The Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation was formed in a flurry in early 2016. KSCA brings together artists and writers who are cultivating art as any activity that brings about cultural change and reforms our understanding of the world. Many of its activities revolve around the post-industrial town of Kandos, in Wiradjuri country, in the Central West of NSW. However its members come from many places, and its projects bridge urban, regional and rural Australia.
Here’s our mission statement:
KSCA is a platform for artists and others who are experimenting with adaptive cultural change. It aims to support creative work that reaches beyond the familiar contexts of art to investigate new ways of acting in the world.
and our objectives:
To support creative activities concerned with cultural change in real-world contexts. This can occur in areas like (but not limited to) farming, urban planning, rural industry, food production, commoning and infrastructure development.
To explore new ways to create and disseminate knowledge by supporting grassroots experimentation and experiential learning.
To support collaborations that bridge different types of knowledge, professions and areas of experience.
To build fruitful associations between communities that may be geographically remote from each other, but share particular challenges and aspirations.
…and a bit about ‘cultural adaptation’
The idea of cultural adaptation takes its lead from Australian philosopher Donald Brook, who had some interesting things to say about the modern structures of art. Brook pointed out that creative and experimental acts have been occurring for a lot longer than we have had the institutions that currently define art. Indeed, human culture would never evolve unless such things were occurring in all streams of life. He suggests that we should expand our understanding of “art” to include any activity that enables humans to discover new ways of acting in the world – in other words, any activity that changes culture. We have put a few links to other readings about cultural adaptation at the bottom of this page.
So where does a name like ‘Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation’ come from and why was KSCA formed?
The name had its first day in the sun at the Cementa Festival in 2013 thanks to Ian Milliss. Ian’s work for the festival was “Welcome to Kandos,” a poster presenting a number of fictional projects, ambitious and highly innovative, as an alternative history for the town of Kandos.
Here is the poster:
Emboldened by Ian’s lead, fellow Cementa artist Gilbert Grace proposed manifesting these fictions in real terms for the Cementa 17 festival. This meshed well with Alex Wisser’s desire to establish a land-based residency for artists who work with land, agricultural innovation, and ecological phenomena. A bunch of other artists and writers all piled on board, and KSCA was born!
The Hemp Initiative
The project didn’t take real shape until we met farmer Stuart Andrews in 2016, and began to talking about working with his land. Stuart’s father Peter Andrews is famous for pioneering Natural Sequence Farming, a honed system of agriculture and land regeneration that was invented very close to Kandos – in the Bylong Valley. Stuart is extending is father’s techniques and restoring Marloo, a highly degraded property outside Kandos. In 2016 he began to work with Gilbert Grace on a project called The Hemp Initiative, which aims to draw attention to the remarkable versatility, cultural history and industrial and agricultural uses of the hemp plant.
In November 2016, KSCA hosted the Futurelands2 public forum in the town and surrounds of Kandos. Futurelands was the brainchild of Cementa co-curator Ann Finegan, who had staged the first iteration in Kandos in 2015. Across a weekend, Futurelands2 explored the future of our relationship to land through a mix of talks, walks and a bountiful forager’s feast! It provided KSCA with an amazing platform to share The Hemp Initiative, and the ideas around Cultural Adaptation with a remarkable crowd of speakers and attendees from both rural and urban Australia. At Cementa 17 the following April, Gilbert Grace installed his hempcrete wall on Angus Avenue, and we launched the Futurelands2 newspaper.
Currently the members of KSCA are:
Gilbert Grace, Ian Milliss, Kim Williams, Diego Bonetto, Eloise Lindeback, Christine McMillan, Leanne Thompson, Belinda Innes, Lucas Ihlein, Georgie Pollard, Marco Cuevas-Hewitt, Alex Wisser & Laura Fisher.
Looking back from January 2018.
