Abstracts are in no particular order. To find a specific presenter, use ‘Ctrl + F’ on Windows and ‘Command + F’ on Mac.
TerraTending: 2179 is a site-responsive sonic simulation that presents seven speculative encounters with the earth.
These speculative encounters are set one hundred and fifty-seven years from now—after the earth’s rehabilitation is complete, the last hollowing tickets were relinquished, the handing back, underway. At the beginning of the 22nd century, the practice of TerraTending1 was developed, popularised, and eventually ritualised. This approach to lignite listening facilitated the earthward reorientation of human ears, reaffirming humans as geo-subjects participating as a ‘living part of the geosocial matrix’.2 TerraTending is enabled only by guides known as Belayers. They collect surface artifacts—ancient copper, aluminium, and glass—which are activated by the Belayer. The sounds of these minerals provide the listener with geophonic signs during their descent and allow the listener to stretch their ears into the earth. With cheeks pressed to cold carbon, those TerraTending are able to trace the blood of rocks and ancestral salts, learning of the bovine and the bones that became the fuel and the fires of the past.
TerraTending: 2179 features recordings of materials collected from the Morwell Industrial Metal Recyclers and is composed from field recordings that were made during my time spent in Morwell, on Gunaikurnai Country.
Amias Hanley is an artist currently living on Wurundjeri Country in Melbourne, Australia. Their practice uses sound and media to explore relations among queer ecologies, attunement, situatedness and speculative practices. Engaging forms of performance, installation and collaboration, Amias’ work is interested in audition as an affective practice and the possibilities of sound and technology to support and alter the sonic expressions of humans and more-than-humans.
Recently, their work has been presented by Ars Electronica, Latrobe Regional Gallery, Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio (MESS), Liquid Architecture, The Substation, Disclaimer Journal, Speak Percussion, Avantwhatever Festival, Trocadero Art Space, Unlikely Journal for Creative Arts, Hearsay International Audio Arts Festival, Mapping Melbourne and The Design Hub.
1 The geonto-tech movement saw a shift in the invention of new technologies that supported earth ontologies, corporeal attending, and material recognition. The earthward orientation of human ears was a crucial contributor to what became known as the Third Geological Turn.Geonto-tech eventually superseded 21st century communications that focused on external relations.
2 Yusoff, Kathryn. “Queer Coal: Genealogies In/of the Blood.” Philosophia (Albany, N.Y.), vol. 5, no. 2, 2015, pp. 203–29.
Embracing the low resolution image
Pia Johnson and Clare McCracken
As we ready ourselves for digital imaging futures, we must stop to consider its carbon footprint. High fidelity image streaming services and data cloud storage, through to cryptocurrency and banking, collectively creates 3.7 per cent of global greenhouse emissions (2019)1. This paper critically reflects on a series of works created by photographer Pia Johnson and mixed-media artist Clare McCracken during the pandemic with a particular focus on works that utilise technology with a lower resolution. In doing so the paper asks would it be so bad if we lost resolution making our files smaller and less environmentally impactful?
Encompassed inside the low-resolution image, is the glitch, the disjointed slow connection, the noise of pixels and the blurred frame. It is within this loss of information that we argue the capacity for human intimacy emerges. Zooming into domestic settings of bedrooms, kitchens and the debris of life in lockdown, the screensharing enables us to delve beyond our boundaries, inserting each other into once private sanctuaries. While the glitch, as a rupture through an image, a piece of missing information, provides opportunities for imagining a world beyond the image. Drawing from Winnicott’s object relations theory, Susan Best describes art being positioned on the cusp of the inner subjective world and the outer objective world2. It is this liminal state where the low resolution image affects both the making and the audience by bridging the gaps. Here we fill in the glitch or the blurred image with our own experiences, thus enabling a deeper connection between the subject and object. We will argue that the resulting images not only afford less travel (as we can work remotely across great distance), but they also use less energy to process, less data to store, and are instantly accessible as they are stored as low-res jpg or png’s.
Through a series of artistic case studies this presentation offers new ways to create and connect through the low resolution image, while lowering carbon emissions.
