Laura and I recently took a road trip to Bingara to visit our partners at The Living Classroom and other local folk to establish connection and build relationships as a means of developing the latest KSCA project “An Artist a Farmer and a Scientist walk into the bar…”.
As the title implies, the project will bring artists, farmers and scientists together to work on a series of projects that explore issues of sustainability and the challenges faced by farmers adapting to regenerative farming methods in NSW. The idea came out of the recognition that there was a lack of communication between farmers and scientists on this issue, verging at times on distrust and hostility. Perhaps, we thought, artists might be able to broker a more productive relationship.
The three terms of the project title very neatly triangulate, each sharing similarities and points of difference with the other two. The scientist, for instance, participates in a level of abstraction as does the artist, but differs on the point of practicality – a quality for which art is not significantly known. The farmer, on the other hand, while not given as much to abstraction, is nothing if not a pragmatist. I realise that this is a highly simplified analysis, and would not hold up against the variety that exists within each of these fields, but I make it nonetheless to indicate that these three figures think about the world in very different ways, but with similarities or points of overlap. This project, for me, offers an opportunity to explore whether artists, for instance, can contribute to a conversation between the scientist and the farmer via a point of detachment from both of their perspectives. Is it not possible to look at our differences as that point of communication from which we can diversify ideas, instead of a point of irreconcilable conflict between two competing systems of thought and observation?
I am not a painter, but I understand quite intimately the feeling a painter must have before a newly stretched blank canvas. This blank field of potential stretching out in all directions, containing an infinite field of possible color, form and content is intimidating in its limitlessness. It faces the artist as a blank slate waiting to receive its future, finite, final material form. When it is finished, the produced thing will have a singular irrevocable being. This project has something of this aspect to me, here at its beginning. It is not as neat as the example of a canvas, with its image of the tabula rasa conveniently denying all the antecedent histories and contexts that surround both it and the artist. The effect though is the same. I survey a vast field of unknowing. It might as well be blank, for all that I know of scientists or farmers, the political structures and cultures that they separately negotiate, much less the vast forces that are engaged when the worlds that they inhabit undergo change. I know even less how they will respond when brought together and asked to engage in the uncouth act of making art. Unknown are the names and the faces of the people I will meet, the sounds of their voices and the particularities of their personalities. It feels like I am on the verge of making art.
Alex Wisser 14/9/17