University of Technology Sydney Library
15 March – 21 May 2021
The Urban Field Naturalists’ Guide to Lesser-Known Pollinators is an exhibition using storytelling to bridge the gap between environmental science and human experience of the natural world. Curated by Zoë Sadokierski and Andrew Burrell (Spec Studio, UTS School of Design), the exhibition features visualisations, assemblages of design objects and digital augmentation to explore ways to reimagine the naturalist tradition in the twenty-first century. The exhibition builds on the idea of the cabinet of curiosity, or wunderkammer, through which scientists and enthusiasts have been subjectively documenting the natural world for centuries.
This exhibition is an outcome of the Urban Field Naturalist Project, a collaboration between Spec Studio (Andrew and Zoë) and researchers from the environmental humanities and life sciences. The UFN Project has two main aims. First, to encourage people to engage with the biodiversity around them through first-person storytelling. Second, to reimagine the naturalist tradition for the modern age. Related to this second aim, two of the design research questions posed through the exhibition are:
- How might we begin to reimagine the cabinet of curiosities without removing specimens from their place of origin? Is it possible to retain the wunder, minus the kammer?
- How might we visualise and materialise ecological information beyond scientific charts and diagrams, into objects and spaces that can be encountered, experienced, inhabited?
A program of talks and workshops with designers, philosophers, scientists, and writers will run alongside the exhibition.
Participating artists: Adam France, Chris Caines, Cecilia Heffer, Donna Sgro, EggPicnic (Camila De Gregorio and Christopher Macaluso), Fionn McCabe, GraciaLouise, Katie Dean, Lucy Adelaide, Ross Gibson, Thom van Dooren, Timo Rissanen and Vanessa Berry.
List of works:
- Inspired by Joseph Cornell's assemblages, this 'augmented bird box' tells the story of the Regent honeyeater, a critically endangered Australian bird which was once prolific from Adelaide to northern Queensland, but due to deforestation and land clearing is now restricted to three small patches of ironbark woodland in NSW and VIC. At last count, there were 200-400 birds left in the wild; that count was before the bushfire season of 2019 devastated much of the remaining habitat. A layered paper collage visualises the Regent honeyeater within the ecosystem it depends upon. Zoë drew each layer from contemporary photographs, then collaged the scene using pieces of 19th Century natural history illustrations. Overlaying the bird box, and extending into the physical exhibition space, is an augmented audio-visual experience, accessed via a smart phone. Andrew designed this augmentation, which features a narrative written and read by Thom van Dooren about the impact of the 2019 bushfires on the already diminishing eucalyptus forests this species depends upon for survival. The hypnotic pattern on the back is designed by Katie Dean.
- After studying Visual Communication at UTS, Katie Dean co-founded Sydney-based design studio The Bar Brand People, specialising in hospitality branding, signage, wayfinding and packaging design. Katie also creates experimental visualisations from image archives, in collaboration with scholars from ‘Natural Things | Ad Fontes Naturae’, a global natural history project in the digital humanities. Katie was invited to create a suite of patterns, generated with Photoshop scripts, from natural history illustrations of Regent honeyeaters, which are displayed on the back of the Augmented Birdbox and this concertina book.
- This incomplete, inaccurate and overtly biased taxonomy of Lesser-Known Pollinators was compiled and illustrated by Zoë Sadokierski, in collaboration with the Urban Field Naturalist Project team. Initially, we planned to enliven the 1.6 metre long taxonomy by including boxes of insect specimens in the vitrine. However, taking specimens from their place of origin for 'curiosity' felt like the colonial approach we were trying to avoid, so instead we pinned some of the original drawings.
- Ross Gibson is a writer and Centenary Professor of Creative & Cultural Research at the University of Canberra. He works collaboratively on books, films, artworks and strategic-planning exercises, and supervises postgraduate students in similar pursuits. Recent works include: the books 26 Views of the Starburst World (2012), Changescapes (2015), Memoryscopes (2015), The Criminal Re-Register (2017), reDACT (2019), plus the ABC Radio National feature Green Love (2016), and the public artwork Bluster Town, commissioned for Wynyard station by Transport NSW.
- Eggpicnic is a Sydney-based design studio devoted to wildlife conservation, set up by designers and birders Camila De Gregorio and Christopher Macaluso. They produce fine art prints and public art – featuring over 200 species of Australian birds and animals – to end wildlife extinction through education; they aim to capture the beauty of the natural world with the hope of inspiring others to protect it. They actively support conservation programs within Australia with profits from work donated to support scientific research, as well as taking part in Key Biodiversity Area surveys, helping to collect data on the ground for research and policy implementation purposes.
- Fionn McCabe is an artist, printmaker and cartoonist. He teaches in the UTS School of Design and co-produces Read To Me, a live visual storytelling event that provides a platform for cartoonists and other kinds of artists and creatives to share their stories and investigate performative aspects of their work. ‘Leathery Little Saints’ is a comic about bats and parenthood, originally published on Instagram and later as a limited edition risograph publication, in collaboration with PinchPress.
- Gracia and Louise (Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison) have been collaborating for more than twenty years, using found images to create ‘comprised scenarios’, in the form of artists’ books, collages, prints, and animated collages and installations. Each work is a portal into an uncanny world, where familiar creatures inhabit unexpected landscapes. They are also foster carers for the RSPCA, sharing space with a transient menagerie of animals including grey-headed flying foxes who appear in their recent work.
- Lucy Adelaide is a freelance illustrator, art director and self-taught tattooist. After completing an Honours degree in Visual Communication at UTS, followed by a stint in the world of advertising, she migrated south to Lutruwita/ Tasmania to study science. She continues drawing in her spare time as well as when she should be doing more important things. Her informative and hilarious illustrated science-explainers cover topics from why the cloaca is her favourite orifice to a proposal for dealing with invasive ‘pest’ species by developing a ‘pestatarian’ diet.
- Adam France is a multimedia creative and art director with degrees in Visual Arts (SCA) and Visual Communication (UTS). His unique skill set led him to design opportunities in New York City and Amsterdam, and now back to Sydney working at Balarinji. Alongside commercial design work, Adam feeds his creativity by ‘crafting for a cause’; producing beautifully intricate and witty paper-craft compositions, often inspired by the natural world. He is a self-confessed orchid fanatic.
- Donna Sgro is a fashion and textile designer based at the UTS School of Design. These prints of Danaus plexippus (the wanderer, or monarch, butterfly) are part of a suite of printmaking and stitch experiments, created in collaboration with SpecStudio, in 2014. Donna bred butterflies in her kitchen, and produced the base drawings by observing the caterpillars through their pupation into chrysalides. The drawings were laser etched into perspex and printed through an etching press, then hand stitched. By better appreciating the life cycle of butterflies, we better appreciate how to protect important pollinators.
- Cecilia Heffer is a practice-based researcher and textile designer based at UTS School of Design. She draws inspiration from her experiences in nature; observing local flora and environments while walking. For a 2007 commission to design a contemporary lace curtain for the State Rooms of Government House, Cecilia referenced flora unique to NSW, paying homage to botanical illustrations by the Scott sisters who lived in Sydney in the 1920s. Here, a photocopy of a Scott sisters’ drawing is overlaid with Cecilia’s working pencil sketches and an artist book Lace Narratives, created in collaboration with Zoë Sadokierski /MediaObject, published by UTS ePress.