06 Mar 2006 BIODIVERSITY – AN ARTIST’S IMPRESSION
What does biodiversity mean to me, as an artist?
I set out to present biodiversity in an intelligible way on video – so that the viewer can get a sense of what biodiversity is and can experience its ultimate and compelling inclusiveness . . .
PRESENTING BIODIVERSITY ON VIDEO
I set out to present biodiversity in an intelligible way on video –
so that the viewer can get a sense of what biodiversity is and can experience its ultimate and compelling inclusiveness.
Why film on Tamborine Mountain? Because I live here . . . And because this is a thriving community living in western affluence, comfort and convenience, which is surrounded by outstanding biodiversity.
Apparently there are more frog species on the mountain than there are in the whole of Canada! The Mountain’s published plant list amounts to about 80% of that of New Zealand. A recent and by no means exhaustive survey increased the plant list from under 800 to over 900.
The Mountain’s biodiversity is on a par with that of nearby World Heritage Listed Areas. All this on a plateau of some 2,300 hectares surrounded by an escarpment of 8,200 ha., where the wildlife exists cheek by jowl with around 7,000 people and their gardens, crops and livestock.
I want to show biodiversity in this setting. When you realise that it is likely to be unsustainable – the mountain’s forecast population is 9,500 – it becomes even more precious.
What does ‘biodiversity’ mean to me?
I define it for the Archive as the total number of life forms in a given place at a given time. Though I was only focusing on what was visible to the naked eye.
Biodiversity is the product of geography – the topography, soil and climate – and also of history in the way that people have encroached on the land. The mountain has allowed so much more to flourish there than the already abundant native species.
The Archive can barely begin to scratch the surface . . .My task is to assemble a sufficiently representative cast to give an idea of the immensity of the entire make-up of the area’s biodiversity. So for instance it is a vital part of my approach to film the rainforest floor, fungi, orchids, vines, grasses as well as the lichens and mosses on the trees and rocks.
What do I bring to this, as an artist?
Being an artist, rather than a scientist, allows me to simply follow my instinct and include virtually any and every growing and moving thing I come across, regardless of whether it is a non-native species or a weed. If it grows or moves on Tamborine Mountain that is sufficient reason to include it. The Archive is as complete a visual record of the subject as I’m able to achieve.
It is not a scientific work, even though in the scheme of western knowledge the core subject-matter belongs to science. I try to be methodical and consistent in structuring and compiling the Archive, but the actual filming is characterised by an exhilarating randomness. I simply don’t know what species I might encounter next.
Much of the Archive’s content is the product of sheer opportunism; a tip-off about a fruiting macrozamia or the presence on the same fly-screen at a friend’s house of a powerful longicorn beetle and an equally powerful moth.
While it’s for a general audience it’s also important for people working in the life-sciences to be informed about it. I feel it’s broadly supportive of their work – in a vivid and eye-catching way! But, for instance, species identification, while important, was not the be-all and end-all. I just did not need to know what a particular species was or what it did. It was enough to behold it in veneration and wonder, marvelling at its appearance.
I see the Archive as the most ambitious, demanding and rewarding artwork I’ve attempted.