The Hemp Initiative continues…
This project has turned out to be more enlightening and timely than we first imagined! It faced considerable obstacles when Gilbert and Stuart were refused a license by the NSW Department of Industries to grow the planned crop in early 2017. This experience taught us a great deal about the extraordinary constraints that surround the hemp industry in Australia, constraints that reveal how much people continue to confuse low-THC industrial hemp with the smokable stuff. At one point the police even turned up to Marloo to have a chat! Meanwhile, Stuart had turned his attention to a family property in Queensland (where the Andrews family have embarked on a fantastic rotational grazing enterprise with chooks), and was understandably reticent to go through the rigmarole of reapplying for the license. Would KSCA ever see a hemp crop in the ground we wondered?
Fortunately, another landowner in the area who attended Futurelands2 and was keen to trial hemp on her property approached us about the possibility of collaborating. A fresh license application was submitted… and accepted in November 2017! This news reached us just as it was announced that human consumption of food-grade hemp was finally legal in Australia (as the only country in the world, with NZ, in which hemp food products were prohibited, it was about bloody time). And as we get down to the nitty gritty of soil preparation, irrigation and the like for a small trial crop of food grade seed hemp to be planted in early 2018, the mediasphere is awash with stories that medicinal cannabis can now be imported to, and exported from, Australia. Yes, that was Greg Hunt, Federal Minister for Health, who said: “We would like to be, potentially, the world’s number one medicinal cannabis supplier”.
These breakthroughs have special significance for Klara Marosszeky, Managing Director of the Australian Hemp Masonry Company, and President of the Australian Industrial Hemp Alliance. Klara has been an indefatigable, optimistic advocate for the industry for a very long time. We are immensely fortunate to have had Klara’s support and expert advice over the course of The Hemp Initiative – her talk at Futurelands2 can be watched here.
So in 2018 The Hemp Initiative strides stoically on, just as the fortunes of the Australian Hemp industry have turned.
Adventures in regenerative agriculture in northern NSW
One of the speakers at Futurelands2 was Adam Blakester, founder and CEO of rural sustainability incubator Starfish Initiatives. When Adam told us there were possible affinities between the creative shenanigans going on in Kandos and the progressive farming activities going on around his part of the world (Uralla), he may not have expected that we’d come knocking on his door to be shown around! But that’s what we did in April 2017, embarking on a KSCA road trip to the New England region, where we were in Gamilaraay, Wirrayaraay, Anaiwan and Bigambul country. There we visited the fertile, biodiverse grazing properties of innovative farmers Glenn Morris (Inverell) and Tim Wright (Uralla), and The Living Classroom (Bingara), a town commons-turned-regenerative agriculture/carbon farming hub. We were taken on a very moving tour of the Myall Creek Massacre memorial site, on Wirrayaraay country, by local elders Kelvin Brown and Brian Donnelly. The hospitality and guidance of Adam himself made the trip all the more enriching and informative. Throughout 2017 we deepened some of these connections through further gatherings. We’ve written about all of this here, here, here, here, here.
A new project for 2018/2019: ‘An artist, a farmer and a scientist walk into a bar…’
KSCA’s travels in Northern NSW were so inspiring that we began working with some of the people we’d met to develop a project linking the towns and surrounds of Kandos and Bingara. It’s a pretty ambitious one, so we were super chuffed to hear in January 2018 that Create NSW had awarded us Regional Partnerships funding to make it happen! You can read an overview of the project here.
Kandos is situated within the Wiradjuri nation, and KSCA are mindful that we we walk on Aboriginal country everywhere we go. We thank and honour the custodians of this land, and pay our respects to elders past, present and future.
More on cultural adaptation:
Brook, Donald (2008) Experimental Art. Studies in Material Thinking, no. 8. https://www.materialthinking.org/people/donald-brook
Ihlein, Lucas (2016) 1:1 scale art and the Yeomans Project in North Queensland, 36:3, https://www.artlink.com.au/articles/4524/lucas-ihlein-11-scale-art-and-the-yeomans-project-/
Milliss, Ian (2010) ‘Adapt or Die’ Artlink, 30:2, https://www.artlink.com.au/articles/3399/adapt-or-die/
Alex Wisser (2017) ‘Futurelands2: on cultural adaptation’, Futurelands2 newspaper, pages 6-7.