Critical Point at FELTspace

Critical Point is a sequence of three new videos screening at FELTspace Gallery in Adelaide CBD, 12 October – 4th November. They’ll be shown in the FELTdark area at the front of the gallery, visible from the street during at evenings, from 8:00pm – midnight.

In physical chemistry, the critical point is where the temperature and pressure of a substance are both sufficiently high that there is no longer any difference between its liquid and gas states. In mathematics, the critical point is where the rate of change of a variable of interest is undefined or zero. In the rest of the world, anthropogenic climate change is advancing at an ever-increasing rate. Climate scientists warn us that once we cross some critical climate tipping points, there can be no turning back: things will only get worse and the “new normal” will be largely undefined.

Nevertheless, we can guess how things might look. When language fails to describe how we feel about the disasters occurring around us now, we must invent new forms of expression. As the world contorts and reshapes to the stresses we place upon it, we should bear witness and record what is passing, what is coming to be.

This sequence of videos re-imagines how we came to be where we are now, and speculates on the future that awaits us and our fellow inhabitants of the earth. Much of the scenery looks both familiar and strangely alien. Indeed, most of the raw footage was recorded locally: my garden, nearby native bushland, the Adelaide CBD and its surrounding parklands, various locations along the South Australian coast. Yet we find unexpected types of rain, microrefuges from human detritus and decay that provide homes for flowering biomorphs, built environments that shimmer beside calm waterways that threaten to overwhelm them… This is a world in which living humans seem to be absent: all we see is the pervading impact of their presence. And if we were to retreat, how would any remaining life respond?

Also exhibiting at the same time is Interpreter by Orson Heidrich and Supermarket Art Fair 2023 by the HÄLSNINGAR collective.

You can view the video sequence on-line while the exhibition is running here:

FELTspace, 12 Compton Street, Adelaide.

Because We Can (HD video, 04:26, 2023)

“We purify, filter, sift, rectify, unburden… stupefy, impose, stun, devastate, overwhelm… radiate, bewitch…”

But why? Why do we cause so much damage to our own environment, and then spend so much in attempting to recreate it after our own designs? What is it that underlies our desire to transform the natural world into something of our own making?

Botanic gardens symbolise the tension between the human desire to admire nature and to control it. Almost none of the vegetation in a botanic garden is native to the area. Consequently, the original local environment must be skilfully managed and manipulated to provide diverse growth conditions suitable for exotic plants from all over the world. At the same time, the gardens must be somehow attractive to human visitors. In a dry climate such as South Australia, the fundamental key to meeting both these demands is the controlled supply of water. 

In this video, we see the different ways in which water inhabits the interfaces between the natural and the manufactured. Now and then, we catch a glimpse of a reflection or shadow of the on-lookers, the passers-by, the lives that impact on everything they touch.

All the original video and audio was recorded with a mobile phone at Adelaide Botanic Garden around Kainka Wirra on unceded Kaurna land, South Australia. The text is derived by thesaurus substitution from samples off the Adelaide Botanic Garden website.

Eviction (HD video, 11:39, 2023)

“We have been ordered to leave. They told us our lease has expired. Their cast-offs litter our landscapes. We have our ways of keeping out of sight. These are our microrefugia…”

As human-induced global climate change threatens the viability of nearly every ecosystem on earth, small refuges, the microrefugia, may provide safe havens for the organisms that can successfully survive there. Small plants, fungi and species yet to evolve may yet be long-term survivors, if only we give them a chance…

Nearly all of this footage was recorded in the Belair area of unceded Kaurna Land in South Australia. Much of it was filmed among the native plants in our own garden, with key elements recorded in Belair National Park.

The music is in 11/4 time and includes samples of birds, frogs, machines, engines and alarms in and around the environments where the videos were recorded.

Types of Rain (HD video, 06:59, 2023)

“Types of Rain
  1. Outside the range of normal atmospheric conditions:
    (a) recently discovered caves 
    (b) anti-cyclones on Mars
    (c) water columns, three kilometres deep…”

As weather patterns fracture and distort in the face of accelerating climate change, how do we define the types of rain than have come and gone, maybe never to return? How do we understand a future when we have failed to comprehend the past?

Filmed mostly around Adelaide, its hills, and the coastal regions of South Australia with some sequences from Victoria and New South Wales. The soundscape is constructed from a single sample of the spoken word: “parch”. The text is adapted from Types of Rain in my first poetry collection, Urban Biology (2012).