30. 05. 2016
Death and life
Announcement: Transmission of Janine Mackintosh’s mesmerising artforms is about to be disrupted.
But don’t panic – the signature circles, natural forms and repeating elements remain, just differently.
Janine’s ‘loosening of her tight aesthetic’ for the Island to Inland project tells a compelling story in both deed and theme – of the corrosive force of salinity on the land and how it came to be thus.
“I wanted to focus on the idea of the losses from land clearing but also the losses that are continuing particularly with issues like climate change,” Janine says.
Janine lives with an area of native bush surrounded by sheep grazing land. She says the salinity is affecting both bush and pasture. Her bush is occasionally inundated – and that was a natural pattern. Now, the once-freshwater lagoon at its centre is saline because of land clearing in the area and on the higher land that drains into it.
“This part of Kangaroo Island was cleared by the soldier settler scheme. These men had come back from battle in the [second world] war. They were thrown onto, often inappropriate, land and told to improve it. They then fought another battle. It is like the pasture being a battleground where the bush lost.
“I am using yacca gum from the Xanthorrhoeas that are dying off with the salinity. [Yacca gum was one of Kangaroo Island’s first export industries and it was a traditional KI practice to use it as a lacquer to seal and beautify floors and furniture.] I am dipping the bones of sheep I find dead and disintegrating on my land boundary into a lacquer I am making from the gum.
“I see the deep red lacquer as the blood of the bush. It’s like the bones have been ripped out of the flesh, still have meat on them – that’s the redness of it.
“The lacquered bones will be enclosed by rings of fencing wire that I also find discarded on the boundaries. It is like the sheep in the enclosures of the land and like the lagoons that have turned saline and smelly.
“The rings also remind me of where a yacca once had grown and has died away, leaving a ring on the ground, a trace of the vegetation that used to be supported on this land.
“I’m not against sheep farming – I eat lamb and I love wool but I think more needs to be done to bring back biodiversity and revegetate the areas that shouldn’t have been cleared in the first place.
“I also think more needs to be done about people’s disconnect from the reality of life. They might be shocked by my bones and would be shocked by bones lying around in a paddock, and yet they are complicit when they sit down to their Sunday roast or pull on their warm woolly jumper.
“On Kangaroo Island we see a lot of dead animals and bones. There’s a lot of roadkill by roadsides. On farms, sheep die in paddocks; not all lambs make it.
“We shouldn’t be hiding these things so sensibilities aren’t offended. That would just make the disconnect worse.”
Janine says that the arrangement of the bones in the ring won’t be in her usual neat form.
“I want it to be careless to show the careless way the land was assigned and so much special bush was cleared, and ecological values were carelessly disregarded.”
The aftermath of that carelessness is with us now, and so the next battle is waged.
All photographs: Janine Mackintosh