Samford Ecological Research Facility
Samford Ecological Research Facility

Common_Thread

WHAT:
The Common_Thread Project is an evolving, online artwork, networked to a series of scientific and artistic monitoring experiments located at an ecological field station in SE Queensland. Whilst the public access to Common_Thread is via the web, it also includes an installation component of remote sensing elements located in a forest gully at the research station (SERF) – which transmits data, image and audio to further build and direct the online experience. Each site  reveals macroscopic images and 3D scans recorded of plants and artefacts that dot barely visible pathways that criss-cross SERF's woodlands and grasslands - suggestive of the ecological ‘threads’ (active, degraded & potential) that mesh SERF’s biodiversity & culture into local, national & international contexts. Through a series of overlapping layers these ‘threads’ interactively ‘open out’ to reveal audio visual sketches inspired by SERF’s physical boundary systems and interior biodiversity hot spots that its tracks

Common_Thread is an experimental art-science work that asks how we might use today’s times of isolation and uncertainty to imagine very different social futures, asking how might we rebuild our ‘immune system’ against the inhumane ‘infection’ of ecological degradation? The work is informed by my ongoing residency at Samford Ecological Research Facility (SERF) in SE Qld, drawing upon my personal experiences of working in SERF’s isolated landscape, the stories of its passionate scientists, rigorous scientific data sets, theories of radical social reorganisation, dialogues with bordering landowners; and the possibility of 'giving time back' to foster the health of multi-species futures. Whilst SERF protects a remnant block of vegetation, isolated within a patchwork quilt of surrounding farmed land that typifies the perilously fragmented state of Australia’s habitats. It is a place active with scientific research of all kinds, much of which aims for better ecological futures, the experimental scientific work there is typically rigorously empirical, resulting in large data sets, scientific papers and more 'efficient' agricultural production. There is much less research on site into the cultural meaning of conservation reserves within urbanising landscapes and what kinds of culturally empowering roles they might take on that might assist sustaining of new kinds of futures.

Having lived through periods of social isolation in the COVID years has undoubtedly shifted our consciousness, but in ways we are yet to understand. Could this experience offer us a rare opportunity to reflect upon how ‘settler culture’ has also divided up and shattered the landscape into a myriad of blocks like SERF, in the process disconnecting and destroying species, cultures and ecosystems? Common_Thread imagines that we are capable of grasping this uncanny moment, where collective and self-interest collide – to organise our ‘worlds’ anew. It presents this vision via a networked and interactive artwork that computationally images the connections that bind ourselves and our futures to cherished islands in the storm like SERF, asking how ‘art-thinking’ might help us build common, richly threaded futures.

By drawing on SERF’s extensive data sets, laser scans & photogrammetry data as well as & environmental theory users can experiment with past, present & future inter-species ‘threading’ scenarios. Collectively the work poses the question - what role art may play in shifting naturalsed anthropocentric mind-frames into more expansive space. From bacteria to fungi, invertebrates to plants, beings that can return the gaze and those who do not, this artwork questions art’s ability to trigger societal changes.

WHO:
Collaborators include:
Prof. Jennifer Firn (Ecological Science/Plant Biology)
Tania Leimbach: Institute for Sustainable Futures/Eco-critical writer

PARTNERS:
SERF (Samford Environmental Research Facility) + Site Technician Marcus Yates
QUT Institute for Future Environments (IFE)|
VISER Lab, QUT (tbc)
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body