On Common Ground – next week!

I’m trying to get my head around the fact that On Common Ground is next week. I have been developing my work, Loose Leaf Manuscript: a common tongue, since April. I believe the organisers at The Cad Factory initially conceived the idea for the festival 2 years ago!

So here we go, it’s on.

For the last little while I have been delving deep into the world of text making. How does this differ to writing?

Well I guess it doesn’t really…


I have made a conscious decision to use text as my primary medium to create this artwork, and I am joining words, considering and selecting words, and making meaning, sound, metaphor and developing themes within the constraints of that medium, in attempt to deliver an experience to the viewer.

To create this work I set about an intuitive method of obtaining factual material (read: subjective response – the amount of personal interest measured upon encounter with text would be the deciding factor upon whether I moved on or stayed with this topic/article/website, and where it took me to from there. Also following chance encounters and  conversations that occurred in the period of development that seemed clue-like)  which related to the Narrandera common, or nature reserve  – the site of On Common Ground.

Initially I thought the text I was going to create would be very much fact based. Names of soil components. Names of microbial parasites on the bark of trees. The names of birds, grasses, trees found in the common. I would make many lists and from this list a textual ‘picture’ or ‘map’ of the common would appear. I was really interested in microcosms within ecosystems and culture, and how language defined things. And I love lists and think they are interesting.

I wondered: how does the action of naming make materials/species/events more real? Does the act of naming lessen the relationship to that thing, as words are always representative, and perhaps may function as a conceptual filter between viewer and viewed? How may this filtering characteristic of words impact our contemporary apparent disconnect from nature? Of course, the opposite is true as well – words can have most profound and deep impact.

What happened when I  read names of soil types, lists of species, online forms (for example a form to report a Threatened Species – you need to fill in a form to officiate these things. They go through a selection process. Some are rejected. Fuck.), was that I experienced quite a deep emotional response, and it made me write prose (and maybe a little poetry).

I ended up with 43 pages of text response to texts that described things of significance to the site at the Narrandera common, the surrounds (including the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area), and the disconnected (but interestingly often highly sensitised) times we live in.

I’ve whittled it down to 25 pages. This week I made a recording of myself  reading these pages, it goes for 35 minutes 🙂

Next step is to get it down to about 200 lines to write on bark and sticks with which to make an installation out of, a sculptural drawing, in the most beautiful spot by the river, under a grove of river red gums…..

And then enjoy the festival! I think it’s going to be an unbelievably beautiful weekend of environmental artwork!

Upon the end of the festival I will post the whole text on this blog.

Here is a sneak peek:

A report in 2011 described the discovery of a gigantic cloud of water vapour containing “140 trillion times more water than all of Earth’s oceans combined” around a quasar located 12 billion light years from Earth. According to the researchers, the “discovery shows that water has been prevalent in the universe for nearly its entire existence”

What are the contents of a cupful of river water?

Cupped hands full of river water….

Suspended drifting organisms, plankton, stardust, livelihoods, song

Tunnels between dams,

Dams that hold such volumes

the scale has waterlogged meMeadow from entrance track

A town appears when levels are low

Old Adaminaby Atlantis

Peppercorn Hill

Let’s follow


Aitch to Oh

Point to point

connected by flow

Snow melts into source

Gravity persuades 1,500 metre descent,

900 kilometres to confluence by Boundary bend

Back a step or two now

To Narrandera

River is low

I can see the sand strata

Check the river data

Fill in an online form

Buy, sell, trade

Packaged water

Language quantifies and evaluates archai elemental

Guidelines, systems,  in place

20% capacity released back to the river

Water can walk out, on two legs, with a briefcase

Wetland alveoli

Inundation dependant –a giant inhalation of nutrient rich sediment and organic matter

Ancient Earth corpus

Inhales yearly

Slow, slowly

A giant’s cycle – exhalation Aeolian –

Alveoli wetland

Inundation dependent

Dispersing sediment and nutrients

Dam wall-grey area is greened upon release

Of the water regime

Tree creeper and froglet

Morse in the open understory

pink crik crik

and cricket hum a buzz buzz

At dawn and dusk

In twiggy mullein and Myrtaceae

To get there backwards takes analysis, reports, recommended guidelines, reform

minimal lateral connectivity

‘26,850 megalitres per day’

“The biosphere is a thin layer of soil, vegetation and air that supports all life on Earth.”

The biosphere is a thin layer of soil, vegetation and air that supports all life on Earth

The biosphere is a thin layer of soil, vegetation and air that supports all life on Earth

“The biosphere is the crossroads of all the other earth science spheres you will study in class.

Think about the possible interactions for a second.”

River – bronchus, descendent of palaeochannel

Creek, bronchiole

Wetland and swamp, alveoli

Pause, modern primate – see the earth as a body, water and soil as nutrient carrying blood, supporting life in the body.

Can primate be protective rib and feeling heart? Can primate catch up, quick and carefully, to biota ticking eternal?

Can we catch up to the past?

Snow melt or spring fed, glacier, fog, mist, dew,

Your waking breath,

slow flow evaporating westward

All one water

one body

Dirt dust churned to mud

Clods clogged up the machinery,

made us stop

n’ bear witness


Awe ,

Marvellous nature – beyond us

Monotony of rain

On tin shelter

(what about the sound of rain on leaves and ground, on river and skin)

Fine and fat drops

The singular, briefly apparent

Then back to the whole

Body of water

This ditch swollen, drains and radiates downward

Gravitating to the lowest point

Rejoining the body

Many to one

Murrumbidgee, descendant of an ancient flow

Site of Britain’s agri-culture

legacy of sedentary settlement and practice begun backwards

(end of the line, ran out of ink)

A lack of experience

A lack of tens of thousands of years of knowing

A lack of language

Burnt,  flooded,  eroded,

Kant blooded

Backs turned to the land,

ears and eyes closed,

facing the river,

great machines brought in

beep beep beep

great grey wall of cement

(22hours from bursting)


Return to hand and

Currency of knowledge,

vs shareholder value and fat portfolio


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