Wilderness
(Currently in development with assistance from the Australia Council for the Arts)
[formally Urban Stove House project]


Projections, soundscapes, scents and live plants transform an urban lane into wilderness.

 

Kitz lane composite video mock up.

Wilderness is a public installation art project that will transform a public urban space in Melbourne's CBD into an experiential, digitised recreation of the original bush landscape of the area. Using large wall projections, Eucalyptus scents, and live native grasses, a Melbourne lane way is transformed back into the site's pre-European bush setting. These elements are augmented further with soundscapes that both simulate the audio environment of the Australian bush and interweave audio grabs that speak to the exobiological, botanical, historical and cultural notions of wilderness in the Australia.

A first stage, new work development of this project has been funded through the Visual Arts board of the Australia Council. Below is some of the documentation and outcomes from this work and plans for future development.

 

Potential Sites

After a series of conversations with the City of Melbourne and a number of site visits, I developed a shortlist of class 3 laneways (COM planning classification) from which I have identified three potential sites for the staging of Wilderness. They are Merrits Lane, Kirks Lane & Kitz Lane.

potential sites

Map of Melbourne CBD with potential Wilderness locations.

 

Merrits Lane

Merrits Lane

 

Kitz Lane

Kitz Lane

 

Kirks Lane

Kirks Lane

Mock Ups

Following are in situ mock ups showing planting of Kangaroo Grass (Thermeda triandra) and examples of how projections will sit in the lane. Projection images taken at remnant original vegetation near the Merri Creek in Craigieburn. Kangaroo Grass images taken from the Evans Street reserve in Sunbury.

Merrits Wilderness Comp

Merrits Lane Wilderness Mock Up.

 

Kirks Lane Comp

Kirks Lane Wilderness Mock Up.

 

Kitz Lane comp

Kirks Lane Wilderness Mock Up.

 

Landscape Research

Identifying the specific kind of landscape and species that grew at particular places in Melbourne's CBD before European-settlement has proven to be a difficult and likely inaccurate process. However there are a number of sources available that allow a fairly good approximation of the kinds of landscape that would have existed at the three sites I have identified. These include historical, geological, botanical and climate information and culminate, most importantly for this project, in the Ecological Vegetation Class (EVC) system.

 

EVCs

Victoria's landscape is broken up into Ecological Vegetation Classes. These describe the terrain, type and coverage of plant species associated with that particular land and assign it a specific number. In the case of Melbourne's CBD, its EVCs are estimated for the year 1750 and include EVCs 175, 55, 68 and 897. As the map below shows, my three sites are in an area classified as EVC 897 - Plains Grassland/Plains Grassy Woodland Mosaic.

The map above indicates that my three sites are in area of EVC 897 classification.

My plan therefore is to search for another area in Victoria with the same EVC number and hey presto - there is somewhere I can film that will approximate the original landscape of my sites. Unfortunately however the EVC 897 is an extinct classification and no longer exists. However, the adjacent EVCs shown on the map (55 & 175) are similar in nature and do still exist in remnants areas in parts of Victoria. My plan is therefore to identify and record my final presentation media in these sites. It is worth noting here however that as the map above shows, Elizabeth street that runs right up the middle of the CBD was originally an ephemeral stream that was the boundary between two distinct geological formations - one being silurian to the west, the other is the 'older volcanics' in the west. These geological formations have different impacts upon the local flora. Fore example on the Western side of the CBD it seems there were more Sheoake trees whereas the eastern side supported more Acacias and Manna Gums. This will need to be taken into account when choosing the final site for media capture.

 

The Nature of WILDERNESS

It would seem fitting however that an exact reproduction of the original Melbourne landscape is impossible. Wilderness is ostensibly a work about the cultural construction of environment and the impossibility of knowing an authentic nature without an understanding of our place in it. Implicit in the notions of 'nature' and ''wilderness' is an absence of human influence where nature is conceived as being untouched or in a virgin state. However this way of thinking excludes ourselves from the story of nature and our place in it. Such a conception abstacts our actions and impunes them from the effects and influence we have over the environments we inhabit.

Collaborators

I have been lucky enough to secure some extremely talented collaborators to help me further develop and produce this work. They are:

Krista Horbatiuk - Creative Producer and Director of Global Gardens Art

Bluebottle - Design and Technical Direction
http://www.bb3.net.au

I have also received kind support, information, encouragement, and collaboration from a great number of people and organisations who have taken the time to assist me. I would like to the following: The Australia Council, The Royal Botanical Gardens, Gary Presland, Tobias Munch, Sharon Willoughby, Kylie Regester, Robyn Merrett, Matthew Willcox, Sarah Ritchie, Lillian Pearce, Mary Chapman, Linda Tegg, Jessica Hochberg, Steaphan Paton & Frog Peck.

References

Growing Native Plants for Balconies, Courtyards and Townhouses
Alec M. Blomberry and Betty Maloney
Plants of Melbourne's Western Plains: a Gardener's Guide to the Original Flora Australian Plants Society, Keilor Plains Group
Local Planning Policies – Clause 22.20: Melbourne Planning Scheme LANEWAYS
City of Melbourne
EVC Bioregion Assessment for Vegetation Quality Assessment:
Victorian Volcanic Plain Bioregion

Department of Sustainability and Environment
Native Vegetation Map: Plains Woodlands or Forests
Department of Sustainability and Environment
Descriptions of Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs) Occurring in the Victorian West Department of Sustainability and Environment
The Natural History of the Footscray District Gary Presland
The Place for a Village: How Nature has Shaped the City of Melbourne Gary Presland
Intruders in the Bush: The Australian Quest for Identity John Carroll (ed)
Laneways of Melbourne Kornelia Freeman and Ulo Pukk
The Land Boomers Michael Cannon
The Birth of Melbourne Tim Flannery (ed.)
Letters From Victorian Pioneers Thomas Francis Bride
The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia Bill Gammage
The Life and Adventures of William Buckley: Thirty-Two Years a Wanderer Amongst the Aborigines of the then Unexplored Country Round Port Phillip
Tim Flannery (ed.)
Caretaking Tales: Beyond Crisis and Salvation William Cronon
A Place For Stories: Nature, History and Narrative William Cronon
The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature William Cronon

Past Work

Below is a short video documentation of some of my past visual arts presentations of works presented at White Night Melbourne, Gerturde Street Projection Festival, Q-view Gallery and Colourbox Studio. More information about my film and design work can be found on this Yay Tractor website.

 

 

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.