Past Residencies


Sean Cordeiro & Claire Healy
Maintenance
April – May, 2004

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(NSW)

Maintenance
Milaby Farm, Ballidu, May 2004

Living in the city is a very convenient thing indeed. One of the most convenient things about living in the city is garbage removal. When we moved out of our home in Ashfield New South Wales, we threw 2 tonnes of garbage out. This was accumulated in only 24 months of living there! This wasn’t garbage like beer bottles and decaying foodstuffs. Most of it was old artworks and destroyed furniture. We aren’t wasteful art collecting furniture trashers: it’s more like a lot of the art we made and furniture we found had merely had taken a detour through our house on its way to the garbage heap.

The great thing about throwing things away is that their existence disappears from your mind: into landfill and out of your sense of object permanence. If you are a ‘tidy’ person, you don’t need to hang onto anything that links you to your past or reminds you that you are part of the laws of entropy that govern us.

Sculptors have a bad reputation for being hoarders. Even the slick design orientated installation artists of the 21st century have a habit of picking up pieces of trash from the side of the road: exclaiming to glassy-eyed friends that the piece of trash will make a ‘great’ artwork. The same could be probably said about farmers. They don’t seem to throw much away. There seems to be limitless inherent possibilities within the junk heaps of farmers. Something may yet be found useful in the deceased cars that are more iron oxide than automobile or the old farm homes which now only house pigeons and their poo.

The thing about these objects found stockpiled on farms across the world is that they do not remain in stasis. Due to the scale of farming technology, if an object such as a plough or seeder is no longer useful it will not be stored in a room or warehouse. It will be kept outside for future use.

But how far away is that future? Discarded things left on farms aren’t like the trash we get rid of in the big smoke. As city slickers, when we throw away stuff, that’s the end of the story, the object’s life is perceived finished. The invisibility of waste management systems such as recycling or landfill erases the objects’ life from our future. This isn’t the case with stuff found on farms; these objects take on a whole new life after they have been thrown out.

When we came to Ballidu, it was just the end of dry season. Everything seemed dead. The grass was almost white from being bleached by the sun and the trees were filled with branches that were dry with withered branches. You could feel the power of nature, not in the usual sense of verdant greenery or treacherous fauna. But you could feel nature’s power against man. Our sense of time shifted to something more like geological time: slow and fast at the same time, a timescale that dwarfs human enterprise like the ocean dwarfs the paddling boogie boarder.

As far as we could see we witnessed human endeavour under the immensity of natural forces. Just like that little tyke with his finger in the dike: it seemed that everything humans had created was in need of constant vigilant watch, otherwise nature would come along and reclaim it. We could see this natural force in all the disused objects around us: tires with grass growing out of the rims, old wool bale machines that were elaborate nests for spiders, piles of wood that were nests for spiky lizards. We were able to see this force because all the past was not put out of sight.

Naturally, the abandoned house on Milaby Farm appealed to us most. The discarded house seemed a natural starting point: the home is the membrane between man and nature. The doors and windows of the house are the most obvious delineation between the space for man and the space for nature. Within Maintenance we wished to violate this junction point between man and the environment. Shapes extruded from the portals of the house violate the junction between the inside and outside. The decision to use Buddhist-orange, highly geometric shapes to describe a force of nature was made in order to escape a sentimental anthropomorphic understanding of these forces. We hoped to describe a power comparable to that of the wasp impregnated within the insect larvae.

Sean Cordeiro & Claire Healy