VIS220: project two proposal

Proposed Topic / Project Name: 

??? Not sure yet.

Overall description + proposed end product deliverables:
This will be a practice based project exploring my artistic response to archival materials found in the Qld State Archives, the Qld State Library Collections and the Sunshine Coast Heritage Library. Specifically the work will be based on promotional posters used for land sales from the early 1900s on the Sunshine Coast and juxtapose images and messages from back then with images and messages from today. I'm inspired to do this project because of the volume of development occurring on the Sunshine Coast (40 000 new homes are being built in Caloundra right now). Seeing this development, seeing the endless billboards promoting land and house sales, seeing the piles of trees that have been cleared along the highway... makes me despair and I'm hoping this project will help me understand the way things are, why they are this way and how to feel empowered in a world that convinces me I'm expendable and replaceable every single day and that the earth we share doesn't really matter. There's also a possible future project brewing building on this archival research and how it connects to an old saw mill down the road from my house. It's picturesque, there's giant pivots and foundations and pulleys and huge serrated blades all rusted looking. I'm interested in tracking down more information about it (Old Brandon's Mill, Bellthorpe) and understanding how logging worked in the hills around the Sunshine Coast.

Anticipated Supports / resources needed for the research component
  • local Officeworks for large poster printing
  • money to pay for the above
  • tracing paper
  • large A1 or B1 sheets of paper
  • pen, pencils, eraser, scissors, glue
  • iPhone for photography and phone calls
  • image editing software (Pixelmator)
  • time and patience
Ethical considerations / biggest concerns:

Initially, my ideas were around the juxtaposition of messages from back then to now in the replication and altering of the posters into new artworks. There would be images of environmental impact of housing developments such as large piles of trees that have been felled or homeless animals fleeing from bulldozers replacing hand drawn images of sea and sun and happy couples. There would also be additional research required into housing development marketing messages of today (for example, 10 pound deposit Vs $30 000 deposit... or "close to train!" becoming "close to shops!"). But the further I go in my contemplation, the more this direct and logical commentary begins to lose interest.

I stumbled across an ethical concern I've been pondering for quite some time... I don't want my artwork to make people feel ashamed or judged. For many, owning a home in suburbia is a bright and beautiful dream or something they see as having no choice around and I don't want to alienate those folks with my art. I've been around many environmental activists and passionate vegans over the years and it's polarising - there's the informed and the ignorant... the conscious and the unconscious... the ones who believe in climate change as a phenomenon and the ones who don't... and contributing to this ongoing separation is not something I want to do (for eg. a message like "Great place to raise babies you can't justify having!" is pretty damning but pertinent). I don't see this opposing dialogue as actually helping to make the world a better place or saving the planet. Rather, that energy just seems to keep generating more anger, hatred and helplessness. So how do I go deeper? How do I express an awareness of the impact this endless growth is having on the land and on our hearts in a way that doesn't discriminate or shame people for their choices? Or, paint me as someone distinct or holier-than-thou who never struggles with the machinery of society and sustainability.

One idea I'm playing with is text based - using the words of some of my teachers who've informed my ideas about being human in these times to replace the messages of "beautiful beaches" found in the original promotional posters. These messages would focus on grief and loss and quote those teachers directly (Francis Weller, Stephen Jenkinson and Martin Prechtel). Or... if I gathered my courage and wanted to be more intense, using quotes from Extinction Rebellion (XR) or Greta Thunberg or Charles Eisenstein or John Muir or Michael McCarthy.... The deeper question is... do I want this to seduce and open the heart or do I want to punch viewers in the face? How do I present the conflict between endless growth and expansion on a planet of finite and rapidly diminishing resources? Do I want to speak with the voice of extinction and hopelessness or a gentler voice? There's a place for both I suppose but is it possible to do both simultaneously? Maybe there could be a narrative that unfolds - if I have time to do several posters, they could start gentle and then get more doomsday extinction-like as one moves through space...

Another concern is that I'm not quite sure how many posters I'll be able to create. These babies are BIG! I might only have time to do one or two to a finished state. I've also discovered the limitations of my current technology in that I'd like to create my posters to the original scale in Pixelmator but my computer isn't up to the job of working with large scale, high resolution imagery. I might have to go low tech and make individual elements, cut them out and collage them together. Or perhaps look at an online platform such as Pixlr to create in.

Timeline weeks 1 - 12:
  • emailing all Sunshine Coast historical societies and following threads
  • phone calls to QSA, Qld State Library and Sunshine Coast Heritage Library
  • visiting Queensland State Archives in Runcorn
  • downloading relevant posters sources from QSA, Qld State Library and Sunshine Coast Heritage Library
  • re-scaling high resolution image files from archives to printable dimensions
  • printing of posters
  • gathering the required resources
  • contacting archives to seek out information on what might an "artist-in-residence" program look like for them
  • follow up on threads from librarians to find more promotional posters
  • reading to find suitable quotations
  • drawing!
Some additional posters discovered in my research: