Tenant




Location: Abbotsfrod Convent, VIC
Year(s): 2017
Exhibition title: Gardneing is not a rational act
Curator: Tai Snaith
Participating artists: Eleanor Butt, Kent Wilson, David Rosetzky, Kate Daw, Kate Ellis, Eugene Howard, Chako Kato, Tai Snaith Sean Meilak and Alice Wormald

Status: Completed
Welcome to Country: Uncle Ron Jones, Wurundjeri Elder
Supported by: Australia Council for the Arts, Creative Victoria (VicArts) and Abbotsford Convent Foundation


Work title: Tenant   Part one


" Gardens have always been a place of philosophical contemplation and creative thought: from the famous gardens of Athenian philosopher Epicurus in 306 BC, to the Garden of Earthly Delights painted by the early Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch. The process of gardening shares many parallels with the process of art-making; process through trial and error, consideration of colour, texture and composition and the creation of a complete, shared environment. The garden is also literally a site of digging up history, highlighting politics of place and activity ‘on country’, both indigenous and introduced. To mark the start of Spring in the Abbotsford Convent gardens, ten contemporary Melbourne artists who share a love of growing things will take over four gallery spaces of c3. Together, their works will explore the act, aesthetics and the outcomes of planning, nurturing, documenting and reaping what they sow. “Gardening is not a rational act,” the writer Margaret Atwood wrote. “What matters is the immersion of the hands in the earth, that ancient ceremony of which the Pope kissing the tarmac is merely a pallid vestigial remnant. In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”



These works emerge from an ongoing process of utilising practices of gardening and care to inform creative processes.

Having moved into a rental property in 2013 with just a dry lawn and some roses, I received permission to create a garden. Over the following five years I grew a mixed edible/ornamental garden of introduced species including ‘weeds’, vegetables and fruit trees, with both indigenous and native species too. This garden became a place to engage gently, through the handling of the garden, with ideas around history, material ethics, temporality, seasonality and control; it was a ‘studio’. This process also functioned to sustain an ever growing ecology (including ourselves) with food and habitat. Three months ago however the property owners gave us notice to vacate, they are selling the property and I was to erase the entire garden, returning it to level with nothing but half a dozen roses. This project for Gardening is not a rational act is the final work from this garden, all of the plants that could not be transplanted have been turned into mulch and isolated briefly for this exhibition only to be returned soon into the cycle of a new garden. This garden was, I think, seen as distracting from the monetary value of the property, somehow I had contaminated this realestate with the foreign entity of ‘nature’.

The second component contributed to this exhibition is a space for a collection of tools to be exhibited. Some tools loaned from the Wurundjeri Land Council to foreground the 65,000+ year Indigenous inhabitation of this country and acknowledge the Wurundjeri of the Kulin Nation upon whose lands this exhibition takes place (specifically the presence of the Wurundjeri Land Council at the Abbotsford Convent), fellow artists within the show and the gardener at the Abbotsford Convent.


Many thanks to the Wurundjeri Land Council, the Abbotsford Convent gardener Simon Taylor and to Bruce Pascoe for generously providing the important text below.

We acknowledge the unceded lands upon which this exhibition takes place as those of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, we extend our respect to Elders both past, present and emerging.

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria program and the Abbotsford Convent Foundation.















Tenant II




An exhibition of borrowed tools used for care and cultivation, contributed by exhibiting artists, the Abbotsford Convent gardener Simon Taylor and the Wurundjeri Land Council (https://www.wurundjeri.com.au/). This space includes a table displaying information regarding the work of the Wurundjeri Land Council, seeing the organisation as a whole as a powerful tool for care.

Included in the publication accompanying Gardening is not a rational act is the below text written by Bruce Pascoe and generously contributed to the exhibition. This text looks at cultivation and bread making from Kangaroo grass and the colonisation of what is now called 'Australia'.







Baker's Dozen
COUNTER

©Bruce Pascoe 2017



How many baker’s does it take to make a nuisance of themselves?

Well last summer we had three bakers, two food scientists, two photographers, three dogs and two besieged house owners.

To harvest kangaroo grass you need hot weather and someone who knows what they are doing. All we had was the hot weather.

We had been researching some of the old people’s traditional food plants and we were revved up to tackle the kangaroo grass. The summer before we hand harvested an area of grass on the local airport and ground the seed into flour and baked a loaf of bread for Ben Shewry of Attica restaurant, Melbourne. He was a bit over excited because we’d been out fishing on my home stream, the great Jinoor (these days Genoa) River, we’d had a couple of beers and he’d caught his first fish. He loved the bread and ate many slices. Which we thought might have been for breakfast.





It reminded me of Charles Sturt’s ‘exploration’ party in 1843 who were saved from starvation by 400 Aboriginal people in Sturt’s Stony Desert who gave them water and fed them roast duck and cake, a cake which Sturt declared was the lightest and sweetest he’d ever tasted. Now we know that Pom’s can’t cook so when they’re dying of starvation they may be inclined to exaggerate the quality of any food they are given, but it still surprises me that in a country with 500 cooking shows in the media we still don’t know the grass from which those people made the grain to make that light and sweet cake.

Maybe it’s because we cannot afford to look at the agricultural economy of a people from whom we stole the land and justified that theft to our Christian selves by saying the Aboriginal occupants were a low species of life who knew nothing about growing their own food and therefore didn’t really own the land.

Anyway, despite that small omission from our country’s history for the last 220 years, a baker’s dozen of us gathered last January to harvest kangaroo grass, thresh it and grind it into flour and bake a few loaves. The baking was the easy bit because everyone in the room knew how to make bread, although the blue heelers were a bit scratchy, but for the rest of it we were working off a modicum of traditional knowledge and a thousand aberrant suggestions, the more aberrant the emptier the bottles became.

But our bread was aromatic as all heaven, had a wonderful texture and rich deep flavour. One baker started talking about the wonderful crumb but we thought there was plenty left and kept eating.

We are sampling other grains, other harvesting methods and other milling techniques but the certainty is that the grains Aboriginal people domesticated 30-40,000 years ago will become sensations in Australian and International cuisines.

We just have to get over the refusal to acknowledge how we came by the land, because you can’t eat our food if you can’t swallow our history.


Bruce Pascoe is a Yuin, Bunurong and Tasmanian man whose 2014 book, Dark Emu, Black Seeds won the NSW Premier’s Book of the Year in 2016 and has been reprinted thirteen times.





Many thanks to the Wurundjeri Land Council, the Abbotsford Convent gardener Simon Taylor and to Bruce Pascoe for generously providing the important text below.

We acknowledge the unceded lands upon which this exhibition takes place as those of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, we extend our respect to Elders both past, present and emerging.

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria program and the Abbotsford Convent Foundation.