by Philippa Martens
Bunkered, a special event at the Sydney Fringe Festival located in a residential house in Forest Lodge, brought together 14 artists and architects in a domestic environment to tackle the issue of climate change. The objective for each was to create art that responds to environmental issues.
Artist Sarah Nolan, who curated the event, lives in the Forest Lodge house. She got the idea for the event after she created Branch3D two years ago when she opened her front window to artists as an installation space. After receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from local passers-by to that concept, she decided to extend it and create a show in her entire house around the theme of climate change.
Ms Nolan describes the event as “an imagined future scenario of what it might be like to live in a house, ‘bunkering down’ in a space where you are not expelling much energy as it’s in short supply and you never know when you might need it due to the effects of a changing climate”.
She created her artwork ‘Grotty’ to resemble a cave-like grotto of consumer waste. It is installed in the back door of the house and makes use of old tetra packs and recycled plastics of her own as well as those she found in the street.
Lisa Andrew’s ‘Droom’ is a room within a room, taking the concept of being ‘bunkered’ down by using recycled fabrics painted like a brick wall around the bed. Interested in the use of recycled waste, she just got back from the Philippines where she said a lot of the temporary homes were built out of discarded waste. Ms Andrew uses a lot of synthetic textiles, but said in the Philippines artists are using their natural resources, such as banana peel fibre and pineapples to make leather, instead of cow hide.
Lotte Schwerdtfeger‘s artwork ‘Water Closet/Wilderness Cabinet/Wellness Centre’, fills the bathroom with real and fake plants that give off a smell of moist compost and weeds. It’s meant to represent a substitute outdoor space, although the garden is unable to sustain itself as it would in nature.
Marlene Sarroff’s ‘Temperature Rising’ uses painted stairs are a metaphor for the earth’s warming. It highlights the heat rising as one ascends the stairs through brighter and richer hues of red on the way up and denser shades of green as one descends, signifying the earth’s temperature is once again stable.
The global art movement of ecological art, or eco art, specifically addresses environmental issues. Its history goes back to the late 1960s with the emergence of ‘land art’ or ‘earthworks’ – the name Earthworks was coined by artist Robert Smithson, as the title of his gallery show in New York in 1968. This form emerged as an artistic protest against the perceived artificiality and commercialisation of art in America.
In Australia, the popularity of eco art is growing, with companies such as ECO|LOGICAL|ART being commissioned by local government, companies and public instrumentalities to create environmentally friendly art. Its aim is to ‘create spaces that are self-sustaining: economically, socially, environmentally and culturally’. For example, it was commissioned by the City of Melbourne to design a sculpture for Federation Square using only recycled materials.
Sarah Nolan says artists are often interested in climate change issues in their general life. Artist Helen Earl, who attended the event, said she is interested in the effect climate change will have on the environment. She is environmentally aware and has just planted around 1,000 new trees on her country property.
Art is often used as a way to talk about important societal issues. “I know a lot of artists who are making community gardens into artwork as an example,” Lisa Andrew said. Either way, eco art or ‘art that responds to environmental issues’, is a relatively new frontier creating a lot of buzz around the world and it’s a positive reflection on the importance of the issue.