Salt II and staying grounded
Much of my upcoming research activity has been forced to come to a screeching halt as the world scrambles to negotiate management of the global spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19. Within the past 24 hours, The University of Western Australia issued a total restriction on all university student and staff research-related travel. Following this, the state government of Western Australia issued a travel ban of all international travel for 'employees', meaning anyone at any institution receiving government funding. I have two upcoming residencies in England and Canada that have had to be postponed or left in limbo until further notice. Thankfully, both bodies in each location are graciously flexible and in full possession of their wits, so I will be able to commence those activities at some point in the unknown future without so much as a slight hiccup. I have also had to decline participating in an upcoming arts and technology festival (in Montreal) because there is no chance in hell I can get there.
I will still be traveling, however, within the next month, to a very remote place for a community project: SALT II in Western Australia's renowned Kalgoorlie goldfields, which are also full of salt lakes. The project leader is UWA School of Design lecturer, Paul Trinidad, who is from a small town (pop. +/- 100) called Menzies, smack in the middle of the goldfield ghost towns, and the still-active mining operations. In the above photo I took, of an old map of the area, I discovered one such ghost town with my name! White Feather is a former gold rush town, now a ghost town (renamed Kanowna) with nothing but an old train platform and graveyard, along a railway that never really happened. This is, of course, quite fascinating to me. Paul brought this book to my attention, written by his former schoolmaster:
Gold has, interestingly, featured large in my art practice thus far. I have already done two artist residencies around gold mining legacies: one in Dawson City, Yukon where I collected ghost and creation stories and generated a few of my own (along with objects to accompany them) and one with the Montague legacy gold mine tailings in Halifax, Nova Scotia where I cultured a special microbe that could bioremediate the tailings and produce microparticles of gold in the process. I've also gold-leafed my entire body in order to perform the witch character of a Baba Yaga. I'm quite excited to see what the SALT II project will bring, and I'm even more excited to get back out into the outback, for collaborative site-specific art responses to the tiny, rich communities we encounter.