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not-doing ... sensing
Artist in Residence @ Bundanon July 2021

In April 2019 I won the Shoalhaven Council's reIMAGINE Sculpture Project with this work and as part of that I was gifted a 2 week residency at Bundanon. It took 2 years before I could take it thanks to prior commitments, broken foot, bushfires and covid 19. I had decided almost right away to do a 'not-doing' project... a project where I would take a chair into the environment and sit to experience what 'not-doing' in a 'reactive doing' culture feels like; as the 2 years passed and the idea simmered I realised that in 'not-doing' our capacity to sense -- something that is all but lost in our modern world -- would be encouraged to come to the fore.

The images below are presented in the same sequence that they occurred during the project. Read more about the project below the images.

For this project what I was to wear was important as it was mid-winter and I was planning to sit outside in all weather. While I could have just worn winter hiking gear, I chose to make clothes from natural fibres where possible: I made a skirt out of an old woolen blanket, purchased a big black woolen coat from an op shop both of which could gather in many layers below them, teamed with Apre ski boots, beanies and gloves ...I stayed warm. The blanket used for the skirt was large and rather than cut the extra off at the back I left it long... this contributed more that I could have imagined to the project; I could feel the resistance of the fabric as it dragged across the ground, it was as if I could feel the wake of my life as I walked: a reminder of the consequence of my life on the earth.

The chair was always to be part of the project -- my first thought had been to make a chair out of sticks but very soon I realised that as I was gifted the residency as a consequence of a sculptural work that used 20 wooden chairs (view images HERE), it would be fitting to use one of those chairs! I chose an old fashioned curly-legged chair which had been painted white for the original sculpture. This chair I carried everywhere I went during the project -- it provided a still point from which to observe and sense. It was also, I realised, a comment about being in the land in a different way to the original Europeans who came here bringing their European-style furniture; for them it was to bring home (from where they came) with them -- they were tools to push away the wild nature of this land -- and tragically in doing so, imprinting damage upon this land they did not and could not understand as they imposed their imported ways onto this place. But this time, I was using the chair as a tool for attentional intentional sensing into the land and its life, to learn what it has to tell me.

Often when I sat I sat with a blindfold or a veil in order to redirect my sensing away from my dominant visual sense to my other senses; with the added intention of re-priming my vision. We live in image heavy culture where we 'consume' images at every turn and as a result have lost our capacity to use our eyes as deep sensing organs. Blindfolded I heard sounds more acutely, I picked up on the perfumes being exuded by plants, I could even taste the perfumes if I opened my mouth... I enjoyed the feel of air moving across my face -- often rather cold air, driven by wind. Birds came to check me out... I welcomed in whatever thoughts came, taking time to examine them until they were ready to make way for another.

At times I wore 'bilby ears' I had made for a project in 2019 where I helped Elyssa Sykes-Smith install a giant 'Bilby Burrow' sculpture; I had learnt during that experience that having long stiffish ears allowed me to senses air movement in a way I could not otherwise -- the wind vibrates the ears sending vibrations to my skull. Non-human creatures use 100% of their sensing capacity every day, while we have dulled down our senses, using a fraction of that which we are capable of... wearing bilby ears reminded me that I am an animal with senses to tune in to.

I found myself talking to trees, wombats, kangaroos and the moon...

The intention of the project was to sit and allow possibilities to arise, and I had not 'intended' to make any physical objects... the bandaged stick seen in the images above, was one of the physical works that arose. I had met the stick early in the project, lying gracefully on a bed of leaves near the path, amazingly wiggly and very long, I spent a long time at that first meeting soaking in its uniqueness; I think of sticks as 'drawings trees make' and I was delighted by this particular drawing! each time I walked past it as it resting so gently on the earth on just 3 points I was compelled to stop; it seemed this stick was asking for me to work with it...
I knew I needed to go into town for supplies later in the project so determined to buy some crepe paper to bandage it 'in situ' (crepe paper degrades fast) -- I had wrapped sticks before, but I had never wrapped in situ. I chose a soft pink paper which faded very fast, a process aided by gentle overnight rain. This work carried for me deep messages about life and the flow if life... and how we choose to see what is around us.

Often I am asked what will come out of this project, but I realised well before I started the residency that that is in itself a 'doing' ...so I am remaining open; in 'not-doing', in stepping away from reactive doing and fixing we allow other possibilities to emerge.

I would like to express my extreme gratitude to Shoalhaven City Council and Bundanon for providing me with this opportunity.