By Lucy Bleach
On June 16, between 7pm and 12pm, over 600 people trailed into an underground basement in Hobart, navigating the subterranean city space to experience projected video installations of root systems, fungal spore growth and the arresting visage of school children.
On June 24, between 5-9pm, the streetscape of Triabunna was illuminated with projections of luminescent mushrooms, carnivorous plants, microscopic plant footage and B-grade horror films of plants with children actors.
Live Site Catalyst (LSC) is a Tasmanian College of the Arts (TCotA) project led by Kit Wise, John Vella and Lucy Bleach, in collaboration with Glamorgan Bay Council, University of Tasmania Architecture and Design, and the Monash School of Architecture, focused on the contested post-industrial landscape and regional community of Triabunna, north east of Hobart. It frames a two-year project, with ongoing activities progressively ‘owned’ by the community, including Terrain Analysis,Pragmatic Engagementand Shared Experience, that sits as an Institute for the Study of Social Change Flagship, within TCotA’s Research program – Creative Communities, Regional Impact through Community Engaged Practice.
Whilst undertaking preliminary LSC research, we noticed the tender care local residents took of their private gardens within the post industrial landscape. It stood out as individual tending that collectively manifested a nurtured, abundant space in contrast to the post pulp mill socio-economic and cultural terrain.
Through various exchanges and stakeholder workshops, LSC has generated visualisations of new streetscapes defined by new industries; vertical gardens that could operate simultaneously as unique town signifiers and a new industry defined by the propagation of gardens as opposed to the pulping of trees. Dark Mofo 2016, Tasmania’s winter festival celebrating the dark, afforded a unique opportunity to seed the long term vision through a contemporary art encounter. Dark Mofo’s nocturnal tempest theme triggered NIGHT GARDEN, an after dark site-specific video projection project geared to activate the township through gardens of ‘horror’.
Over the course of a month-long workshop period, grades 5 and 6 students from Triabunna District School worked with Tasmanian College of the Arts staff/researchers Lucy Bleach and John Vella, and 3rd year Sculpture and Moving Image students to produce B-grade horror films of their Triabunna gardens. Workshops involved costume design, mask making, and strange sculptural body adornment constructions that synthesised the students’ bodies into vegetable/plant/human hybrid forms. Students were directly engaged in film making activity – including shooting Super 8 B-grade horror clips of the school vegetable garden and digital footage shot via an iphone through a microscope at varied cross-sections of plants (vegetable and endemic).
The local community hall was hired to project footage from classic plant horror films such as Day of the Triffids, as well as time-lapse footage of fungal spores, luminescent mushrooms and carnivorous plants. Tasmanian College of the Arts students painted the students’ faces, assisted in choreographing performances and recorded the footage of the students ‘acting up’ to the projected footage.
The footage was collated and edited for Night Garden (Overgrowth), a one night only event for the 2016 Dark Mofo festival. The multiple films were projected on the homes and commercial buildings of Triabunna, charging the township with B-grade botanical horror films that reframed their locale, fusing the real with the imaginary, translating multiple narratives of the town through the moving images created by the students that lived there.
Night Garden (Undergrowth) occurred for one-night only in Hobart. The footage was distilled, transformed and installed within the sub-scape of one of Hobart’s underground spaces. Over 600 hundred visitors viewed the basement of 51 Collins St Hobart, surprised by the extraordinary, unknown subterranean space, and the curious and compelling footage and installation components.
Lucy Bleach‘s practice led research focuses on human’s varied relationships to tenuous, contingent and at times volatile environments, seeking engagement with communities that authentically experience such relationships.
She has produced solo commissioned works, collaborative projects and exhibited in group-exhibitions nationally and internationally, and has undertaken research projects in seismic and volcanic regions in Italy, Japan, Hawaii and Vanuatu. Lucy is a founding member of Community Engaged Practice (CEP), a Tasmanian College of the Arts research group exploring how lasting social change can be achieved in Tasmanian regional contexts through creative arts practice and pedagogy.
Lucy is Lecturer and Coordinator of the Sculpture Studio at the Tasmanian College of the Arts, University of Tasmania.
 The vegetable garden at the Triabunna District School was the first garden to be implemented as part of the Museum of Old and New Art 24 Carrot Gardens Project. The 24 Carrot Gardens Project is a cultural and educational platform, designed to educate whole-school communities on health, wellbeing and the importance of lifelong learning. At its core, is an emphasis on integrating and supporting sustainable patterns of living for students, families, schools and communities alike.