Each month one of our Directors chooses an art.earth member to become ‘Artist of the Month’. What follows is a conversation with that artist, together with some examples of his or her work.
This month’s selected artist is Antique Goldenberg, selected by Richard Povall (November 2018).
What are you currently working on?
I am in the early stages of a Doctorate of Visual Art (DVA) at Queensland College of the Arts, Griffith University in Australia. My DVA Research LIVING WATER: the ocean stretched, is focused on the connective and transformative properties of water and the affective nature of our relationship to it. Most recently, together with fellow DVA candidate Claire Tracey, I have been working on an initiative of Brisbane City Council, an environmental Public Art Work in the Boondall Wetlands, Moreton Bay, Brisbane. The impetus behind this project is the celebration of a 20-year Affiliation Agreement between Brisbane and the Narashino Wetlands in Japan, a global partnership dedicated to the protection of these habitats. Our brief was to engage with the local community to raise awareness of how vital the wetlands are for the survival of the migratory birds who visit Australia annually, flying thousands of miles along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.
The biggest threats to migratory birds are urban development and pollution. As these birds travel the same routes north and south every year, any damage or reduction to their habitats severely affects their wellbeing and numbers. As the starting point for our proposal we applied the concept of MOOP – Matter Out Of Place. In this project, MOOP pollutants we identified were plastic bottles and weeds in the environment. Human introduced plastic directly impacts the wellbeing of shorebirds and the health of the wetlands, and so through community engagement more than 1000 plastic bottles were collected from the area. When considering the design of the sculpture and community engagement program we realised it was important to have an innovative recycling focus when using the bottles to create 228 unique birds in flight. These birds have been installed in three groups or Flocksacross three sites in the Bay. These sites were chosen following consultation with the Queensland Waders Study Group as the last thing we wanted to do was negatively impact the shorebirds. The plastic bottle birds hover above the water and wetlands atop 3 metre steel rods, turning and swaying with the forces of the wind and tide. Small solar powered units in each bird light the flock each night, continuing the visual and kinetic activation of the sites with the public passers-by. Our intention is for the birds to act as place markers for the shorebirds’ territory, and for the public artwork to encourage conversations, questions and connection with this precious environment.
One of the areas of my practice is papermaking, an ancient process born in water using plant fibre, and thus intimately connected to the environment. By using locally sourced weeds that Bush Regeneration Volunteers had cleared by hand from the Boondall Wetlands, we incorporated weeds as the second example of MOOP and human affect in the project. We held a number of papermaking workshops at local schools as well as one with the Japanese delegates who came over for the official launch of the sculpture. The weed paper has a wonderful fibrous quality to it, the colour of the wetlands themselves, and sheets of it will be interleaved into an artist book to be given as a gift at the end of the project. A magical transformation occurs when making something by hand, as the children got into the process dipping their hands into the fibrous pulp and plunging the deckle and mold into the bath of fibre to slowly pull a sheet of paper, concentrating carefully as they transferred the paper to the table to dry. This focus on materiality has been of utmost importance to the concept, as the use of locally collected plastic and weeds materially grounds the project to the site and to the community.
The feedback we have received for the project so far has been robust, supportive and engaged, prompting conversations we had hoped for both online and in person as to the impact of humans on the environment and the fragility of this habitat for the visiting birds.
The core of my DVA research is an ongoing investigation into water, particularly the connection between polar ice melt and local severe weather events as a narrative for climate change and affect. I have long used melting ice and references to glacial melt in my work, and in October 2017 I was fortunate to have been selected for the Arctic Circle Residency, where I joined 29 other creative and environmentally focussed explorers for three weeks in the High Arctic, sailing through the Territory of Svalbard. This voyage was a field trip for me where I gathered data in the form of melted ice diaries, glacial graphite frottages, digital imagery and sound. I was also able to make small experiments with papermaking using melted arctic ice. However, I think the deepest thoughts and ideas I have taken away from this incredible experience have come out of the reconnection I felt with the ocean, and how, being in this landscape together, feeling the wonder and sorrow together, has tied me to my fellow voyagers in a profound shared bond.