 Geneva Environment Network. 2021. Data, Digital Technology, and the Environment, 25 November. https://www.genevaenvironmentnetwork.org/resources/updates/data-digital-technology-and-the-environment/
 Best, Susan. 2007. “Rethinking Visual Pleasure, Aesthetics and Affect”. Theory & Psychology, Special Section, vol. 17 (4): 505-514. DOI: 10.1177/0959354307079295
Clare McCracken is a Naarm/Melbourne-based, site-responsive artist and early-career researcher and lecturer. She is the co-ordinator of Art Theory, Cultures and Contexts in the Scholl of Art, RMIT. Her practice-led research sits at the intersection of art, human geography and urban theory. She employs innovative, performative methodologies to research how mobility systems coproduce space, place and landscape across generations in Australia.
Pia Johnson is a visual artist, photographer and lecturer. Her practice-led research is engaged in performance, cultural identity and belonging, stemming from her mixed Eurasian Australian heritage. Her artworks focus on the shifting socio-cultural narratives within Australian contemporary culture, considering both the personal and collective experience across generations, place and time.
What it is like to be a Polar Bear: how can AI be used in human/animal relations during the current extinction event.
Sam Leach (adjunct research fellow at University of South Australia, member of RMIT AEGIS research group).
This presentation discusses an installation work exploring this question that I presented at Sullivan Strumpf gallery, Sydney, 2022. Viewers were invited to test themselves using AI to determine how closely they resembled a polar bear. A companion work used AI to give viewers a chance to see the world from a polar bear’s perspective by classifying objects in the field of view into categories that might be meaningful to a polar bear: food or mate.
AI is notorious for its tendency to entrench the prejudice and bias in datasets, as highlighted by Gebru et al. (2018), who points out that the biggest datasets are combed from the billions of daily internet users, so whatever mistakes those people make are being picked up and repeated. The way these systems make decisions is opaque to the end user, so they tend to be viewed as authoritative. My project intentionally confused and mis-trained commonly available AI models into thinking everything is, to some degree, a polar bear.
Training large AI models, such as GPT3, can release as much as three hundred tons of carbon, which is about the same footprint as a rocket launch. In addition, the growing range of applications for AI means that processors are being installed in more and more devices—all of which consume resources, especially rare minerals, some of which are linked to incredibly destructive mining practices, and exploitative labour practices. Recent developments in AI have focused on animal studies for alternate approaches to understanding cognition, learning and embodiment (Crosby et al. 2019).
There is an irony in animals being used as a “steppingstone” for the advancement of AI in the face of pressures on non-human animals being exerted by the systems that support and promote the development of AI. I argue that AI developments must consider non-human animal viewpoints and interests rather than continuing to exploit and diminish the non-human biological world.
Sam Leach completed a PHD at RMIT, is an adjunct research fellow at the University of South Australia and a member of the RMIT AEGIS research grouip. Sam Leach’s paintings and installations draw on the history of visual representations of science and are informed by art history and philosophy. The artist draws connections between figuration, data visualisation techniques such as maps and graphs and formalist abstraction. Leach’s recent work has involved the use of machine learning to develop new compositions from the analysis of visual data.
A major book on Sam Leach’s work was published in 2015 with essays by Andrew Frost and fiction writer Tim Winton. In the same year, he completed an Art OMI Australia Committee Fellowship Residency in New York. In 2010, Leach won both Wynne and Archibald Prizes at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and was a finalist for the Royal Bank of Scotland Emerging Artist Award in 2009. Leach’s work has been extensively exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is held in the National Portrait Gallery, the Art Gallery of South Australia, South Australian Parliament and numerous regional gallery and university collections.
Interviews with the non-human: a creative practice exploration of interview as a method
Donna Haraway paraphrases Marilyn Strathern when she suggests that “It matters what matters we use to think other matters with” (2016). If an interview is a method (or matter) that we use when filming humans, what would occur if that method is applied to the non-human? Through creating a series of films I explore how using interview as a method might change the way I film and edit the footage of something that I would normally observe.
In 2021, I began this creative practice experiment by interviewing a tree (this short film was delivered at Visible Evidence 2021, broadcast on Delete TV in Austria in 2022, and used as the visuals for a series of improvised performances by Seensound musicians). I found that using interview as a method changed my creative processes and forced me to think about the opinion/experience of the tree rather than merely reproduce its audio-visualness. I purposely asked the tree questions that could also be asked of a human, this was so I could begin to understand how the tree and I differ.
