University Of Tasmania
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Wildness and artefact : re-presenting the divergent trajectories of Lakes Gordon and Pedder

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posted on 2023-05-27, 10:17 authored by Bluhdorn, DR
The Gordon River Power Development in southwest Tasmania was completed in the early 1970s, creating two large hydro-industrial impoundments: Lakes Gordon and Pedder. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area now surrounds these impoundments. This project visually interrogated the consequences of impoundment after almost half a century of operation under dissimilar management regimes. The project's practice-based photographic research focussed on water as the dominant element in hydropower generation, and as a key agent of wildness. Its objective was to produce a body of work that reflected my responses to the impoundments' divergent visual trajectories and the wild processes affecting them and their associated catchments. Conceptual investigations were directed towards humanity's perceptions of its relationship with the extra-human world. The research drew on a multidisciplinary theoretical background to support an awareness of alternative perceptual modes and to explore the possibilities offered by an extra-human perception of the subsurface aquatic environment. Located within the field of landscape photography, the project explored aspects of the genre's development, focussing on two apparently divergent trends, designated environmental advocacy and wilderness deconstructed. This approach informed research into antecedent landscape photography of the Pedder-Gordon area and relevant contemporary landscape photography, including apposite aquatic imagery. Multiple trips to the field locations facilitated the project's experiential investigations. The Pedder Impoundment's divergence was found to be attributable to water's engineered persistence. This enabled the representation of aspects of weather, dam leakage, the development of macrophyte beds, and the persistence of aseasonal wetlands. In the Gordon Impoundment, the principal driver of divergence was the market-driven withdrawal of water. The recently dewatered littoral exhibited the effects of inundation and pre-impoundment logging, as well as its terrestrial and fluvial regenerative processes. Water's intrinsic wildness was explored through subsurface imagery of both impoundments' inflowing waterways. The project's outcomes, a suite of original photographic prints and a published performative work, successfully address the research questions posed. These works contribute meaningfully to the ongoing discourse surrounding conceptions of wildness and of artefact, and their affective representation. Such outcomes are broadly applicable to the fields of landscape photography in a global context and, more specifically, to perceptions of wildness in humanaltered environments such as large-scale renewable energy developments adjacent to iconic wild areas.


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