Myself with Ian Hoch and Paola Cassoni at the Bimblebox Nature Refuge, 2013, photo Tangible Media.

Bimblebox Nature Refuge Artist Residency 7 – 15 September, 2013

In 2013 I coordinated and attended the second Bimblebox Nature Refuge artist camp residency. I had worked over the part year with what I had begun in 2012. This time I went to the camp with a strong idea of what I needed to make to be able to complete my work that I called “Mending the Future”. During this time on Bimblebox I worked with the native grasses and predominantly Black Spear Grass to make a group of three grass sculptures. I eco dyed wool yarn and sewed the grasses together with this and other collected threads, while incorporating into the sculptures a couple of small collected objects from the nature refuge. These objects remain invisible in the sculptures. I also completed further eco-dying of fabrics and took many photographs.

“It is late and I am in my tent soaking up the absolute quiet.  The night sounds of tiny creatures are all around and the stars stretch clear and bright overhead.  We arrived after a couple of days of easy driving to this place, ancient and vibrant.  I cannot imagine it being destroyed to mine coal – it feels absurd and impossible to even consider it.

We passed a mob of red kangaroos lean and agile, russet coats, quite close to here.  Now all is quiet.  One year on so much has changed, yet this place breaths the ancient patterns of life.” September 6, 2013, Jill Sampson

Photos by Jill Sampson, Tangible Media, Liz Mahood and At A Glance.

Edited from ‘Reflecting on the 2013 Bimblebox camp’. Published on the Bimblebox Art Project website on 22 October, 2013.

Our week on the Bimblebox Nature Refuge flew by.  Our first couple of nights were cold with pleasantly warm days but as the week progressed the weather turned very hot with temperatures reaching 40+ degrees celcius.

The days slid past under a mostly clear sky and accompanied by the drone of bees seeking water from wherever they could find it, taps, washing up sink, shower head and the tub I used to soak the grass I was working from throughout the week.  I kept cool by tipping water over my head and clothes in the hottest part of the day, my clothes becoming a natural air conditioner.

In the camp it was work as usual with artists exploring the landscape around them.

Our evenings were glorious under a velvet sky rent with billions of glittering stars.Artist Mick Pospischil regularly awoke in the night to draw his nocturnes and view this immense sky.  Night birds called at intervals and only once did I hear the call of a sole dingo.

Bimblebox is dry.  Far drier than our visit in 2012.  I expected there to be no grass to speak of, but I was happy to be wrong.  Long dry grasses shone silver and spun gold in the morning and evening light.  Through the day the grass crackled and rustled in the hot winds.  New soft grass growth was also to be found along with baby spinifex taken root and growing after the previous wet seasons.  I was able to harvest some of the gorgeous spear grass for sculpting and enjoyed its red, orange and yellow hues.  It had seeded so I could detach the tangled spears of seed and leave them behind to lay in wait for germination.

It was a joy to visit again, continuing to build up my own understanding of this nature refuge.  I also found we had left small marks on the landscape from our previous visit.  I found the skeleton of a bundle of grass that I had discarded in 2012 leaving it on the ground to become part of the soil when I left.  Other finds reminded me of the people who had been part of the artists camp the previous year and I imagined them walking out of the landscape and into the communal camp.  This year a pair of glasses were lost and I imagine them found in years to come by someone who will wonder whose they were and how they came to be there.

The area where the 2012 control burn had been remained short and formed a protective barrier to any fire that could have sprung up in the hot dry winds.  Every gust of that wind carried the whisper and possibility of wildfire, reminding us of a probable early start to the fire season.  I found myself turning toward the wind to smell the scents that it brought, wary for the scent of smoke.

A few days after the red tailed black cockatoos spent their day with us, feeding and zig zagging around the campsite, the wind brought the tang of rain to come.  It was the day before we were to leave and we didn’t want to be caught in heavy rain.  It gave us impetus to pack what we could that day.  The rain when it came was heavy drops broadly spaced.  In the night It smattered the tent, then was gone.

Time did exist while we were on Bimblebox instead we rode the rhythm of an ancient life where we awoke to the sounds of the morning bird calls, and spent our days in a wilderness observing and participating in an ancient ecosystem.  And yet we remained apart from this ancient life.  Our water was on tap and our food cooked in an iron oven.  Creatures moved about night and day continuing their pattern of life searching for food and water.  The trees breathed long and slow, solid in their growth and providing us with shade, oxygen, moisture and life.

A red-winged parrot came to eat soft green seed pods on a small bush close to where I worked.  An emu and chicks were observed nearby while rainbow bee-eaters and dusky wood swallows flitted about, keeping watch near our camp.

I didn’t say goodbye to Bimblebox because a part of me cannot believe it won’t be there for our visit next year.  However to look at the latest political manoeuvrings it is hard to see how this beautiful and essential oasis can survive.

A few weeks after Bimblebox I was in Sydney where an apocalyptic sky rained ash onto parts of this massive city.  People looked up at the sky remarking and photographing.  The sun glowed red and the wind blew burned offerings from bushfires in a raging and terrifying wind.  A man commented, as he traversed his front yard in Annandale, about the smoke in the air.  When I asked him where the fires were he dismissed them with a wave of his hand and said “Oh, somewhere out west..”

At the base of the Blue Mountains many people lost their homes to fire.  October fires on a terrifying day with perfect bush fire conditions.  As I write this the bush fires continue to rage.

As one of the artists recently commented ‘when you live in the country you are on the front line when it comes to the environment’.

The environment is on our doorstep it is water, earth, fire, air and the plants and animals that we share our world with.

Much of Australia cannot be lived in without the underground water reserves, nor of course can our food be grown.  Livestock, much crop land and of course our market gardens all rely on regular water to produce the food that is so conveniently stocking our supermarkets.  Yet Australia appears to hold the view that coal and gas are more important than safeguarding our food security and our national water reserves.   Biodiversity is seen as expendable – forgetting that the majority of our medicines and medical breakthroughs are sourced and researched from the study of organisms in these animal, plant and marine environments.

We can live without coal and gas, but we cannot survive without the world’s ecosystems, without water or without food. Climate change and human selfishness threaten our future.

Science is not a belief system.  It is the systematic study of our world.  Science gives us the information on which to base decisions.  These decisions are important for our future survival.  We must listen closely to what the science is telling us.

Jill Sampson October 22, 2013

It Grew from Bimblebox, 2013, photo Tangible Media