The Care Project is a research project that explores how care in its many forms represents an alternative ethics to neo-liberalism. It will connect and explore researchers and artists working with care in a number of ways; Care as Relational, Care as Political Labour, Care as Moral Theory, Caring for earth/Country, Art practice as care – Care as Art Practice.
The Care Project is driven by the desire to forge an alternative ethics to counter the harm that neo-liberal practices are causing to all aspects of life. If care ‘includes everything we do to maintain, continue, and repair our world — our interwoven bodies, selves and environment — so that we may live in it as well as possible’, then care should be at the centre of our politics.
The Care Project begins..
Care: transforming values through art, ethics and feminism.
A free interdisciplinary symposium at the George Paton Gallery, University of Melbourne. Wed Oct 30 to Sat Nov 2 in 2019.
Four days of talks, performances, workshops, and artworks, with over 50 artists, activists, writers, researchers, dancers and performers from around Australia who are thinking and practicing care in inspiring ways. Perspectives include animal and environmental ethics, alternative economic models, death literacy advocacy, progressive pedagogies, parenting and mothering, deep listening, mental health, disability, craftivism, and many more.
Offered by La Trobe University’s Care Project. Full schedule can be viewed at: Contemporary Art and Feminism
For the symposium I facilitated a collaborative experience where people came together to make art in a process of care; they listened, allowed, connected and responded to one another.
I started a sculptural form from natural plant fibre that was attached to the wall space of the George Paton Gallery to inspire participants. The sculptural form was reminiscent of an underground root structure of a plant, but some participants were reminded of the broader concept of networks. In an informal workshop I supported participants to create small wrapped and stitched bundles of grass that were pinned to the wall to build onto the structure. We wrapped up the session with a discussion about how the process, art making experience and resultant artwork evoked care and ideas were displayed on the wall alongside the artwork.
Other ideas about care in relation to the artwork:
Caring for each other – The art world can be a competitive and elite cultural environment that fosters individuality to the detriment of community. Let’s spend time weaving objects and stories with each other. The Artist comes out of her studio and shares skills to help people create as a collaborative group.
Caring for the environment – Committed to using recycled and/or natural materials in a time of climate emergency. Work that is aligned with other caring activities such as permaculture, gardening and community art made in outdoor environments.
Underground Root Structure 1, 2019, flax, red-hot poker & grass bundles (bearded iris, poa & flax).
Detail of Underground Root Structure 1, 2019, flax, red-hot poker & grass bundles (bearded iris, poa & flax)
In 2020 the Care Project was on hold for most of the year due to Covid 19, but I was one of three Artists (including the work of Jane Polkinghorne and Sarah Newall) that managed to show their work at Lot 19 in Castlemaine during December. Collaborative Nourishment, work that had been started at the Care Symposium in 2019 was developed further. I had created more underground root structures that were shown alongside each other in the gallery space. Informal drop-in workshops were held over a weekend, when visitors were invited to make bundles of grass or forked pairs that were contributed to the evolving installation. I was hoping that we made enough small artworks to create the sense that the roots are communicating and connecting. With this 2020 incarnation of Collaborative Nourishment, I was inspired developments in science that investigated how trees communicate with each other via their root systems and with the assistance of mycorrhizal fungi as well as how to relate to one another with care, during Covid 19.
Artist Statement for Collaborative Nourishment.
Underground plant forms sit alongside each other sharing nourishment. Their root divisions are entangled forming a collaborative dialogue that helps to enrich life and secure their future. This image can inspire us during times of upheaval and change. Being aware and considerate of others in our community is imperative if we are to navigate change as a humane community not as competitive individuals. I have invited others to come and make their own work and join the discussion. Works (or voices) are added to the project to symbolise coming together. How can we support each other, especially the vulnerable in our community, through change? How can we demonstrate resilience in these troubled times?
The Artist would like to acknowledge Adrienne Kneebone for passing on the technique of twining and Mary Hettmansberger for sharing how to split twined forms. These techniques have been utilised in the creation of this artwork.
Underground Root Division 2, 2020, jute string, paint & polyfill
Underground Root Division 3, 2020, rope, chasmanthe, recycled fabric, jute, cotton string, wire & split pairs (raffia, corn husks & chasmanthe)
Underground Root Division 4, 2020, hardenbergia & split pairs (hardenbergia, muehlenbeckia & flax),