University of Tasmania

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Last wave : birds, artists, and environmental degradation in Tasmania

posted on 2023-05-27, 18:20 authored by Parish, John Stuart
The subject matter for my project 'Last Wave' evolved from my sculptural practice and from my apprehension concerning the threat to Tasmanian native bird species due to environmental destruction. Art, has for me, always been a means by which I could confront my internal conflicts, by expressing them visually through metaphoric drawings, paintings and sculptures. So it is with this project. The self analysis and introspection this method produces has clarified my position in regard to environmental issues in Tasmania and specifically those affecting our native bird populations. The bird sculptures are made primarily from cast aluminium and stainless steel. They are constructed with articulated sections that allow the movement of their skeletal joints. This movement has been severely restricted so as to act as a metaphor for the habitat, food resources and breeding site restrictions resulting from excessive forestry and fishing practices since white settlement in Tasmania. The four birds chosen to be represented in the work, fit into the categories of Extinct, Endangered, Rare and Sustaining. They are the Tasmanian Emu, Shy Albatross, Wedge-tailed Eagle and the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. Each of the birds has for me, mental associations with places and particular events from my past experiences. These memories have re-emerged as catalysts for the mode of presentation for each of the selected bird species. In the making of my kinetic sculptures for this project, I have attempted to present art works that I hope may leave a lasting impression on individuals who view them. The written component of this project, evaluates the effectiveness of works such as these in changing the attitudes of the general public towards environmental protection. Three dimensional art works such as installations and sculpture do have the opportunity of allowing the viewing public to move around the work and to therefore feel more 'connected', particularly if site specific. Kinetic sculpture, such as my metal birds have the advantage of having access to movement as a tool for engagement. Sounds generated can also have a profound effect on the mind of an individual. I have attempted to create a situation where the viewer is guided to an understanding that the metal birds that they see move in such a constricted way, contrast with the free movement that should be available to all our living native birds. Nevertheless I suggest that other mediums such as film and television, that engage a greater range of our senses than the purely visual, are more affective in moving the viewer towards such a realisation. It is in the political arena that more can be achieved, but unfortunately Tasmanian politicians seem to be unwilling or powerless to make the legislative changes that could protect the environment and indigenous species, while powerful business interests make huge profits from the destruction of native forests and by over fishing. I ask the question 'what can artists do'? I suggest that artist could become more directly political and I give examples of artists who are passionate about these issues and who are directing their work towards greater public awareness and direct action. If we as artists recognize that we are but another species of animal, albeit a powerful one, we may express our creative talents in ways that demonstrate the fragile bonds that we have with other species that share the natural world.


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Copyright 2008 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (MFA)--University of Tasmania, 2008. Includes bibliographical references

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