Earlier that year, before I headed north to the Arctic, Cyclone Debbie hit our shores and we experienced severe flooding locally. I was reluctant to take the path of documenting the destruction, the piles of ruined belongings, wasted goods, a mountain of destroyed resources destined for the tip. This approach felt intrusive, personal, raw, and lacking in hope. Instead, I was drawn to the material of floodwater and the patterns emerging post flood, which I felt illustrated possibility and growth. I was curious to see how, using the material of floodwater, I could draw a connection between the remoteness of arctic melt and the closeness of this severe weather event, to ponder the reality of the cycle of affect where local choices affect distant events affect local …
I made a number of works using the muddy floodwater collected at the time, to inform and transform other materials, in particular paper. One such body of work Remoulding the Landscape, installed large scale suspended paper works with an overlaid projection. Selected pieces from this work have had a few ongoing iterations as an installation at the Newcastle University Narratives of Climate Change Symposium, as well as being included in the QCA programme for this year’s sustainability week. A central piece from Remoulding the Landscape is a ‘flood biosphere’. A small tank half filled with flood water contained within a perspex cover. Over time the mud within the water settles forming a desolate landscape in the bottom of the tank. A scum then forms on the surface of the water as microbes respond to this new environment. The responsive nature of the work to its immediate environment results in an ongoing development, a work that ‘draws’ itself.
This application of an aleatoric methodology – where a process initiated by myself then allows chance or random events to enter into the development of the work, is what drives my curiosity. My hypothesis is that working in partnership with the materials and environment rather than trying to exert control over them, results in exciting and innovative outcomes which hold integrity with their surroundings.
My next steps are to bring the two direct experiences of polar ice and floodwater together. I have been exploring various different media as ways to share some of the ideas to come out of this residency, such as largescale papermaking and digital imagery using floodwater and ice melt to disrupt the initial compositions. I am also working on a series of artist books which will incorporate the scroll like frottage drawings, some of which were made collaboratively with other Arctic Residency participants.
What would you say are the primary motivations for your work?
By drawing on life experiences, my research is a phenomenological approach to understanding the essence of our relationship to water and our environment, I am motivated to search for ways to better understand and so hopefully improve this.The key concepts I work with are water, connection, the aleatoric, affect, and partnership. I am intrigued by the paradoxical nature of this vital element and our relationship to this substance which is of central importance to our existence, alongside our mutual affect, both personally and through the lens of the Anthropocene. As I progress in my research I find I am motivated to produce work that invites thought and personal responsibility, hope and kindness.
Earlier this year I wrote the following which I hope contextualises the inspiration I derive from water:Throughout my life I have lived on or near water. My relationship to the ocean is visceral, the smell of the sea hits my gut sending a bolt of recognition and memory whenever it reaches my nostrils. Coming from a long line of sailors I learned to sail at a young age and our family holidays were always water based. As a wandering adult I spent many years living on a yacht, sailing across oceans with my husband and our children. We quickly came to understand that when you live on the ocean you either develop a close, respectful relationship with the nature of this powerful environment, or you ignore it at your peril. Sailing in remote areas in the 1990s, and early 2000s, the evidence of human waste and consumption became more and more visible. Flotsam and jetsam littered once clean beaches, corals were dying and the fish we caught for our food became scarcer. I remember as a child having a clear, unequivocal sense that the number of fish in the oceans of the world was limitless. My experience just 30 years later demonstrated that this was no longer the case.
Aboard ship, our relationship with fresh water was a matter of survival. Our yacht was small, and our water tanks limited and so devising methods of collecting rainwater became vitally important. The way we used fresh water was an important part of daily life: washing dishes and ourselves in saltwater first, only rinsing in fresh, conserving water for drinking and cooking, filtering water for cleanliness, especially important if filling our tanks from a shore supply.
This life required us to learn to live in partnership with the sea and the weather to achieve the best outcomes. We came to understand that we were not able to control our environment, and to be complacent about our water supply was dangerous arrogance. The result of living in such intimate proximity with the elements enabled us to learn much about the physical properties and natural laws that govern this planet. We also came to appreciate the unforeseen opportunities offered by the inevitable random and chance events that frequently changed the course of our voyage, forcing us to learn to adapt.
