Speaking With the River  |  LabX - 10 March - 2 May 2021

An art/science exhibition curated by the LabX environmental arts group at Southern Cross University. Featuring the work of artists, scientists and historians from the Northern Rivers region and beyond, the exhibition explores an understanding of rivers and river systems as complex environmental, social, cultural, spiritual and economic phenomena.

Exhibiting artists - Rob Garbutt, Grayson Cooke, Amanda Reichelt-Brushett, Frances Belle Parker, Annique Goldenberg, Jo Kijas, Adele Wessell, and Marcus Ferguson.

The spirit of exuberant chaos and fluctuation 2021

48 Handmade watermarked sheets of paper, strip LED lights.

A moment in time 2021

3.5 min Projection onto etched acrylic - Duck Creek

1/6

Swamp - an ecological wonder

unseen

unknown

unruly

a place of possibility

 

Unique ecosystems, swamps are intimately linked to rivers. They have the capacity to reduce floods, mitigate drought, clean polluted water, control erosion, and provide shelter for fish stocks, animals, and plants. In balance with human needs, they can provide food and water for livestock and places of recreation and wonder.

At the time of settlement, however, the swamp was seen as an inconvenience by the settlers, a diseased wasteland, a place to be cleared, controlled, and used. The Traditional Owners’ knowledge was not understood but rather was ignored and overridden as the swamp was cleared and extensively drained. This misguided belief in an ability to control water and land in the name of progress led to extreme degradation of the swamp, deeply affecting its flora, fauna, water, and soil.

In 1915 the final tracts of Crown Land in the Tuckean Swamp, alongside Richmond River, were advertised by ballot - 48 small homesteads offering the potential for a new life.  The offer was eagerly taken up, but instead of a fertile opportunity many of the homesteaders wrestled with poor soil, high salinity, extreme drought, and flood.

In response to the ballot, 48 sheets of handmade paper have been made slowly, using sugar-cane, cow dung, native plants, and swamp water. The watermarked numbers were placed by allowing the force of the water involved in the process to flow unimpeded, pushing them out of any sort of ordered or controlled alignment.

With diverse groups now in consultation, a re-imagining of the Tuckean is emerging.  The potential for a story of human intent in the environment, working co-creatively with the rhythms of nature might unfold.

 

This work has been made on Bundjalung, Widjabul, and Nyangbul Country; I pay my respects to the Traditional Owners of this land.

 

[1] An Echo of Wings: A History of the Tuckean Swamp. Johanna Kijas. 2019 p. 74

© 2021 annique goldenberg