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Last wave : birds, artists, and environmental degradation in Tasmania

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Parish, John Stuart 2008 , 'Last wave : birds, artists, and environmental degradation in Tasmania', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

The subject matter for my project 'Last Wave' evolved from my sculptural practice and from my
apprehension concerning the threat to Tasmanian native bird species due to environmental
destruction.

Art, has for me, always been a means by which I could confront my internal conflicts, by
expressing them visually through metaphoric drawings, paintings and sculptures. So it is with
this project. The self analysis and introspection this method produces has clarified my position in
regard to environmental issues in Tasmania and specifically those affecting our native bird
populations.

The bird sculptures are made primarily from cast aluminium and stainless steel. They are
constructed with articulated sections that allow the movement of their skeletal joints. This
movement has been severely restricted so as to act as a metaphor for the habitat, food resources
and breeding site restrictions resulting from excessive forestry and fishing practices since white
settlement in Tasmania.

The four birds chosen to be represented in the work, fit into the categories of Extinct,
Endangered, Rare and Sustaining. They are the Tasmanian Emu, Shy Albatross, Wedge-tailed
Eagle and the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. Each of the birds has for me, mental associations
with places and particular events from my past experiences. These memories have re-emerged as
catalysts for the mode of presentation for each of the selected bird species. In the making of my
kinetic sculptures for this project, I have attempted to present art works that I hope may leave a
lasting impression on individuals who view them.

The written component of this project, evaluates the effectiveness of works such as these in
changing the attitudes of the general public towards environmental protection. Three
dimensional art works such as installations and sculpture do have the opportunity of allowing the
viewing public to move around the work and to therefore feel more 'connected', particularly if
site specific. Kinetic sculpture, such as my metal birds have the advantage of having access to
movement as a tool for engagement.

Sounds generated can also have a profound effect on the mind of an individual. I have attempted
to create a situation where the viewer is guided to an understanding that the metal birds that they
see move in such a constricted way, contrast with the free movement that should be available to
all our living native birds.

Nevertheless I suggest that other mediums such as film and television, that engage a greater
range of our senses than the purely visual, are more affective in moving the viewer towards such
a realisation. It is in the political arena that more can be achieved, but unfortunately Tasmanian
politicians seem to be unwilling or powerless to make the legislative changes that could protect
the environment and indigenous species, while powerful business interests make huge profits
from the destruction of native forests and by over fishing.

I ask the question 'what can artists do'? I suggest that artist could become more directly political
and I give examples of artists who are passionate about these issues and who are directing their
work towards greater public awareness and direct action.

If we as artists recognize that we are but another species of animal, albeit a powerful one, we
may express our creative talents in ways that demonstrate the fragile bonds that we have with
other species that share the natural world.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Parish, John Stuart
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2008 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Available for library use only and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (MFA)--University of Tasmania, 2008. Includes bibliographical references

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