05. 12. 2015

RIVERscience⌘LANDart: the shows come to town

In my previous posts I described the process I used thus far to develop the community engagement showcase.  Finally, after over six months of activity, not only has the community engagement showcase ‘come to town,’ but so has my own science-art photography showcase associated with ‘This Is A River’.

I have consciously integrated the two showcases to reflect off each other, to have a dialogue with each other and with the viewer.  The community engagement showcase speaks to how the volunteer group I collaborated with sees their activities, both for their own wellbeing and as a contribution to better managing their environment.  Their contributions not only help build a process of resilience, but also contribute to science of/for the river.

This showcase incorporates photographs from community members of the animals they uncover, combined with portraits of these volunteers that I have made through an embedded process. Information panels placing these images in the wider context of the project, people, location and purpose are interspersed.  These are further enhanced by personal narratives from the volunteers about how they value their environmental contributions and experiences.  Together they form a story of celebration, hence the sub-title for this community showcase being: “Celebrating Community Volunteers and Riverland Landscape Science.”

Despite the bias I carry for this outcome, as I nurtured it from it’s early beginnings several months ago and have personally designed, printed and manufactured each and every panel by hand, I believe that this showcase collectively tells a wonderful community story.  It also delivers an invaluable ‘cultural record’ for the Riverland — with art as both the tool and the conduit for its public sharing. Furthermore, this is the group’s first public articulation of a professional product, and their first group archive of images.

Copyright © Charles Tambiah (All rights reserved - Worldwide).

How does this community showcase contrast with the second, more personal, science-art showcase I alluded to at the start of this blog post?

Physically, the second showcase sits on both sides of the community engagement showcase, as if cradling it and guiding people to it.  From whichever side you enter the exhibition space, it begins with some context for the larger ‘This Is A River’ project – and sets the stage for ‘RIVERscience⌘LANDart’.

The images in this showcase are all from my photographic science-art practice in the Riverland, and aim to achieve a set of core objectives: to give a wider landscape context to where the community activities take place (ie. Calperum Station along the Murray River); to give a wider cultural context to this landscape as a place rich in history and of settlement, both past and recent; to show how far art can contribute to engaging people with and communicating science content, and; to provide small artistic windows or nuggets of insight into a more complex river.

I have utilised both the artistic and scientific “licenses” that I saddle to also challenge some of the common norms of the photographic medium and that of representing science visually.  Hence some of the image text I have written for each image, or series of images, could be seen as provocative or reflexive, in contrast to the more conforming community engagement showcase.

I invite all readers to come see the two showcases.  Rock up at the McCormick Centre in Renmark, M-F 10am-4pm, before 30 September…and enjoy the… ‘its not all art, its not all science — its both’… RIVERscience⌘LANDart show!

[Wicked alert: if you have had a life-long phobia regarding reptiles, some of these artworks will certainly inspire you to change your mind and just love them. Hint: there are two photographic series called ‘Natural Calligraphy;’ guess what they look like?]

Charles Tambiah


Country Arts SA recognises and respects that we are living and creating on Aboriginal Lands and we are committed to working together to honour their living cultures.