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WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned
that this program contains images and voices of deceased persons.

Living Data:
Track Changes

2016 Conversations

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We talk as we create Oceanic Bliss, an installation for discovering, through art and science, ways of understanding and relating to seagrass meadows. As we work among the plants in the rooftop greenhouse in the Science Faculty of the University of Technology Sydney, our conversation is punctuated by sounds of machines that regulate the atmosphere by opening and closing windows and turning sprinklers on and off.

Our aim is to inspire care and conservation of seagrass, through art and science that contribute to revealing surprising new knowledge of it's capacity to regulate our atmosphere and ocean for sustaining life.

William Gladstone and Lisa Roberts

"

Oceanic Bliss: Seagrass Dreaming 101
Monday 17 August 2016

Surprise observations are made as we move around in the seagrass in Ku-ring-gai National Park.
As we move around our installation n the greenhouse, unpredictable movement patterns
suggest ways to combine our thoughts and feelings about the underwater experience.

 

"

Oceanic Bliss: Seagrass Dreaming 102
Monday 17 October 2016

The words 'diversity' and 'abundance' are used in lots of different contexts.
In the scientific and ecological context, and the seagrass context,
we are very specific about their meanings.

 

Oceanic Bliss: Seagrass Dreaming 101

TRANSCRIPT

Monday 17 October 2016, Part One

University of Technology Sydney
Monday 17 October 2016
William Gladstone (GW) and Lisa Roberts (LR)

LR:
So these (acrylic panels) of course are going to hang dead straight in the gallery. I'm putting them up so there's a progression, from the grid to the more free-form, to reflect the way we work when we're doing a scientific observation, and the way we look when we're making art.

What's that device that has a grid and you look within an area to look at the different distributions of species within that part?

WG:
It's normally part of a quadrat.

LR:
A quadrat!

WG:
A quadrat is a regular area, and if you want to subdivide that ... so this (whole panel) could be a quadrat that you place on the sea bed, and count the animals occurring in it. But if you want to subdivide it, you can do what you've done here with the holes in it, and say, just count in a certain number of those areas, or if you want to estimate the cover, say for example if you're looking at algae, you can go to every point and say, "What's under that point?" And then you add it up. And if there's 100 points then you can say, "I counted kelp under 20 points, [so] then there's 20% kelp cover".

LR: So let's make this a quadra.

WG:
Yeah. Good.

LR: We've started!

WG:
Yes!

LR:
To show the relationships between things, and how we relate to them. So through movement, and...

WG:
Oh yeah, rather than being static.

LR:
And the other thing that comes to mind then... Are you recording this?

WG:
Yes.

LR: Great. Because we can't repeat a conversation.

WG:
No.

LR:
There's that unexpected aspect of discovery when we're looking as artists I suppose, for want of a better word, when we're responding through all our senses, rather than thinking logically...

WG:
Yep.

LR:
Then we're surprised, continually surprised...

WG:
Yeah... yeah. And that's similar to the surprise of scientific discovery. Like yesterday when I was swimming amongst the seagrass, I'd happened to notice the patterns that were created by me swimming around the seagrass, and the swirling patterns. On the one hand, I thought, "That was beautiful and I'd like to capture it", and then I thought, "Well that reminds me of Lisa's seagrass dance."

LR:
Yes. Perfect. See there's an example.

WG: And it also connects to the role of seagrass in baffling wave energy.

LR:
Yes! (So this observation of the beauty) leads you to further scientific investigation, with practical applications.

WG:
Yes. Because one of the benefits [of seagrass] that we always talk about, is [that] they protect shorelines by absorbing wave energy.

LR:
Brilliant. And the other part of our selves would say - about the movement and surprise observation of you kicking and the seagrass responding, and that leading you to think of the avatar (my seagrass dance) - that train of thought could lead you to thinking, "Well, this just feels good. And there are a lot of artists who work in their art and in their teaching, for those sorts of reasons, simply because it feels good and makes people feel good. And there's even a whole industry of arts therapy, as you know.

WG:
That's a really good observation. I thought the same thing yesterday when I was swimming around in the seagrass, how I'd placed the camera down, to swim around to create the currents with my flippers, and thought, "I'm enjoying this because it's something physical to do".

LR:
And that leads to what we're doing right now. We're moving, physically moving. We're making something in a physical space with the plants that sort of relate to the seagrass in that they're plants impacting on the atmosphere and so on. And there's been some research into this, that when we're moving we think in different ways. It opens up new ideas that don't tend to come to us when we're just sitting at our desk, looking at our bit of writing, going over that last paragraph and thinking, "How does that link to the next one?"... We're in the world.

WG:
And that relates to... that's a great representation of the experience I have when I'm diving. And often I get new insights or ideas when I'm swimming around under water...

LR:
Yes!

WG:
Which is quite a physical thing, and you've got all this gear, you've got to get your breathing right, you've got to navigate correctly, you've got to get your buoyancy right. Sounds complicated but at the same time it's very mindful. I'm very aware of where I am in the world, in the ocean, and that creates an openness for me.

LR:
That's really interesting, because I have that when I dance...

WG:
Ah, OK.

LR:
Particulalry now that I'm older, and I do a form of dance that is still risk-taking, lurching into space, in balance, and very expressive, I have to be mindful of where my weight is, that my knee's over my foot, because I've had injuries and all that kind of stuff, and I'm breathing so that I can sustain this movement, and yes, it opens up all this - all these ideas for creating things, ideas for films, drawings, sculptures, whatever...

WG:
Great.