Art + the Environment

The Exploration of Impermanent Form By Jed Long.

Jed Long is a member of Cave Urban, a collective that operates as an experimental design practice integrating research with design.  Jed is talking at Art & the Environment: Creative Responses to Place at Sculpture by the Sea on Sunday 29 May at the MCA, as part of Vivid Ideas.

There is a deep connection between art and the environment. Sculpture by the Sea epitomises one such relationship, liberating art from the confines of the art gallery or museum and setting it in a direct conversation with the exposed Sydney coastline.

Environmental art derives from millennia of artistic tradition. The traditional custodians of this land have utilised art as a means to engage with their surrounding environment for thousands of years. There is an embodied spirituality that comes from using art to mediate our connection to the world around us.

The successful intervention of form within a landscape, amplifies our perception of that environment. It draws attention to phenomena otherwise overlooked and transforms our perception of reality, promoting a mediation of the measurable and the unmeasurable, tangible and intangible, phenomenal and substantial.

The notion of transience is an idea that we often draw upon in our own artistic practice as Cave Urban.  Our journey began with an investigation of temporary structures, in particular the vernacular means of inhabitation employed by Indigenous Australians. Professor Paul Memmott documents the multiple manners in which Indigenous Australians occupied this country through his seminal text Gunya, Goondi and Wurley. The complexity of Indigenous structures, spaces and territorial behaviour documented in the text, invokes a differing means to understand the country in which we inhabit. Disregarding ephemerality’s association with the notion of a short lifespan, it views it instead as a means to perpetually generate new meanings.

Cave Urban operates as an experimental design practice that integrates research with design. The fluid relationship of practical and discursive consciousness provides means to explore new modes of art and architecture. Each work we create is a result of our research and the structural testing that we apply to each work then forms the foundation for future experimentation. Integral to this process is our emphasis upon collaboration and knowledge sharing. Whether it is through collaboration with other artists, local community or the environment in which we are working, the process of creating the work becomes of equal, if not greater importance than the work itself.

The exploration of impermanent form is supported by our use of bamboo. We have chosen this material for its environmental and structural properties. A mature bamboo culm is harvested when it is three years old, a period of time that aligns with the lifespan of many of our works. Thus by the time our work has decayed another pole has grown to replace the material we had previously harvested.

The 2016 exhibition of Sculpture by the Sea, was the third time we had exhibited in the Bondi setting. As with Mengenang (2012) and S.O.S (2014), Golden Hour (2016) was created as a site specific work. Siting the work on the edge of the Marks Park headland allowed its spherical form to relate directly to the horizon beyond. The work was designed as a celebration of sunrise and sunset, amplifying this daily occurrence. The golden light that fell upon the structure, brought the work to life at these twin moments. The temporal nature of the work is highlighted by the ever changing patterns of light and shadow that track across the internal space. As the sun sets and light fades this relationship is then inversed as internal lighting brings the ball to life, casting light outwards and becoming a beacon upon an otherwise dark headland.