Tag Archives: environment

Looking through the blind spot

My interdisciplinary arts practice aims to investigate the ‘blind spot’ between nature and existence. Exploring the tension between perception and visibility, my work brings into focus the unseen, overlooked and unforeseeable.

My latest installation project, Blind Spot, Linden Innovators 1: +16 May – +22 June 2014, has been a daring attempt to map out a large three dimensional hole in space. A complex and multifaceted anti-form that is as optically impossible to describe as the space inside an atom. Blind Spot describes one of the most significant environmental discoveries of our age- the Ozone Hole. Like an iceberg looming in space, it is a dark wonder of the natural world, a landmark that cannot be found on any atlas or world map. Its appearance in our atmosphere every spring is a haunting reminder of how we close we come to pushing our environment beyond the point of regeneration. Finding a means to visually and conceptually fathom otherwise unperceivable aspects of nature, the work aims to delineate the blind spot in perception that fails to make the connection between existence and the systems within nature that support it.

Within my arts practice I reinterpret traditional craft based materials and techniques, working with new technologies to find innovative ways to respond to the themes the work addresses. Observing nature filtered through imagery from NASA’s Earth Observing Satellite Data Centre, Earth’s life support systems become visible. This expanded perspective offers a techno-romantic glimpse into the ‘blind spot’ between nature and existence.

Blind Spot is a continuation of my ongoing research. Its trajectory can be seen from my previous series, Life Support Systems, funded by the City of Melbourne Arts Project Grants. Life Support Systems uses NASA’s space suit helmet glass to create a series of three atmospheric weather maps charting shifting weather conditions in the atmosphere over Antarctica that have global implications. The maps are hung sequentially and read from left to right. The unfolding narrative of shifting weather is described in short texts below each work that evolve from history of monitoring Earth’s atmosphere to +today’s attitudes towards Climate Change: the forecast for +tomorrow. The aim of the series was to examine how the forecast for +tomorrow’s weather is reliant on our perception of our environment +today. The work does this by being fabricated from a material that was originally used as a part of the life support system of a space suit and drawing a parallel with its natural counterpart, the Ozone Layer.

Visually we first became aware of the role the Ozone Layer plays in sustaining our environment in the 1950’s Space Race’s iconographic images of the Earth. In these dazzling images Astronauts floated above the Earth tethered to spaceships, the only thing keeping them alive was the fragile life support system of their space suit. One of the most prominent features of the space suit was the luminescent dichroic glass visor that aesthetically resembled a giant mirror or ‘all seeing eye’. This lens reflected thefirst view of the Earth as a tiny fragment in an ecosystem of universal proportions from which no part is immune from the changes of its counterparts. This ignited global research to strive for an expanded awareness of our environment. From this research the Ozone Hole was discovered and +today’s current ecological conundrum revealed.

Today there is a tenuous relationship between the fragility of our environment and its ability to regenerate. The success or failure of this lies in learning how to make the concerns of these invisible aspects of our life support system on Earth visible so that the unforeseeable consequences never eventuate.

Blind spot has been funded by the Australia Council for the Arts and will be exhibited in Melbourne 2014 and Sydney 2015. It is at Linden Gallery until 22 June 2014. See jasminetargett.blogspot.com.

It’s the little things that count–Joyaviva in La Paz, Bolivia

La Calle de las Brujas, La Paz, Bolivia

La Calle de las Brujas, La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz Bolivia has a very special significance for Joyaviva, the exhibition of modern amulets. It is the home of El Ekeko, the inspiration of Angela Cura Mendes El Ekeko Proyecto and represents an original take on luck in South America. This Andean god of abundance is the centrepiece of a festival known as the Alisitas, when people exchange miniature versions of consumer goods. The city has an entire mini-economy devoted to the fabrication of miniature tools, cars, money, food and even certificates. These all go on sale at noon, 24 January, where the city’s population gathers to purchase the object of their and others desires.

On other times of the year, you can supply your wishful thinking at the Calle de las Brujas (Street of the Witches). All along the street are shops selling amulets, votive offerings, charms, herbal medicines and the ubiquitous llama foetus. It’s an extraordinary display of invention and ritual that both attracts and repulses. The Joyaviva challenge is to find ways of drawing on this amazing heritage without reverting to primitivism.

Bolivia is a fascinating stage in the Joyaviva journey. Though it is the poorest country in Latin America, it is incredibly rich in popular culture. There is a great love of festivals, featuring stunning parades in the Fiesta de Gran Poder and Carnival. It is also the most strongly indigenous country in the continent, with a President who proudly follows his Aymara heritage. Politically, Bolivia aspires to world leadership in climate change, presenting the figure of Pachamama (mother earth) as a global ideal.

Estaban Avendaño, a jeweller to the Cholitas, the ultimate connoisseurs of style in La Paz.

Estaban Avendaño, a jeweller to the Cholitas, the ultimate connoisseurs of style in La Paz.

One of the distinctive features of La Paz is the indigenous woman, known as cholita, who dresses in a distinctive derby hat (bombin). Forced to adopt European clothes by their Spanish masters, the indigenous women decided to craft their own image from variety of disparate sources. In what might be considered Andean bling, the women wear multilayed skirts often embroidered with glistening metal thread. Jewellery is taken very seriously, particularly when attached to the hat. The women commission specific pieces that relate to their identity, featuring ornate animals or mythical figures.

Joyaviva itself is blessed with a wonderful partner in Bolivia. The Jalsuri Foundation works with artisans across the country hosting workshops and developing quality craft product that they sell in their shops. Under the leadership of Daniela Viscara, they gathered a fascinating combination of artists, jewellers, designers and artisans for the Joyaviva workshop. She gave an outline of the design process and her colleague the historian Silvia Azre presented a fascinating genealogy of El Ekeko. The dialogue between Western, Latin and indigenous cultures proved quite fertile. So what did they come up with?

Workshop participants in La Paz

Workshop participants in La Paz

That week in La Paz had been quite difficult. The bus drivers had blockaded the city, making it impossible for people to get to work or the shops. And then in the weekend, a large group protesting against the blockades themselves disrupted the city. It’s no surprise then that one of the situations they identified as needing luck was the task of getting to work each day. While this might be taken for granted in most other cities, in La Paz it might be considered a blessing to actually arrive at work in the morning. Other work related concerns included having for a job interview and sitting an exam. These were very different from the traditional contexts for amulets, which included fertility, good harvest and personal wealth. Might there be a new generation of Bolivian amulets relevant to the needs of a modern city?

The Alisatas Festival that holds particular promise. While over-consumption is recognised as producing great strain on the environment, a decline in consumer demand is seen as stalling the world economy. Alisatas is a celebration of desire and consumption, yet because the items are miniature, this has a positive effect on the local economy. In the Western version of Alisatas, known as Christmas, the ultimate gratitude for all the goods we unwrap is to say ‘But this is exactly what I wanted. How did you know?’ Perhaps the recognition of desire is more important than its satisfaction. If this is so, then the Alisatas is the perfect way of bringing people together.

The particular desire for Joyaviva is to have the exhibition in La Paz at the same time as Alasitas. This not only touches on the spirit of the project, it also provides a generative platform for the burgeoning jewellery network. After all, rendering the world in miniature is a special power of the jeweller.