[-empyre-] mushrooms, oysters & creeping clouds

melinda rackham melrack at icloud.com
Wed Nov 29 21:52:24 AEDT 2017

Ben wrote:

“I think this is incredibly ripe territory for creative exploration. How might we use mushrooms as material and also as metaphor? Perhaps all the information we need in order to de-contaminate ourselves and our planet is already embedded within our folk knowledge? “ 

To remix metaphors perhaps it is just a matter of finding the right handshake. Jerne's  Network Theory of Immunity proposes:
The (Immune) system has no way and no need to distinguish self from foreign. It knows nothing alien to its composition. It only knows of itself and itself is the network of endogenous activity...  By means of somatic mutation it has already anticipated, inside 'self,' every variety of the 'nonself' that it could ever meet.

So if everything on the planet is a oneness, stemming from the same root, it is all in balance. Like I discovered rolling on the ground trying to get the perfect image of a 2000 year old Yew tree a few months ago at Dartigton Hall in Devon, that the antidote Doc Leaves grow next to the Stinging Nettles. 

Another project from the ‘Art Bunker’ as Ricardo names it, is a small oyster farm set up near the MONA jetty which aims to reddress the Derwent River’s toxic deposits of mercury, cadmium, lead, zinc and copper form an industrial past. Like mushrooms oysters, particularly the Pacific and native angasi oysters are very effective heavy-metal filtration systems. They live for few weeks sucking up the toxins, die, are harvested, dried and cast into concrete or glass.  

Similar to the elaborate semantic gymnastics of processings radioactive waste at Onkalo, they are entombed ‘safely’ in an oyster mausoleum, officially known as the Heavy Metal Retaining Wall. Channeling her sense of dominion over the earth’s creatures curator Kirsha Kaechele describes the dead oysters as ''soldiers for the cause'' while her partner David Walsh estimates it would take 1.1 trillion oysters to die to extract all the heavy metal deposits from the river.

But back on the mainland, there is another sort of remediation. In recent years, indigenous artists have been making powerful works inspired by the imagery of radiation clouds blowing over Maralinga the site of almost 20 series of British nuclear tests in the 1950s. This huge region in the remote western areas of South Australia, home of the southern Pitjantjatjara people still remains contaminated.

Yhonnie Scarce’s Thunder Raining Poison from 2015 (see image link below) was made for TARNANTHI  ( https://www.tarnanthi.com.au ) an unmissable annual festival of indigenous arts in South Australia (unfortunately funded with contaminating BHP money). Tinkling and glittering, this cloud of 2000 clear hand blown small glass yams (potato like bush food) hangs ominously over gallery viewer . Scarce uses breath and glass as during the tests the blasts were so hot that the ground turned to glass and puyu (black mist) exposed the traditional owners to radiation causing illness and early death. 

Her later work Death Zephyr (2016-2017) of black and clear glass yams elates to the Woomera Prohibited Area -  a Department of Defence no-go zone. Wommera was also where the Australian Government interred up to 2000 asylum seekers  between 1999 and 2003 in facility built for 400 people, and source of the great artivist computer game “Escape from Wommera”.( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZwNm_ru6Kc ) The human rights abuse perpetrated under the border politics of the Australia government paints refugees and asylum seekers as a potent contaminators of our ‘safety and Australian way of life’.

This year at TARNANTH the creeping clouds manifested as as Kulata Tjuta - wooden kulata (spears) made by Anangu  men, hovering in  an explosive cloud above the hand-carved piti (wooden bowls) of Anangu women. This work was initiated in 2010 by senior men from across the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, where I currently live, as both a remembrance of the tests sixty years ago and a cultural maintenance project. Kulata Tjuta means many spears and teaches young Community men the skills of wood carving and spear production. This is a remediation of culture contaminated, decimated by 250 years of white invasion and genocide.

more tomorrow

Thunder Raining Poison Images:

Kulata Tjuta images:

More information about the empyre mailing list