In 2022 I have developed this idea by interviewing a sand dune. With this piece I intend to collaborate with other creatives, including a sound designer to make the final work. I will use this film to further analyse how my ‘conversation’ with the sand dune changes my understanding of landscape, and how I might film place. As part of this process I will be referring to the work of the Gay’wu women (Song Spirals (2019)) who theorise about connection to land and storytelling modes.
Catherine Gough-Brady is an award-winning documentary producer and director who publishes on the emergent use of video as a method of academic discourse, and the relational nature of documentary production processes in journals including Media Practice and Education, Screenworks, [In}transition, The International Journal of Creative Media Research, and Cultural Geographies. She is currently co-editing an edited book of essays on the intersection between creative practice and theory. Catherine produced and directed six ABC TV documentary series, including Legal Briefs (2016) and Ethics Matters (2017). Catherine created 11 radio features for ABC Radio National. Catherine’s latest documentary is for ABC TV, called The Communicator (2022). Catherine is Head of Postgraduate Studies at JMC Academy in Australia, and is an associate editor of Screenworks
Intensive Bodies: anthropomorphic effects animation
Gina Moore (RMIT) and Dan Torre (RMIT)
Emerging trends in computer animation include sophisticated FX animation (simulation of fire, smoke and water) as well as procedural animation (movement from complex algorithmic connections). This paper focuses on works which use these techniques, separately or together, to depict abstract humanoid forms. As well as being animated in the traditional sense, i.e. moving from one pose to another throughout the timeline, these figural forms continually evolve and change. This paper considers these animated FX figures from multiple perspectives: focussing on their creation, their resulting affective qualities, as well as a consideration of how they might be positioned within our increasingly tumultuous natural environment. In doing so, this paper draws upon aspects of Deleuzian philosophy and themes emerging from contemporary posthuman discourse.
This 15-minute experimental documentary investigates the relationship between the power of the wind for electricity and for people on the small, dry, rocky, windy Greek island of Tinos. The wind is an element that constrains but also enables. It is a force that can be channeled. It enables action. But for whom? On this island, the control over wind and the control of people are intertwined. This is an ancient story. From pushing the sails of conquerors to this island, wind has always been an element of power on Tinos. Increasing the heat of the sea and the atmosphere through the addition of insulating greenhouse gases makes this wind less predictable and more powerful. The earth of the future will be windier not less. The rest of the world is becoming more like Tinos–hot, dry, rocky, windy, with less drinking water–but can the world learn the lessons of resiliency which Tinians have innovated in this windswept world?
Wind’s harnessing by off-island business by imposing turbine monsters reawakens awareness of the wind force.
No other concern has galvanized the people of Tinos as the threat of wind turbines. On an island of 8000 it is reported 1500 came to situate their bodies to blockade the transportation of turbine blades on a darkened barge amidst the COVID-19 quarantine. Many of the activists are not against renewable energy. They recognize the correlation between carbon emission and climate change. They see that replacing hydrocarbon fuel with wind and solar sources to produce energy is one important act in decarbonizing energy. What they want is to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy, be party to the decision-making, not be exploited, and have ecological, aesthetic, and sonic justice for their island and the nonhumans that therein dwell.
Silence, Silencing and Noisy Perceptions while Listening through Apparatuses for Knowing the Ocean
(paper presentation and sonic listening session)
Objective approaches, based on measurement analyses of sonic communication in the ocean, used to present oceanic relations in eco media, are pervasive. However, the data disaggregated by the apparatus for measuring a sonic arena here are generally reported according to an understanding of the data as separate from the human collector, and certainly then from any sensory encounter with said data. Objective readings of data bind them into heteronormative dispositions. This paper examines the extent to which sonic eco data analysis, as it relates specifically to sensory encounters in human-ocean relations, promotes human exceptionalist dispositions and the consequent implications for oceanic relations. Framed both through Michelle Roulph Trouillot’s (1995) understanding of power and silencings within hegemonic narrative construction and Mandy-Suzanne Wong’s (2011) notion of listening as a highly empathetic act for more-than-human activism, human exceptionalist dispositions constitute attuned power that builds specific narratives, and hence produces (eco) silencings, that could be perceived of differently.
