Crevice Communities Exhibition 2021

Sam Bowker
“To Steal the Goose from off the Common” 2021
Site-specific installation (white gloss spray paint stencil with yellow oil paint or unauthorised street art/folk art activism on council-owned wheelie bins on council-owned nature strip

In August 2021, employees of the Wagga City Council forcibly removed a gaggle of geese from Wollundry Lagoon. These geese, and their ancestors, had been part of the human and non-human community of Wagga Wagga since at least the 1920s. All but one goose was removed – and this remaining bird, an escapee, was left without her life partner.

As a manifestation of the extensive community outrage following this action, a ‘folk art activist’ project was created. Dozens of wheelie bins, provided by Council, were painted by community members with a stencil of a white goose. The nature strip occupied by these bins was the habitat of the original geese, and both the nature strip and the bins belonged to Wagga City Council, making this site apt for signalling road users and pedestrians. These prominently painted geese were cute yet provocative, a community collaboration in vehement protest, on behalf of the wild geese of Wollundry Lagoon.

As noted by an anonymous 17th Century English poem - 

The law afflicts the man or woman
who steals a goose from off the common
but the greater villain it leaves loose
who steals the common from the goose.

...and geese will still a common lack
until they go and steal it back.

Reference: Boyle J. (2003) The Second Enclosure Movement and the Construction of the Public Domain
Vol. 66, No. 1/2, The Public Domain (Winter – Spring, 2003), pp. 33-74. https://www.jstor.org/stable/20059171

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Outcry sees geese return to Wagga Wagga’s
Wollundry Lagoon but feeding rules apply
ABC Riverina / By Sally Bryant and Nakita Jager
Mon 16 Aug 2021
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-08-16/wagga-wagga-geese-to-return-to-wollundry-lagoon/100379966

Dr Sam Bowker is a Senior Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture for Charles Sturt University. He is a creator of shadow puppets, poetry, exhibition curator and birdwatcher.
www.drsambowker.com

Provenance: Peer reviewed submission

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