The Living Classroom, Bingara
An artist, a farmer and a scientist walk into a bar…
KSCA has begun working on an exciting multi-partner collaborative project in regional NSW, for which we are seeking funding through the Regional Partnerships scheme of Create NSW.
We are partnering with:
- – Cementa Inc. (Kandos)
- – The Living Classroom (Bingara)
- – Starfish Initatives
- – Arts North West (New England NSW)
- – Orana Arts (Mid-West NSW)
The project title started out as a joke without a punchline:
what would happen if we brought together artists, farmers and scientists for an open ended collaborative process?
After our successful public forum Futurelands2 in Kandos in November 2016, we decided to connect to Bingara, our “sister city” in rural NSW. Bingara is home to The Living Classroom (TLC), a community run space which hosts workshops and incubates innovation in regenerative agriculture. Importantly, TLC has 26 beds, a workshop and seminar space, and 150 hectares of land set aside for agricultural experimentation.
Hence our idea: to run an “artist-in-residency” style program, expanded to include not just artists but also farmers and scientists.
What might farmers and scientists come up with if they start behaving like artists? And how might artists’ practices expand when faced with the deep knowledge of farmers and scientists?
That’s what we’re trying to find out.
This project also taps into a set of relationships already developing in Kandos. Thus, several of our collaborative residencies with be hosted by farmers and local community members in the mid-west of NSW. The outcomes of all of this blue-sky experimentation will be presented at a high-profile public forum at the beautifully restored Roxy Theatre in Bingara, and as an integral part of the Cementa19 festival in Kandos.
The collaborative residency projects:
Bruce Pascoe, whose archival work in uncovering evidence of the complex agricultural practices of pre-settlement Aboriginal people has won numerous awards, will partner with Lismore based Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens. Together they will investigate the possibility of reintroducing Murnong, the Yam Daisy, to the farmland of The Living Classroom, and expand Bruce’s current work undertaken in Gippsland, Vic and Berry, NSW of trialling the cultivation of edible native grasses and grains. Prior to colonisation, Murnong were cultivated across the wetter regions of Eastern Australia. As a staple starch food for Aboriginal communities across this region, it is a plant with significant agricultural and cultural heritage.
Karla Dickens brings her rich experience as a multidisciplinary artist disclosing aspects of the nation’s history and working on grassroots community initiatives to this project. In addition to the exhibition outcomes at Cementa19, this collaboration will make an important contribution to The Living Classroom’s efforts to integrate Aboriginal agriculture and native foods into its educational program.
Artist Lucas Ihlein will work with physicist, engineer, farmer and inventor Allen Yeomans. The son of PA Yeomans, Allan is part of an esteemed family of agricultural innovators in Australia. His current project is the Yeomans Carbon Still – a device for measuring soil carbon sequestration. In the near future, when a carbon economy is in place, farmers will be paid for storing carbon dioxide in their soils via regenerative agriculture. The Yeomans Carbon Still is ready to go – but it is yet to be approved by the Australian government as a licenced method of measuring the amount of carbon sequestered in agricultural soils.
Ihlein and Yeomans will bring the Yeomans Carbon Still to The Living Classroom in Bingara. The device will be used in public demonstrations with local farmers to test its effectiveness as a tool for encouraging widespread transformation of farming practices. At The Living Classroom, they will also explore the legal barriers to the widespread adoption of the Yeomans Carbon Still, and develop communication methods to bring together policy makers and farmers, to encourage Australia’s carbon reductions program to be more inclusive of rural knowledge. In addition to the Cementa19 festival, the results will be presented in 2019 in a major exhibition entitled Shapes of Knowledge, Curated by Hannah Mathews, at the Monash University Museum of Art.
Diego Bonetto will work with farmers and Kandos locals to create a commercially viable forager’s network, called Wildfoods.store. Building on his extensive knowledge of wild foods that grow throughout the region, Bonetto aims to trial a business model that links land owners with chefs and wholesalers at Flemington Markets, so that quantities of highly valued edible wild foods collected from local farms can be distributed to the high end restaurants of Sydney. Plants such as farmers friends, chickweed and purslane, which are perceived as weeds by many farmers, sell for high prices as exotic ingredients to chefs and cooks in the city. Through his involvement with Futurelands2, where Bonetto collaborated with chef team Alfie’s Kitchen to provide a forager’s feast to 130 guests, Bonetto has established relationships with several land owners who are curious about the economic potential of the plants which grow abundantly on their properties. Wildfoods.store will explore the possibilities of fostering a grassroots cooperative strategy in collaboration with a small network of land owners. The project will be augmented by community engaged workshops that focus on how weeds have particular value within working landscapes, building resilience against volatile climate and protecting against nutrient depletion in soil.
