imagining environmental art

The Spine project was initially planned as an international artists residency, mid-2020, with the venue and presenting partner Tanks Arts Centre - Cairns Regional Council. However, the planned activity could not occur due to the onset of border restrictions associated with COVID-19. So instead, the creative team retracted to an alternative investigation. For the international team 66b/Cell, what it meant to imagine environmental space from afar, and for the Australian squad Bonemap with Zane Saunders, experiencing the relationship to a specific site as a cultural attitude. In short, the project became a proof-of-concept rather than a face-to-face international artists exchange.

This project is a way to start a conversation about the Country by having engagement with the imagination. We've had a journey to discover the appropriate way, and by placing this creative development artwork online, we sought feedback. The representation of what we found, well, it's not fully resolved. Although it is a record of our experience, we recognise that access to cultural knowledge may be difficult or at times inappropriate. There are issues but also opportunities for change. We realise that imparting cultural knowledge is a community decision. So we've tried to engage adequately without wishing to offend. Hopefully, people realise that we might make mistakes, but it's unintentional. People have to be open to the process for change to occur. After all, we are experiencing the environment and want the blessing of passage. In seeking a deeper connection with the earth we live on, we want to do the right thing, so please be patient.

Is the Art object a colonising statement? What we record in the landscape becomes a media document that exists as an artefact beyond the initial transaction of place. It is critical if we trespass into terrain that breeches lore that we're unaware of due to our contemporary artistic expression. Our findings are necessary so that others can learn from our mistakes and progress with future dialogue. Experiences are opportunities. We try and work through the First Nations perspective, state it, write it down so that when others go through the process, they can refer to these notes and progress their engagement further and make some positive change. If you can connect to the Traditional Owners to seek approval, permission, blessing, it's a more robust conversation about connecting with other cultural perspectives.

Zane Saunders: Spine Cultural Consultant 2020

Cultural Consultant: Zane Saunders
Bonemap: Rebecca Youdell and Russell Milledge
International artists: 66b/Cell: Mariana Verdaasdonk (Netherlands/Australia/Japan) and Tetsutoshi Tabata (Japan)
International artists unable to participate due to COVID-19 restrictions: David Gumbs (Martinique) and Lucas Wilson-Spiro (USA/Germany)

James Cook University | RADF: Cairns Regional Council | The Queensland Government

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