A work commissioned by Central Gallery in Adelaide for their exhibition Four Points. HD video, 48:21min.
My ongoing, everlasting fascination with Joseph Beuys has spilled into the world of the arboreal. Or in the case of Vanity, the sod.
The idea for this work first sprung from Beuys' 7000 Eichen, planting 7,000 oak trees in Kassel, Germany. He wished to simultaneously enact political change in this town while also seeking redemption for the species, which be believed had been soiled by Hitler's comparison of the oak to the Third Reich. In earlier iterations, this work started out intending to address similar concerns by planting, but in the ends winds up empathising somewhat with the task of Sisyphus.
Colonialism has brought with it destruction of habitat for development. Clearing and expansion in the name of growth and progress has seen the extinction of many species of fauna and flora. Planting a tree to replace one felled is not as simple as it once was. Laws and legislature prevent healing. This land belongs to the earth's oldest culture, who have fought through genocide, assimilation, systematic legislated racism. And still they are strong. Their resilience is something we need to learn from.
Enacting change requires us to think differently. It requires cooperation and importantly, a sense of humour. That transformation of public space, building new (natural) habitats and actions to enhance intangible character are all essential. Vanity is an expression of our need to examine ourselves with a new logic if we are to sustain ourselves in the coming decades. Time spent with this sculpture may teach us something about durability, resilience and strength.
The tress will follow, another time, another place. For now, there is only vanity.