Ecology Studies (Adrift Lab)

Opens 05-04-2021,  closes 11-02-2022

Link Foyer

Ecology Studies

Ecology Studies (Adrift Lab) is a long-term performance in which Tasmanian artist Lucienne Rickard will attend each day to the task of drawing a large tableau of flesh-footed shearwater (Ardenna carneipes) and her family memories, embedded alongside the landscape of Lord Howe Island where the birds breed. As these graphite images are completed, they will be ‘washed' from the surface, leaving vestiges only, one bleeding into the other, a hybrid genealogy of seabird, family, and place.

Lucienne’s connection to the flesh-footed shearwater stems from childhood visits to her grandmother (now deceased) on Lord Howe Island; her parents now reside in the family home. Over the span of Lucienne's lifetime (40 years), the population of flesh-footed shearwaters on Lord Howe Island has dropped from approximately 40 000 pairs to 22 654 pairs in 2018, a loss of nearly half.

The colony collapse of these seabirds carries with it a loss of personal history, the struggle to save one forged to the need to sustain the other. The accumulated washed images of this work therefore creating an urgent and dappled memento vivere: ‘remember that you must live.’

In the past decade this decline, and its underlying causes, has been tracked by Adrift Lab, a group of scientists studying all things adrift in the ocean. They identify long-term trends and quantify the general impact of marine plastic pollution on the oceans, on humans, and on wildlife, in particular on the flesh-footed shearwater as emblematic of environmental collapse.

Ecology Studies (Adrift Lab) merges art and science, a ‘study’ being both a technical art term for a drawing or sketch done in preparation and more generally understood as the practice of devoting time and attention to understanding a topic. In this case, Lucienne is producing a study on the broader question of ecology, the relationship between organisms – birds, humans, and so on – and our natural dwelling place: the environment.

This project is a progression from Extinction Studies – Lucienne’s 2019-21 performative artwork that drew attention to species we have lost – and continues her expression of urgent concern for the natural world and our impacts on it.

Ecology Studies (Adrift Lab) has been commissioned by Detached Cultural Organisation and presented by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.