Sunday, July 7, 2013

writing on the project...

2013 has been a year of fits and starts for the Homage to the Seed Project. Sure to be memorable later on... much of it has been spent addressing an important relocation. Common human experience is the phenomenon of undertaking things that at the time can seem intensely demanding but later worth every minute of effort.

5 months house-hunting whilst doing a make-over at the home we were selling led to the eventual departure from the family home in late June, and now we're in limbo for a month before we move to the new residence.

The studio residency at Percolator gallery in Paddington, Brisbane concluded in March after the Exhibition 'From One Small Seed', with studio contents going to storage and focus on attending to necessary details of relocation. It was a smart move, even if a little unsettling. Painting, for me, is such a complete immersion it was easier not to paint during all this chaos then try dividing focus.

What is being gained is a comfortable, spacious, well situated home, a little further from the city than we've been used to, but close to a transport junction, good Public Library, Aquatic Centre, bike path along a creek, an environment centre where a friend volunteers on seed-saving... and easy shopping access.

This photo taken in 1902 is very close to where our house is now.

The earliest photo of the hamlet of Downfall Creek was taken in 1902. It was taken as a Hamilton family photo of Janie Hamilton, later Janie Wayper with her pony Silver and her dog. Fortunately for history it also shows much of the hamlet in the background. Downfall Creek was about 33 years old when the photo was taken from the present Burnie Brae Park. (Courtesy Hamilton Family)

Nearby is a community garden and large park plus local history Museum I noticed the other day which I'll visit soon. The city of Brisbane was settled in 1824 so its not a very old city... and I'm keen to learn more about where we will live.

From Wiki:
Prior to European settlement, the Brisbane area was inhabited by the Turrbal and Jagera people.[6] They knew the area that is now the central business district as Mian-jin, meaning "place shaped as a spike".[7]The Moreton Bay area was initially explored by Matthew Flinders. On 17 July 1799, Flinders landed at what is now known as Woody Point, which he named "Red Cliff Point" after the red-coloured cliffs visible from the bay.[8] In 1823 Governor of New South Wales Thomas Brisbane instructed that a new northernpenal settlement be developed, and an exploration party led by John Oxley further explored Moreton Bay.[9]

The suburb I'm moving to was settled in the late 1860's and known as Downfall Creek... at some point renamed Chermside... a pity really. Place names including geographical features can remind people of the landscape on which they're situated, and to my thinking are far more poetic than places names after prominent men. It was inspiring to read that some early settlers bought large areas of land and didn't parcel it up for housing. Parts of that land remain accessible to the public as green spaces today.  

Discovering this area is something I am really looking forward to as we establish home and I set up my new studio. Downfall Creek, where the Environment Centre is also located, has a bike path running beside it so that is a good starting place.

This map is fascinating...our street is just next to the area that was being offered as Five Mile Estate... obviously 5 miles from the heart of the city which is due south.

This lithograph would have been printed before 1898 which was the year Andrew Hamilton died. His son Thomas carried on the family business and the land sales.
This information was found here. Read about the Environment Centre.

With 17 days to go before we resettle I've been able to resume working on my book. In late 2010 I produced a 68 page book about the Homage to the Seed project which was launched at the end of the year long residency at Brisbane Botanic Gardens.

Since then Ive conducted three more residencies and have one in planning at the moment yet to be announced. With so much material now collated around this project a book is almost a necessity to synthesise the experience.

The recent pack up meant sorting through a great deal of material from the last 4 years of the project ... some reaching much further back where threads of the work began.

Images from a slideshow on the project have been a start to telling the story. This image below refers to the October 2011 residency at the UK's Kew Gardens Millennium Seedbank in West Sussex.

Shaping words and text for Homage to the Seed has been an ongoing process ... I'm glad to be making headway during this nomadic 'in-between' phase.

The challenge is to cover the story of seeds from the deep past right up to now... through the somewhat personal lens of the experiences I've had, individuals Ive met or ideas pondered. It is an artist's journal in word and image rather than a textbook on the history of seeds. 

Image from the May 2012 Residency at Brisbane's Institute for Molecular Bioscience collaborating with Plant Scientist Dr Joshue Mylne.

This is an exciting challenge ... stay tuned for more!


ronnie said...

'downfall creek' --- oooo so many images come to mind with a name like that! but a creek by any name feels just as sweet..... have fun in your new setting (and with that new book project - I look forward to seeing how it develops)

ps - marvelous mappy find

Sophie Munns said...

Hi Ronnie... yes downfall is a strong word... but being QLD one easily thinks of heavy downpours! THe downfall of the QLD Newman Govt I'd be happy about too!
Slow and steady with the book... and thanks for your good wishes... great old map yes!

Valerianna said...

Wondering how the nomadic moment feels... to be released of the responsibility of so much stuff we have, even for a short while, might be liberating. But, looking forward to seeing how things set up in the new place!!

Sophie Munns said...