Based on the discomfort that wells up as a binary sense experience to both noise and silence measured while listening to hydrophone data, resulting in undesired aspects all too often being cut out, it is clear that, at present, the listening potentials for data are misrecognised. Perceptions of the unknown existing in silence has directly led to violent and extractive technologies of seismic survey blasting that is occurring along the coasts where the sonic recordings I will demonstrate were gathered. The live aspect included in the presentation of this paper proposes an experience of listening-to-the-listening of the ocean through this sonic clip titled Sonic Sense Palette: Below the Waterline. Together, the sound piece and paper argue that the apparatus used for measuring data of the (un)known and (un)heard contributes to heteronormative dispositions that cause discomfort as they challenge perceptibility and imperceptibility within human-ocean relations, leading toward unjust decision making. Demonstrated in the sonic composition, imperceptibility is measured by discomfort to identify barriers that become eco-conscious potentials for human-ocean relations. The clip thus becomes a creative intervention into the apparatuses for knowing that silence the ocean. Through attending to creative practice, the paper calls for the disruption of methods for objective measurements linked to apparatus set ups that are analysed through human exceptionalism as a mechanism for full recognition of the oceanic in human-ocean knowledge production. This paper does not focus on research in a moment of human exceptionalist disruption but rather seeks to disrupt research processes which could be exclusionary and promote exceptionalism and objectivism, and thus interrupt unjust representations of the non-human, specifically as it relates to human-ocean relations.
Meghan Judge is an artist currently holding a postdoctoral research position at the South African Research Chair in Science Communication, Stellenbosch University in South Africa. She holds a PhD in Fine Art from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she was a fellow in the Oceanic Humanities for the Global South project at a center for excellence the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER). Her doctoral dissertation focused on understanding human-ocean relations through elemental media and weathering activities while developing a creative praxis for onto-epistemic inquiry. She is currently working, both in writing and creative practice, through sonic sensory palettes that rearrange oceanic perceptions away from human exceptionalism and colonial ideals. Judge has participated in, curated and organised artistic exchanges and exhibitions in the Southern African and Western Indian Ocean region. Her recent solo exhibition titled Static Drift showed at the Wits Art Museum, and recent film work The Lonely Sailor Weather Report travelled in global film festival circuits.
An Inconvenient Curve: Unlearning Settler Colonial Representations of the Birrarung
Since the settler occupation of Melbourne in 1835, the Birrarung has been represented by settlers through drawing, mapping, painting, printmaking and, following the announcement of the daguerreotype in 1839, photography. These representations are grounded in western ways of relating to place, and reinforce the river as a ‘commodity for capital and colonial expansion’ (Birch 2022). Indeed, the extractive relationship settlers have had to the Birrarung can be read in its course—the urban section of the river, in particular, has been significantly engineered to extend its value as an economic resource.
My practice-led research attempts to understand the impacts of visual culture on the Birrarung. As the Australian environmental historian Jarrod Hore notes, the aforementioned ‘new visions of nature’ shaped settler colonialism, turning ‘physical space into an asset’ (2022, 3-5). In this project, I aim to unlearn settler colonial representations of the river and contribute another way of thinking about it beyond extractive terms. I do this by chronicling its environmental, social and spiritual significance through a variety of media, including archival material, photography, video and text. Further, I look to Ariella Aïsha Azoulay’s concept of the civil imagination to speculate on the affirmative role photography and video might have in reshaping public perceptions of the river.
For rip, rip, microchip, I will present a creative work-in-progress that connects the history of the Birrarung to contemporary climate discourse as a way of considering the impacts of visual art on the environment. It will take English civil engineer John Coode’s description of Fisherman’s Bend—a curved section of the river and thriving ecosystem, near its original confluence with the Maribyrnong River at what is now the Port of Melbourne site—as an ‘inconvenient curve’ as a provocation. Coode recommended that a new channel, straighter and wider than the river, be dug to allow larger ships to enter the Birrarung and expanding port, ultimately erasing the river’s natural course. These violent acts highlight the troubled relationship settlers have had to the river, which, arguably, have contributed to climate change.