Artist Alex Wisser will partner with Nigerian Social Entrepreneur Chido Govera and Kandos residents to initiate a local mushroom farming micro industry. Through her organisation The Future of Hope Foundation Govera has supported people to establish small-scale, mushroom based enterprises in a variety of climates around the world. This model of mushroom cultivation can utilise many different plant residues that are widely available, from corn husk to coffee waste. By investigating how mushrooms grow, this project presents the opportunity to enhance public awareness of how fungi are critical to farming ecosystems in general.
This collaboration is part of a larger community-engaged project to address chronic unemployment in the post-industrial town of Kandos. Thus at the heart of Wisser’s project is a desire to intermingle ecological, economic and socially-engaged lines of inquiry to explore how creative practice can contribute to the resilience of small rural communities.
Artist Laura Fisher will engage with organic farmer Glenn Morris to produce an interactive artwork that models the intricate biological processes of humus. Humus is the organic material in top soil upon which all life on earth depends. One teaspoon of humus contains 6 billion living organisms. It is the way these organisms interact, driven by the process of photosynthesis, that determines the nutrition in our foods and the amount of stable carbon that is stored in our soils. These interactions take many forms: extracting, trading, filtering, dissolving, digesting, immunising, solubilising, cleansing, synthesising, storing, fertilising, inoculating and so on.
The world in the soil is as complex and varied as a big metropolis, yet is totally mysterious to most people. As an organic farmer who has successfully rehabilitated nutrient-deficient land by fostering humus production, Morris is passionate about educating the public about the importance of humus. Fisher and Morris will together experiment with different materials, and a variety of kinetic, mechanical and interactive tools, to devise ways to communicate the remarkable functionality of humus.
Regenerative farmers Belinda Innes and Dan Kilminster will engage with Australian Bamboo artist Mark Swartz and Indonesian social entrepreneurs Singgih Kartono and Tri Wahyuni in a project that will test the viability of bamboo as a potential commercial crop. Using Innes’ and Kilminster’s farm as a base, the artist team will host workshops with school children and community members to teach people techniques for building with bamboo. Participants will be led in the construction of a bamboo garden canopy that can be dismantled when not in use, with the possibility of a twin structure being built at The Living Classroom in Bingara. This project has an important cross-cultural dimension as it creates a context in which to demonstrate the ingenuity of bamboo-based building and artisanal traditions from Indonesia and other parts of South-East Asia. Kartono and Wahyuni, who have established small bamboo-based enterprises (bamboo bicycles, furniture and homewares) in Indonesia, have already worked closely with KSCA member Gilbert Grace on a bamboo bicycles project, and their residency in Australia will enable this collaboration to continue as well. Workshops will illustrate bamboo’s many sustainable uses as fabric, paper, food, structural material and more, while also revealing the plant’s efficiency – as the world’s fastest growing grass – sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.
Artist Imogen Semmler will partner with soil scientists and local farmers in a project that examines the paradigm shift that is underway in the scientific community. Focusing on what she calls the ‘Carbon Crux’, Semmler will take on the task of bringing conflicting scientific understandings of soil carbon into convivial dialogue. The carbon content of soils is a hotly contested topic of pressing relevance to climate change mitigation policy. Over many decades mainstream agricultural science has developed artificial means for plants to access some of the nutrients they need, deactivating the carbon and nutrient cycles in soil that rest upon interactions between plant roots, micro-organisms and minerals. A few pioneering scientists are building a persuasive body of evidence to argue that farming landscapes need to restore the latter process to maintain productivity, protect human health and accelerate the sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere. Imogen’s residency at The Living Classroom will see her investigate the ‘Carbon crux’ in cooperation with local farmers for whom this conflict is directly relevant. To this project she brings her rare experience as an emerging soil scientist (close to completing a degree in ecology at the University of New England), her practice as a multidisciplinary artist, and her extensive history as a founder and creative producer of contemporary art events.
MORE INFO ON KSCA’S PREVIOUS PROJECTS
KSCA hosted the Futurelands2 public forum in Kandos in November 2016, and in April 2017 we published a newspaper with contributions from all our speakers.
Click on the image below to read the entire newspaper online via ISSUU:
Alternatively, you can download the PDF to read offline here (10mb PDF file – right click and select “save link as”).