Over the winter of 2019, fellow artist and childhood friend Maria Blackwell and I took up a residency in Cockle Creek – the furthest point South you can drive to in Australia.
Our cabin sat at the edge of the wilderness, a ranger hut that acted as an information point for tourists and hikers. Here, we set up a motion-sensor camera that captured humans and non-humans interacting with this environment. Wallabies and Tasmanian devils emerged in the safety of darkness to find food for survival, while humans pursued an experience of ‘nature’ or ‘wilderness’ as something they left their regular lives to visit – not unlike ourselves.
The impetus behind the residency was in part a well-worn trope of the Western world – an attempt at escaping burnout, to break from techno-connection and the expectations and mind-numbing comforts of Advanced Capitalism. However, the escape soon proved unrealistic.
With 4G coverage, we regularly used our laptops and smartphones. We would awkwardly navigate our human bodies through dense scrub, while mainly sticking to hiking trails walked by thousands of tourists before us. By night, we explored beaches hoping to view an aurora, only to discover the beautiful halo in the sky was actually light pollution eminating from Hobart on the distant horizon. Atrocities of the past are thick in the air; the gross mistreatment of and mass eradication of Indigenous Australians, the difficult lives of Irish convicts, and the devastating impact of whaling stations in the 1830s.
Determined to let go into our surroundings, we constructed a boat designed by Maria’s ancestors – an Irish coracle. Using an old bed sheet, invasive weeds, and branches left over from deforestation, the coracle came together, liberating us from the walking trails and sending us clumsily and ecstatically out to sea.