Untitled, Pigment Print, 111cm x 111cm, 2010
The most conspicuous thing is that we (ND5) are a collective. It is as much an experiment about what can happen when a group forms from diverse but supportive individuals who are secure enough in their own practice to experiment with it. It is also about demonstrating a way of working and thinking about what we do as visual artists, as well as a way to procreate our shared values and circumstances. Sharing resources in a resource rich world is also a small stand against the excesses of our culture and its rummaging and vociferous ways.
Another telling relationship is between ourselves, our subject, and its rendering. It is not hard to see that we celebrate the mercurial precision photography brings to any encounter, both real and imagined, and evidence a deep love and admiration of where it takes us creatively and literally. Shared bonds around the illusion of belonging, at least belonging together, and the profit we derive from each other’s enthusiasm, research and practice are more than enough motivation to spend time together, not that any time together would be wasted. But a debt accrues over time, both to our world, and our relationship to each other. To spend time practicing and thinking together makes the task less onerous, and we hope allows us to tread a little lighter on this earth that we owe everything else to.
It doesn’t take much notice to see that we are in a heck of a state, a state of war with this world, our world, despite all the pleas and warnings to the contrary. Collaboration may be a plausible alternative because it forces compromise and contrition by its very act. It doesn’t matter what metric we evaluate this with; be it ego, ontology, epistemology, or psychology, we end up in the same place wanting for what we don’t have without paying thanks for what we already do. Instead of being at war we may be better served acknowledging and preserving the relationships and subjects that do matter.
Our practice also attempts to address the invisible, almost umbilical thread that binds our doing to our thinking. As process driven artists whose concerns so often outstrip their development, we also catch ourselves wondering how it might be. Our field work explores this relationship, where it is often perplexing and inspiring to witness such different reactions and renderings of the same moment, the same dust storm, or culture, or ecology. This difference becomes the subject that does matter, for it restates the priority and problem of individual experience.
On the matter of the aesthetics of destruction, and the torturous and problematic role aesthetics plays in a destructive settler culture; our staggeringly careful construction, projection and printing all exhibit the same conflicting and ambiguous dilemma – that tussle between the accessibility of our work, indeed its welcome and demur, and what for us are the facts of the matter incumbent with their urgency and priority. At the very least we offer our sincerity, respect and acknowledgement, and hope that you will view our endeavours in this spirit.
Though ultimately we have no way of knowing what will be of most use and significance, nor how our thinking will mature and influence what we do let alone others. But in the hope of something useful and lasting, we try not to out-think ourselves. By returning our images to the world as objects in their own right, a cycle is completed that sustains this practice, and by its example at least asks us to consider our relationship with landscape, both as cultural construction and as a way of life. We also trust that other fabrications – like the artificial divide between being and Nature, land and country, destiny and liberty, vision and prejudice, colonisation and embeddedness – succumb to a more poetic and revelatory engagement that persists despite the best attempts to denigrate, criticise and pervade.
As Frederick Sommer once said, ‘people speak of a return to nature; I wonder where they could have been’.
Our selection of images from The Pilbara Project was included as a component of Divergence: Photographs from Elsewhere, 17 March to 15 April 2012, Foto Freo, Perth, WA.