Hi Valerianna,
Great to hear from you! Good questions... no short answer though!

I think this weekend I started to breathe out and enjoy being where iI was for the first time in a week or two... Curiously or not so surprisingly, till now there was some dense stuff to process. The question of where to stay, and for how long, came up and answers didn't come quite as hoped. Vulnerability increased... several times past I've dealt with sudden changes in living circumstances (eg a housefire)... all that came back an unnerved me!
The recent Noosa conference focused heavily on the present era being, globally, the Age of Unsettlement... due to climate change in certain countries already impacting, or political or financial crisis, other things too. I was gripped by these discussions as I think of these thing fairly constantly.
If anything... stepping out of "home" as I knew it these past 5 years, my mother's home for 25 yrs... into an empty space... even though my brain knows in one month I will be in a new home ... the strength of vulnerability crept up and profoundly unsettled me. Palpable and affecting fears and anxieties were arguing with the flip-side of the coin... a sense of freedom and excitement at pending change. This free fall saw perennial themes surface. Exhaustion, worry, stretched funds from career on hold through months of prep ... moving without salary, or a company paying the removalist etc the costs add up. Remembering the ridiculous number of times I've moved, the times of lost income, having risked so much essentially... one is doing the maths through all that and ringing one's hands.

Without the level of uncertainty and unknowns I'd never have set out to do this project on seeds. I might have lived comfortably for decades and not known how easy it is to fall through the cracks from experience and I would not give a damn about Seed sovereignty or habitat degradation, about biodiversity loss or seed viability via climate change that impacts us all now. I'd probably think if I cant see it it doesn't exist like so many peers who dont believe things are changing let alone that we night need to address the future in a collaborative effort!
So, ironically the very experience of being thrown back into memories and feelings of vulnerability reminded me exactly why I tackle this project and spend as much time engaging people with the numerous related themes as I do. When people think nothing's at risk and they're not hurting they so easily turn away. At age 55 I'm choosing to live with my mother who is very positive re my undertaking ... rather than go off and work a job to pay rent to live somewhere I don't like that I can't really afford... etc etc... circular arguments that feel pointless. My choices can frighten me to be quite honest but they enliven every last cell in my being! This project has proved so deeply rewarding in that it balances out concerns for the most part.

Maybe the most important thing about letting go to move forward, when one could be tempted to cut off, discard, end something, give up, give away.... whatever... I feel more certain I am doing something I love with purpose and clarity about what I can offer than ever! For someone who's been ambivalent or doubted the worth of things often that a good thing.
S xo

rosaria williams said...

Most fascinating the work you're involved in. Hope the resettling goes smoothly.

Valerianna said...

Quite a time you've had, Sophie! I can totally understand how letting go of the house could trigger all this STUFF, and also how your choices and vulnerability supports your seed project. As we've spoken before, living on the edge and differently from most others gives us a certain perspective. We already live with risk, so maybe we are more able to see all that is at risk around us?

Sophie Munns said...

Thanks indeed Rosaria ...
I'm meeting amazing people from every walk of life who, like me, feel a sense of heightened purpose with the things that once we only dreamed could happen now bearing down on us!

It can change the stance one takes to see hypotheticals adding up.

Good to hear from you!

Sophie Munns said...


thanks so much for your level of engagement... going deeper with the dialogue ...doing the to and fro with you, with others... is really gratifying.

I have other online sites to channel different conversations... even satisfy the part of me that enjoys colour, design and more light-hearted things.... but here at this blog, albeit I don't post so regularly as I used to, its another realm. In 2010 I would not have dared be so personal and make admissions like in this post... mainly because 4 years ago the world was different. People were more sceptical about climate change for one... more closed off than many are now... things operated more on the surface.

I saw the Julian Assange film just out here on the weekend... clearly his character was NOT up to handling the level of global exposure he got and his capacity for navigating with his pubic image intact was always going to be slim and we now see the consequences... BUT I can still see how his project ushered in a new level of understanding about layers of truth if you like. I think the world needed to know the kinds of things that were exposed.

So I'm completely with you when you say: "As we've spoken before, living on the edge and differently from most others gives us a certain perspective. We already live with risk, so maybe we are more able to see all that is at risk around us?"

Yes and yes!

Talking about that openly is an opportunity for others to do so or think also about what lies beyond the surface story... or underneath things. Reminds me of someone who said recently they were glad to read what was the background story to some artwork they saw of mine because without that information they would have never guessed at the really engaged content I was referring to.

Seems to me the increasing pressures of this time are no time to only deal only with the surface stories... there's room for light-hearted stuff sure enough... we have to laugh and feel that too... but there's a huge need for more grit and realness... MUCH more dialogue that digs down is required if we want to think of preserving the space for the light and fun stuff at all!

Thanks sincerely for the deeper to and fro Valerianna... the artists I've always admired were always up for the gutsy stuff... i do wonder why the light approach around the art traps these days... ?!!

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