Artists or anyone else who has had a profound effect on you
Not surprisingly, I am drawn to artists who work with water such as Roni Horn, Tania Kovats, Spencer Finch, Amy Sharrocks and Olafur Eliasson. It is not only the materiality of their work that inspires me, it is their ability to take a complex subject and reduce it to deceptively simple and elegant ideas and outcomes that draw the viewer in, capturing their imagination. Hearing Amy talk at this year’s Liquidscapes conference was a highlight for me.
I am also inspired by artists who employ a material-thinking, meditative approach to their practice such as Lindy Lee, Andy Goldsworthy and Charwei Tsai. These are artists who appear to be comfortable with the aleatoric approach, where they work in partnership with their materials to allow their physical properties and the environment they are working in lead them to the final outcome.
Most indigenous cultures embody a deep respect and knowledge for the land, I am particularly indebted to indigenous artists of the Far Western Desert for the inspiration for the overarching and ongoing theme of my research: LIVING WATER, having developed works under LIVING WATER: the ice shivered 2012, LIVING WATER: the river hid2014, and now LVING WATER: the ocean stretched.
Ecological land artists such as John Davis, Michelle Stuart and Robert Smithson have informed my sense of process and time in making work.
Environmentalist David Suzuki’s parable, the 59thminute, strongly influenced my early understanding of the possibilities of the overlap of science and the arts. His pure application of maths to the bleak outcome of overpopulation prompted clear visual imagery for me.
Philip Hatfield’s comprehensive anthology of North Pole exploration: Lines in the Ice: exploring the roof of the world,has been a source of valuable information and ideas.
The letters of Björk and Timothy Morton gave me poetic and philosophical nourishment.
Some references I have found interesting:
19th Sydney Biennale. “Roni Horn.” https://www.biennaleofsydney.com.au/19bos/artists/horn/.
Artangel. “Roni Horn, Vatnasafn / Library of Water.” https://www.artangel.org.uk/project/library-of-water/.
Ault, Julie. “Moving Water: The Flow of Roni Horn.” In Roni Horn: Everything Was Sleeping as If the Universe Were a Mistake, 110-45. Barcelona: Premi Joan Miró, 2013.
Bergson, Henri, Daniel Birnbaum, Olafur Eliasson, Madeleine Grynstejn, and Michael Speaks, eds.Olafur Eliasson. 5 ed. London, UK: Phaidon Press Ltd, 2008.
Björk’s letters with Timothy Morton https://www.dazeddigital.com/music/gallery/20196/2/bjork-s-letters-with-timothy-morton
Cross, Susan, ed. Spencer Finch. The Brain Is Wider Than the Sky. New York, NY: DelMonico Books, 2016.
Duxbury, Lesley. “Breath-Taking: Creating Artistic Visualisations of Atmospheric Conditions to Evoke Responses to Climate Change.” Local-Global10(2012): 34-45. https://mams.rmit.edu.au/935hrt45xgu7z.pdf.
Gooley, Tristan.How to Read Water. Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea. St. Ives: Sceptre, 2017.
Hatfield, Philip J. Lines in the Ice: Exploring the Roof of the World. London: The British Library, 2016.
Helmrich, Michele. Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom. Brisbane: UQ Art Museum, 2014.
Kovats, Tania. Drawing Water: Drawing as a Mechanism for Exploration. Edinburgh: The Fruitmarket Gallery, 2014.
May, Susan. “Olafur Eliasson the Weather Project.” Tate, https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/exhibition/unilever-series-olafur-eliasson-weather-project/olafur-eliasson-weather-project.
McCall, Anthony. “Anthony Mccall. Lightworks.” edited by Museum of Old and New Art for MOFO. Hobart: Museum of Old and New Art, 2015. Exhibition catalogue.
National Gallery of Victoria. “John Davis Presence.” edited by David Hurlston. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2010. Exhibition catalogue.
Ngarrindjeri Tendi, Ngarrindjeri Heritage Committee, and Ngarrindjeri Native Title Management Committee. “Ngarrindjeri Nation Sea Country Plan.” Camp Coorong, Meningie, South Australia: Ngarrindjeri Land and Progress Association, 2006.
Tsai, Charwei Circle 1 Video 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QYy3O2yS4E