Photo credit: André Piguet
‘everything spring she said
being surrounded by so much rot’
Eileen Myles, Rotting Symbols, 1997
Consider a map with no edges, created on a one-to-one scale with the landscape it is charting—a map that encompasses the world. Or, the iconic image of the Earth suspended in space, known as the Blue Marble, which was taken by NASA astronauts in 1972. Marking the first time the fully illuminated face of the Earth had been seen and documented by a human, the photo generated a universalising rhetoric of global peace and environmental protection, emphasising the fragility of the planet in a vast darkness. At the same time, however, the distance inherent to this photo continues to reflect the impossibility of conceptualising the entirety of the Earth in one glance. Even as satellite imagery and Google Maps expand, fulfilling the absurd proposition of a map that exceeds its territory, our ability to comprehend the expansiveness of the global environment doesn’t necessarily increase. We are at once within our environment and outside it, detached and distracted.
everything spring is not about spring, although it is about the seasons, and the weather, and the environment around you. It is about the blurring of the seasons in an overheating world, with the underbelly of capital- ism supporting environmental destruction. It is about the spaces we occupy: the urban and constructed sites, built through colonial invasion and capitalist expansion, and the natural environment that is rapidly under- going global warming, rising sea levels, the bleaching of coral reefs, and drastic changes to weather.
Everything you experience is through the lens of your own consciousness. With your ‘self’ at the centre of the world, your emotions feed into the schizophrenic weather patterns we see now. In an essay entitled We Are the Weather, Brian Kuan Wood suggests, “Your feelings control the weather because on the one hand you are insane, and on the other hand because they actually do.”(1) We have entered a new geological epoch proposed as the Anthropocene (although the term and its starting point are continually being debated) (2), where human activity has caused climate change on a global scale. These threads bring up certain questions: how do you negotiate both the environment around you, and the broader environment; how do you manage to see the entirety of the world, and the rapid onset of climate change, from a limited perspective?
everything spring does not offer solutions to these questions, but can potentially offer ways of looking, and thinking about environment. The artists collected here all work with a sense of the environment around them. In the space of this building, natural materials coalesce with digital frames. Thea Jones’s work com- prises paper made from reconstituted eucalyptus leaves, suspended behind Perspex and held motionless
on the wall. The paper appears like museum specimens or archival documents—but an archive of plant material instead. Throughout the space you can hear the soundscape of the Merri Creek, amplified through the belly of Lucreccia Quintanilla’s ceramic conch shell. The artist recorded the sounds of the Creek on walks near her home, and collected introduced species of weeds to surround the shell, undertaking a process of documentation of her local environment.
These trajectories of walking and documenting are present throughout the exhibition. Mashara Wachjudy has documented the suburban architecture, gas cylinders and water tanks near her home in Sydney. The digital prints are supported with bamboo frames—the base of these fragile structures held with unfired clay, oyster shells and rice. Meanwhile, Noriko Nakamura’s vessels contain their own internal life span. Formed from cat hair, a wool moth has gradually decomposed one vessel, while gossamer webbing of mould grows over the other. The vessels sit lightly on and beside their limestone plinth, pockmarked with holes as though a worm has cruised through it.
Since the original Blue Marble image appeared, countless other variations have been composed from satel- lite images, but never again photographed by a human. Seeing the world from a perspective of surveillance has become standard. In Virginia Overell’s artificial scenes, the water and the sky become merged with the built structure, reflecting an eerie vision of future skyscrapers. Installed on an inverted canopy beneath the windows, the windows are reflected back onto the structure of the building. Positioned as a scoop, the works will collect the weather from the outside throughout the duration of the exhibition. Meanwhile, Ella Sowinska’s video performs an act of voyeuristic looking within an artificial environment. Filmed inside a tropical island resort built in an aircraft hangar outside Berlin, the video follows a guide leading a hot air balloon, surveying the environment below and the social dynamics in the constructed holiday space.
What these works hold in common is also what differentiates them from one another, through a loose thread of thinking about the environment in its manifold forms. These diverging perspectives resist a universal- ising concept of environment, but point to the social structures and cultural practices embedded within. If anything, they all provide an opportunity for looking, and for focusing on an aspect of the environment in a considered way.
1 Brian Kuan Wood, ‘We Are the Weather’ e-flux journal #45, May 2013.
2 T J Demos, Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today, Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2017.
We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people as the traditional custodians of this land, and pay our respects to elders both past and present. We further acknowledge that we are on stolen land and that sovereignty has never been ceded.