sculptural installation - 2017
9 bronze casts, mounted on a black stainless steel plate - glycerine - plinth - wood - concrete finish 195 cm L x 120 cm W x 100 cm H
“This country is like a birthplace when first life came from the water, onto the land.”
I was introduced to the Goolarabooloo community of North-Western Australia by Prof Dr Stephen Muecke and invited to work on story by the custodian, storyteller and important community figure, Paddy Roe. A federation of different families and tribes, the Goolarabooloo are “people from the sea where the sun sets”, and they traditionally inhabit coastal lands, along the Indian Ocean, in the region of Broome.
By means of a research trip, I joined the community for a 10-day walk along their traditional coastal lands. The trail of about 100km is one of the few remaining “living” songlines in Australia’s rich and complex web of histories and stories.
While dinosaur footprints are revealed on the bedrock with the receding tides, fishing and exploration vessels are occupying the horizon of what is otherwise largely an uninhabited wilderness. The region is subject to rapid changes, as a LNG plant is projected to be built on the community’s land, to accommodate the off-shore extraction of fossil-fuels - thus enacting the colonial frontier myth of “ the opening” of the North West. Just off the coast, lies a coral reef that, like so many other tropical reefs, is suffering under the strain of rising temperatures and acidification of the ocean water. During the walkabout with the community I collected particular types of dead, fossil-like brain coral that had washed ashore.
Brain corals are symbiotic life forms in which organisms belonging to different biological families ‘co-exist’ together. The corals are made of communities of polyps; they often live in colonies and can reach the age of 900 years. The installation is made around two “families” of those brain coral, cast into bronze.
The Naji are marine entities, spirit beings, who sometimes leave the sea, become solid and roam the land. In the Goolarabooloo’s dreamtime story, the Naji are said to be the creators of humankind. The foundational creation myth runs all the way east, across the continent that is Australia - from the land where the sun sets to the land where it rises. This story of origins forms the starting point of the journey of the mythical serpent across the land, and is part of the few remaining “living” songlines.
The installation presents 2 “families” of corals. A fragile and ancient life-form, imperiled by accelerated rate of environmental transformation, it was trans-mutated into a precious metal. Dimly lit, these jewel-like abstract bodies, those beautiful alien beings emerge from the dark, oily depths contained in a concrete basin.