A nut

Perdita Phillips

Listening as forgetting; listening as ecological remembering.

After the fires in eastern Australia were the rains that extinguished the blazes and drove ash and carbon into the creek beds and waterways. Many have commented on the complete lack of (nonhuman) noise in burnt ground after the fires had passed. For people whose homes were affected and whose daily lives were consumed, the fires will enter into their ecological remembering. But I fear that we who saw the fires second-hand will soon forget what we saw. And as ecosystems recover and grow over, will we return to business as usual? Will the emotional impact of apocalyptic conditions recede into discounted memories? Will ecological forgetting take place? And what about slow ecological changes at the rate of decades? It is important to distinguish between full and complex recovery and the chronic depauperation of ecosystems through repeated stressors such as fire. Carrying our remembering is critical to future survival. So my current studio practice is looking into environmental amnesia at local and societal scales. Critically re-examining Stanner’s ‘Great Australian Silence’, could one of the strategies of listening then be to hear and take heed? What might be the speculative devices for processes of ecological remembering and how can we flourish, speaking-with and listening-to both the human and nonhuman worlds?

Perdita Phillips is an Australian artist primarily interested in the environment who often refers to scientific understanding in her work. At the same time she is interested in things that aren’t explained by science which might be about what is not seen or logically sensible. After years of wrestling with the ideas of beauty and wildness she has decided that things are not simple: they are complex and contested and worth fighting for.

Phillips has used many different media including walking, mapping, drawing, sculpture, digital art, installations, ephemeral outdoor works/situations (eclogues), photographs, videos, book art, sound installations and spatial sound, found objects and collage. Her work is marked by a continuing interest in the relationships between humans and nonhuman others (rocks, plants, animals, ecosystem processes). Underlying her practice is a general concern with imagining environmental futures.

Her contribution to the Listening in the Anthropocene online exhibition will be available here from 5pm, August 27, 2020.


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