We recently caught up with Canberra-based emerging artist Rebecca Selleck to find out what she’s been working on during her month-long residency at FAC.
What inspired you to become an artist?
That’s a big question. I’m not sure if it was inspiration or a gradual movement towards it since a young age. I tried other things, but nothing satisfies me like being an artist. I have always had the urge to experiment, invent, create and be physical. What pushes it beyond being a hobby is this massive desire to learn and share things I feel are important for us to move ahead. We have one life and in the face of existential dread and the weight of our species’ continuing errors, this is what helps me get out of bed each morning. I need to learn, I need to feel, and translate that into something that that feels meaningful.
On your Instagram you mentioned that you’ve been creating a series of works called The control of nature promised a future of unlimited abundance. Can you tell us more about that?
I found a second hand book on sale called Taming the Great South Land by environmentalist William J. Lines. It’s an oldie from 1991 and while there is some dated terminology it really resonated with me. It details the ways that Australia’s environment and the First Nations people who care for it have been methodically abused and misunderstood since British colonisation and how this has shaped who we are as a nation today. Australia wasn’t a place of beauty to revere but a series of strange landscapes to be conquered for their material gains. Complex ecosystems have made way for western mono-farming and grazing of introduced species ill-suited to the soils. The ground has been cut open for minerals, waterways diverted and drained, and cities sprung up along coasts, with little concern for environmental or cultural consequence.
The quote I’ve used to title this body of work is taken from page 159 of the book, “Politicians expounded the doctrine that the control of nature promised a future of unlimited abundance”. This is a theme throughout the book, but the wording of this quote particularly struck a chord with me. If this is our promised future, living within a capitalist system that pushes consumerism and individualism, what is our endless abundance and what price have we paid for it through this control of nature?
As I walked around Fremantle, nothing seemed as obvious as the mounting single use waste and the infinitely more valuable ecosystems that continue to be pushed to the brink through deforestation and climate change. These pieces of rubbish are emblematic of where our culture has headed. After making this work, I am going to work harder to be less dependent on packaged goods. I think it’s important to realise what we are throwing away by continuing this way of living.
Western Australia is home to some of the most beautiful flowering plants I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t help but be inspired. I took a road trip and was awed as I explored national parks and nature reserves, however, it’s worth mentioning that I only took specimens peeking over the footpath on my suburban walks around Freo.
What’s up next for you?
I have a few exciting projects in the works. I’m building towards a solo exhibition at Firstdraft in Sydney set for April, which will be my most epic interactive installation to date. For Invasive, I’ll be transforming the gallery space into the interior of a small home where time and space have uncomfortably entangled. Visitors will sit amongst the furniture and interact with the animal forms. Invasive will continue my enquiry into Australia’s relationship with introduced species and communicate the complexity of animal and ecological ethics on a continent of forced environmental change.
I am also currently part of the Art of the Threatened Species residency, curated by Dr Greg Pritchard, which is a collaboration between the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Create NSW and Orana Arts as part of the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species program. Twelve artists have been selected to make work responding to ten threatened species in NSW. I’m looking at the Eastern Bristlebird, a secretive little sweetheart now living only in three small geographically separate bubbles of heathland along the east coast. I’m lucky enough to go on surveying trips with the rangers to learn about them first hand. The work made during this residency will form part of a group exhibition with the other eleven artists in late 2019 at the Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo.
Back home in Canberra I’m working with the wonderful Tuggeranong Arts Centre for the SouthFest Community Festival later this month. I’m making an interactive outdoor sculpture which I hope will encourage people to learn more about local native plants. I’m also working with the Messengers group guest tutoring workshops with awesome teenagers on how to make small electronic sculptures, and will have some words coming out in the ANU’s Untaming the Urban book project, which I love because it’s another example of science and art informing one other.
What I find really exciting is that my month here has given me the time to experiment and change up my making, which has been so liberating and refreshing. I can see the processes I’ve developed here translating into so many new works. Thanks Fremantle Arts Centre!