Art for a Changing World. In 2009 she organised the conference Sculpture in Public (and Not so Public) Space at the AGNSW.  She was co-director of the Electrofringe Media Arts Festival in 2001 and 2002. In her own work she aims to present radical ways of envisioning and responding to our landscapes. She earned a degree in Art History and Theory from University of New South Wales, College of Fine Art (COFA) in 1996 and is currently undertaking a Masters of Research on utopian city design.
Dr. Lisa Anderson is and artist with an international practice working across media and collaborating with others to create performative events and projection and sound works. These installations have been shown at venues including the St. Tropez Film Festival, the Cite Internationale Des Arts in Paris, Wagga Wagga Regional Gallery, Artscape in Australia, SXS in Denmark and also elements have been exhibited in Beijing, Amsterdam and London. They include IVU, a Perspex sculpture and multichannel video installation, The Truth About Snodomes, a paper work and single screen and sound work, and Precious, a large scale light and sound work located in beachside sand dunes. These works form part of the shinyshinycloud projects that explore the beauty of the apocalypse due to weather and people/animal movements, in places such as the High Arctic, Central Java, the Scottish Highlands, the Australian outback and various city locations such as Paris, Beijing and London.

Dr. Anderson’s doctoral submission entitled, Memory Salvage and Invention: the Collision and Collusion of Public Archive and Personal Anecdote in Public Art was the first study to place the experience of the artist as core to the creation of commissioned public art, with a brief that explores community. Specifically she was the first artist in residence at the Australian Museum and to create a War Memorial work for a community.

Dr. Anderson was recently Visiting Scholar and is the Innovation Fellow in Architecture at the University of Technology, Sydney and has previously undertaken Fellow research projects with the University of Wollongong Creative Arts.


Posted by:  Ebru Surek