Over the winter of 2019, fellow artist and childhood friend Maria Blackwell and I took up a residency in Cockle Creek – the furthest point South you can drive to in Australia.
Our cabin sat at the edge of the wilderness – a destination for tourists and hikers who would approach our kitchen window seeking information. Here, we set up a motion-sensor camera that captured humans and non-humans interacting with this environment. Animals emerged in the safety of darkness to find food for survival, while the humans pursued an experience of ‘nature’ or ‘wilderness’ as something they leave their regular lives to visit – not unlike ourselves.
The residency was in part an attempt at escaping burnout, seeking a break from screens and techno-connection and the feeling of helplessness that can accompany the comforts and expectations of contemporary Capitalism. However, a total escape soon proved unrealistic.
With 4G coverage, we regularly used our laptops and smartphones. We stuck to hiking trails walked by thousands of tourists before us. By night, we explored beaches hoping to view an aurora, only to discover the beautiful band in the sky was actually light pollution in the distant horizon. Atrocities of the past are thick in the air; the gross mistreatment of and mass eradication of Indigenous Australians, the devastating impact of whaling stations in the 1830s, and the miserable lives of Irish convicts forced into becoming colonisers.
Determined to let go into our surroundings, we decided to construct a boat designed by Maria’s ancestors – an Irish coracle. Using an old bedsheet, invasive weeds, and branches left over from deforestation, the coracle came together, liberating us from the walking trails and sending us clumsily, and ecstatically out to sea.
This project was made possible thanks to Arts Tasmania.