Christine McFetridge is a settler New Zealander based on unceded Wadawurrung Country. She is a photographer, researcher and writer represented by M.33, Melbourne, and a doctoral researcher in the AEGIS research network.
In 2020, McFetridge co-founded Co- Publishing, an experimental publishing project dedicated to celebrating diverse perspectives through visual art and writing, with Josephine Mead. Co- aims to promote local literary and visual arts practices, poetic research and critical arts writing. Co- Publishing’s second issue, WATER, supported by the City of Yarra and Collingwood Yards, was published in July 2021.
Ancient Light: Rematerialising The Astronomical Image
How can the field of astronomical photography, viewed through the lens of new materialism, alter our collective perception of ecology? How does the coalescence of astronomy and materiality alter our perception of analogue photographic processes?
In this time of ecological catastrophe, it is important to readdress our tangible, material connection with the universe and our planet. By analysing this interaction between astronomy, new materialism, and photography, new insights are provided on how this convergence of theories alters our understanding of the natural world. The thesis demonstrates the interconnectedness between the universe, humans and photographic materiality. It discusses the importance of investigating the materials that we use daily, with a specific focus on waste produced by the photographic industry.
Analogue astronomical photography uniquely allows us to understand the intimate connection between the cosmos and the earthbound. Silver is found in distant stars, yet it can be mined from the depths of our Earth and used to create photographic images. Calcium is also found within stars such as our Sun, yet it is also a building block of bones and teeth, which can then be processed to make gelatin.
In this text, I draw upon my own reflective practice; I have taken long exposure photographs of the stars in international dark sky locations and observatories. The methodology of this practice-based research is informed by Donna Haraway and Melody Jue, who advocate for an embodied experience of landscape, in opposition to a detached, scientific view. This research builds on Donald Schön’s concept of reflective knowledge, and Katrine Hjelde’s hermeneutic approach. In this research, I demonstrate a qualitative method which enables me to gain an in-depth, multi-faceted understanding of astronomy, photographic materiality, and ecology. The method is informed by photographic artists working in the landscape, including Garry Fabian Miller and Susan Derges.
The direct material, indexical link in photography is discussed, drawing on Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag and Mary Ann Doane amongst others. I go on to consider more-than-representational, non-human photography, as introduced by Rebecca Najdowski and Joanna Zylinska. My thesis is situated in the context of new materialism, which seeks to understand the intrinsic material connections between human and non-human phenomena. I draw on theorists such as Jane Bennett, Karen Barad, Donna Haraway and Timothy Morton, and from Robin Wall Kimmerer, who analyse the complex network of material exchanges from a perspective informed both by contemporary science and ancient indigenous thinking.
Understanding more about the interconnected nature of photographic and astronomical materiality, it becomes imperative to innovate new methods of sustainable photographic practice. This research demonstrates analogue photographic processes which are less damaging to the environment, including plant-based developers and silver reclamation from photographic fixer. Distinct from contemporary astronomical photographic images, which are often digital composites with interpreted colour, Ancient Light demonstrates our intimate connection with the cosmos, by examining the tangible, entangled connections between the stars, human existence, and the ecology of planet Earth. The thesis advances knowledge in this area by weaving these connections together, providing new insights into the materiality of photography through theoretical lenses of varying magnitude, from microscopic to cosmic.
Melanie King is a working class artist and curator, originally from Manchester, UK. Melanie is now based in Kent, UK. She is co-Director of super/collider and Lumen Studios. She is founder of the London Alternative Photography Collective. Melanie is Lecturer In Photography at Canterbury Christ Church University, and a final year practice-based PhD Candidate at the Royal College of Art. (Post Viva-Voce)
Melanie is interested in the relationship between the environment, photography and materiality. Melanie intends to highlight the intimate connection between celestial objects (sun, moon, stars), photographic material and the natural world. Melanie is currently researching a number of sustainable photographic processes, to minimise the environmental impact of her artistic practice, informed by the Sustainable Darkroom movement.
Melanie’s 2021-2022 project “Precious Metals” considers the materiality of silver and palladium, from the production of silver and palladium within the cosmos, extraction from Earth and its uses within our society. This project focuses on their use in photography, suggesting methods of using the material that is less harmful to the ecology of the Earth.
