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Introduction - Mapping Country

Over the past fifteen years one of my main interests and a large part of my main practice has been to create site specific spaces and places with the use of timelines and mapping; in both the public and private realm. The title of study for my Major Research Project and Project Presentation "Mapping Country" is to document approximately 35 stand alone public sculptures, installations, murals and mosaics, that tell site specific stories all with geographical maps of their location etched, painted and carved in and through them. Originally created as stand alone works my objective is 

to see if once collectively collages together my pieces can read as one large installation geographically representing a large part of South Eastern Australia. Achieving this process I will focus on three stand alone projects that have been created whilst doing my Masters this year (2008) and see how they can be read as part of the larger collage 'mapping country and mapping South Eastern Australia Project.' 



Mapping Country

Having a background in Community Arts I have  found over the years most community groups I collaborated with wanted something in their artwork or story that made them unique or conveyed their history, (their story needing to be different to everyone else's' stories).  What I found after creating many (I thought) unique works based on their stories was that it was becoming very difficult to create installations that everyone could relate to.  Everyone could be a part of and be unique at the same time.  Stories that were unique but all inclusive at the same time, I thought was a contradictory statement in itself.


After a period of time I discovered one of the only things that represent us all (being all inclusive no matter what background or where you have come from) but unique at the same time was the country (place) you're standing on or in whilst viewing the artwork or story.  So that became my main tool of choice in regarding an approach to concept and design.


By using the local Geography, Geology, Topography and sites of significance I found no two works could ever be the same but the works themselves could be all inclusive.


These maps would be created in many different formats and mediums but always relating to site specific country (place) e.g.; if the installation was to be placed on the Barwon River in Belmont, Geelong, I would etch/paint/sculpt that section of the river on/in/around the installation to automatically create something that can only be seen at that site (therefore making it place specific).


In many cases as well as the mapping making up the artwork, stories from that Community/Place were also depicted, adding another layer of site specific story to the installation.

Mapping template use to show location of Waterways and Art Installations

Victorian Map showing locations mapped out, overlapping and creating a single installation


Whilst mapping became a large influence in many of my installations I found that I was more inspired by the natural topography and geography of country than I was of human made influences such as streets, buildings and town/city planning.  

The reason for this is the longevity and somewhat permanence of local geography.  Whilst street scapes (roads, highways, buildings etc) are relatively permanent compared to the timeframe of geography (rivers, mountains, coastlines) human design has been here for a fraction of the time.  Local geography also adds to the inclusiveness of my installations (topography generally not having a human influence and creates a larger timeframe when adding layers of story about that specific location.


Topographical maps (generally seen from an overhead view) have been my map of choice and it became apparent in earlier projects that what could easily be distinguished and translated to observers were the local waterways.  Waterways, including coastlines, rivers, creeks and lakes are not just distinguishable from an overhead view but generally also have a beautiful flow and feel. They also symbolize many things including, treading routes, boundaries, markers, a food source, a drinking source, humans have travelled along and on since our perception of time began. 


They have been crucial in the decision to live and colonize and is instrumental to all human civilizations, therefore a great number of histories and stories can be resourced by them.  


Waterways also are symbolically represented in our vocabulary and language for being states of mind or place e.g.; 'go with the flow,' 'up shits creek,' 'up the line,' 'down the line,' 'going against with the flow.'  All definitions describing a particular head space or perspective. 


Over my journey in Public Art it was decided that waterways' would make up a large contribution of symbolism in telling different communities spaces and places, historical events and histories at the same time create site specific events that were very relevant for the people and individuals that would visit these specific spaces.

Ephemeral Work placed in Little Yarra 2005

Collage and the Bigger Picture

It wasn't until about 7 years ago that I thought it maybe an idea that I document all my past projects that have been influenced by mapping and try somehow to bring them all together and see if they can be seen not just as works created individually for specific sites but if they could be read as one larger ongoing installation that covers a larger area of Victoria and can therefore be viewed as one large installation.


The ongoing installation covering a large portion of Central Victoria and beyond would be made up of many stories, installations, mediums, created for councils, organizations, individuals and done as private  commissions, created in collaboration with other artists, artisans, architects, many different communities as well as also obviously creating them by myself telling the stories throughout South Eastern Australia and beyond. The one thing all these installations had in common were the depiction of specific 'country' maps and generally the maps depicted by using the waterways of that specific area.

Realizing the Idea

It wasn't until last year and starting this course (RMIT Art in Public Space) that I thought the process of documenting my works (mapping installations) and seeing if once collaged together could be read as one larger installation, could be or would be achievable.


The major problem was and still is, historical documentation.  As in the past my documentation and historical recordings of installations has been very poor so a large amount of time for this project, was taken up in collating and resourcing past records of photos and designs.

Unfortunately large chunks of historical documentation was never realized whilst the projects were taking place so many works (specifically ephemeral works) cannot be included in this ongoing investigation.


However in this first draft that hopefully will be ongoing work for many years to come I haver included and collaged together 36 past works of which 3 works will be referenced, discussed and explored about in greater detail process and final product.

The reason I have picked these three works is that they were all created whilst doing this course (Art in Public Space).  However as two have already been documented whilst undergoing my diploma (referencing only) it's the third installation 'Walk County' created for the City of Greater Geelong - 'Connecting Identities' I will be drawing more attention to.

Squares, each represent the map used (etched, carve, painted) within each installation, documented within the project

3 Stories, 3 Maps, 3 Installations - A Closer Look

In the documentation of a 35 piece collage on past works, inspired by the mapping of geography, specifically the waterways of South Eastern Australia I thought it was appropriate to have a closer look at how three individual works were achieved.


These three works were created whilst studying for my masters and whilst two have already been documented in the process of creating my mid-term paper (3 stories, 3 maps, 3 installations).  The third is an installation created for City of Greater Geelong 'Walking Country' that was installed on the 24th of July and bumped out on the 7th of September 2008.


The three installations I will highlight about in closer detail are;



Map 1/Story 1/Title 1 'Carcharcles Angustiden's'

Mapping the bloodlines of the Great White Shark from a pseudo paleontologists perspective.

A sculpture created last year 2007 and introduced in my final presentation for Graduate Certificate and written about in length for my mid-term paper 2008.  This sculpture was exhibited at Contempora 2 Docklands earlier this year 2008.

Map 2/Story 2/Title 2 'Time of Chaos'

This installation was also included and discussed in my mid-term paper.  Inspired by a story told by Carolyn Briggs (Boonwurrung elder) and cross referenced with scientific reports, Late Pleistocene channels in Port Phillip Bay by Holdgat, Thompson and Gverin.  This installation depicts the ancient Yarra and where it originally flowed through Port Phillip Bay 10,000 year ago (time of the last Ice Age) it also comprises of six eggs representing the six traditional groups of the Boonwurrung people located at the top of Red Bluff Cliffs Beaumeauris, its final completion date was the start of June 2008.

Map 3/Story 3/Title 3 'Walking Country'

Walking Country was a 200 square meter temporary installation created for the 'Memory Bank Exhibition' held in the Geelong Wool Museum for the City of Greater Geelong, 'Connecting Identities Project.'  Part of the 'Generations Project a nation wide project trying to establish ways where the Arts can play a larger part in Council processes and policy.


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