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, known for his award-winner research on the agricultural practices of pre-settlement Aboriginal people, will partner with Lismore based Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens. Working with school children, they will investigate the edible native grasses that grow on and around The Living Classroom, and explore the possibility of cultivating Murnong, the Yam Daisy, at the site. The project expands Bruce’s current work undertaken in Gippsland, Vic and Berry, NSW of trialling the cultivation of native foods. Prior to colonisation, Murnong were harvested 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 a sculptural installation that will be exhibited at Cementa19, this collaboration will contribute 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.
Artist Diego Bonetto will work with farmers and Kandos locals to create a commercially viable forager’s network, called Wildfoods.store. 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. Building on his extensive knowledge of wild foods that grow throughout the region, Bonetto will explore the possibilities of fostering a grassroots cooperative strategy in collaboration with a small network of landowners.
The project will be underpinned by community-engaged workshops in collaboration with chefs and distributors, in order to define key staple produce that can form the basis for an ongoing relationship between rural and city food economies. An integral part of the project is Bonetto’s storytelling about people living on the land, exploring changing relationship with the environment, and indigenous and exotic traditional relationships to plant species.
Artist Alex Wisser will partner with Rick Hutton at The Living Classroom, to create a permanent public artwork at the site: a hole in which visitors can occupy a meditative space and consider their relationship to the earth.
This work will create a space in which visitors to The Living Classroom can experience the earth from the inside. It is intended to complement The Living Classroom’s purpose of introducing visitors to the complex functioning of soil and earth in the production of all plant life by allowing them to experience actually being within in. This hole will also be a space of education. The space will expose the viewer to the strata of soil composition as it descends from the surface. One wall of the hole will be covered by Perspex and backfilled with high quality soil. Different plants with deep root systems will be planted along its edge so that their roots will grow down along this ‘window’. This will give visitors an opportunity to observe the rich complexity and interaction of the subterranean life of plants.
Artist Laura Fisher will work 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 of us. 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 artist Mark Swartz on a project that explores the ecological, structural and commercial value of bamboo.
Bamboo has extraordinary versatility and structural strength, while it also sequesters carbon very efficiently through its fast growing cycle. It is under-utilised as a sustainable, climate-tolerant material in Australia. On their property near Kandos, Innes and Kilminster are investigating bamboo’s potential to rehabilitate soils, improve water quality, provide building materials and serve as the basis for a viable, sustainable, rural enterprise. In this project, workshops will bring participants to the farm to learn about these investigations, while Swartz will teach some of the skills involved in contemporary bamboo construction, including rope, concrete and steel incorporation. One of the outcomes of this project will be a collaboratively produced bamboo structure that can serve as a stage or canopy for events, and a template for similar structures to be built throughout the region.
Artist Imogen Semmler will work closely with a farming family who are transitioning their property to regenerative farming methods. This project will involve both creative audio and performance elements, and will invite audiences into the world of a farm in a state of agro-ecological flux. Semmler will explore the interweave of personal, social, economic and organic processes that are at play to shed light on the challenges involved in embedding ecological principles into one’s farming practices. She will also collect audio commentary from several scientists and educators to provide a range of perspectives on the changes that are occurring both above and below ground.
To this project Semmler 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.
Artist Georgie Pollard will work with The Living Classroom and bio-char expert Ruy Anaya de la Rosa to investigate the properties of both bio-char and charcoal as carbon-based materials. Biochar is a carbon-rich material that is made by burning residual plant materials in a pit or a vessel in which there is no oxygen (a process called pyrolysis). It is being widely investigated as a material that can sequester carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the ground, where it can also bring minerals and nutrients to soil and improve water retention. Pyrolysis is also the method employed to create charcoal, including artists’ ‘willow charcoal’.
This project will explore the production process of both materials. Pollard will use the charcoal to create large maps of The Living Classroom, depicting geographic features, plants, heritage narratives and creative endeavours that are informing the development of this educational hub for sustainable agriculture. Workshops will introduce school children to charcoal as an art material and engage them in drawing exercises that explore the value of bio-char and the properties of carbon.
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”).