Paucity of Placetime and the Simulation of Tactality
There is a feedback loop between the nature of representation and the representation of the natural. As the expanded palette of synthetic pigments drove the impressionists in interpreting landscape, procedural and simulated algorithmic textures drive representation of the natural world now. These are omni-present in our manmade spaces, from screens to architecture to furniture. This immersion in the synthetic natural influences our expectations of the ecologically-derived nautral world. Our imagination is being influenced by media technologies that reduce the complexities of real surfaces to effects, semantic representations, or cliches. The wide-spread use of textural simulation extracts the imprint of times from our environment.
A key example of synthetic imaging, computer graphics textures are algorithmic processes that are applied to mathematical structures, as opposed to emerging from the physical composition of the structure itself in the case of real materials. Uniformity and repeatability are a hallmark, as opposed to subtlety of variation found in physical materiality.
The relationship between time and tactality is a crucial aspect, placetime being a specific and important term – a deep and intrinsic melding of the two. Time is expressed in places as a residue of forces, impacts, wearings, growings, histories, etc. and becomes touchable, accumulating in the tactality of surfaces we interact with. Time acting in this manner deeply influences the experience of a place. Ecological environments are deeply marked and fashioned by the imprints of time, unlike many contemporary manmade spaces.
Touch is the most intimate and immediatley proximate of senses. Simulation of surface texture robs the sense of touch of it’s primacy and subtley. In addition, light and sound reflecting off time-worn surfaces is a more nuanced experience. For instance, pits and roughness effect the way the light reflects. I argue there is a paucity of the tactile in the contemporary experience of manufactured places. Mass production leads to lack of warmth and connection and there is even a relation between hand coldness and modern surfaces. This lecture explores the relationships between synthetic surfaces and eco-imaginings of place as influenced by exposure to replications, simulations, and mass-productions vs complex ecologies that fashion natural materials.
Stephanie Andrews is a Lecturer for Digital Media and holds a PhD in virtual reality experiences. She began as a Technical Director at Pixar, and has worked extensively in 3D graphics, animation, motion capture, programming, and UX design. Andrews has lead curriculum innovation in 3D experimental art, winning major grants for stereoscopic research. Her exhibition record spans twenty years, exploring kinetic sculpture, holography, digital imaging, and installation. As an entrepreneur, she has founded product design companies for the online metaverse, provided leadership to 3D printing startups, and worked as Creative Director in the VR neuroscience industry.
Feeling naturecultures: Frutti Tutti and the productive methods of smartphone-based public artworks
Not only are our bodies shaped by the environment but by the smartphones in our pockets. Nature is often considered separate to our digital interactions, however, a shift towards embodied modes of knowing and affective encounters in place is promoted through the posthuman, where nature and culture are entangled and never singular. Our smartphones are embedded in the way we manage business, socialisation, and politics, and our bodies are reconfigured and transmitted across space in informational networks. Taking this mobility of personhood as a productive method in creative practice research, this paper explores how smartphone-based public artworks can act as a tool for artistic, social, and political critical thinking, and intervention in the promotion of environmental connection, or a heightened feeling naturecultures. Humans are not extracted as singular entities from their environment, their objects nor their social, economic, or political systems, but are meshed with all that is at play within the dynamic interconnected world. Through a posthuman reading of Alaimo’s trans-corporeality (2016), I explore how smartphone-based art that takes place across a public site can performatively enact embodied responses that reposition viewer-participants’ self-recognition that they are a part of a larger ecosystem. In this sense, this work points towards the hope for making better worlds.
As part of this exploration, I will discuss the creative-research project Frutti Tutti, an audio-visual work that took place at the Queen Victoria Market, and through interviews turned into soundscape, presented the social, cultural, environmental, economic, and political effects around fruit consumption. The work was presented as a smartphone-based audio-visual work that was mapped amongst the fruit stalls at the market.
Cassandra Tytler (she/her) is an artist and scholar working within video, performance, and installation. Her research interests lie in the performance of digital media and its encounter within place. She investigates its potential to create a relational and aware politics of resistance to patriarchal, colonising discourses. She works from a feminist, queer, and intersectional perspective. She has exhibited, screened, and performed work, and spoken at conferences both nationally and internationally, and published papers in academic journals.