Lana de Jager - 'Waiting For Wisdom'

Wednesday 4 - Sunday 29 September 2019


Click here for artwork by Lana de Jager

“In early 2019, I created a work entitled Unsettled for a group exhibition at The Art Vault in Mildura. It was part of the Layers of Settlement Symposium (La Trobe University) and it was the seed for this exhibition Waiting for Wisdom - I had to consider what settlement meant from a perspective of climate change. As an optimist, I believe it can be a creative act to occupy an area, to build a community, to provide what’s needed to sustain that community and to decide who and what to include in that community. Surely, we have learnt that variety is a treasure and that we need to include people, animals and plants in the creation of our communities rather than unsettle or erode them. But instead, people, animals and plants are in a lot of trouble if you consider the really concerning impacts of climate change, such as unprecedented species extinction.

I want to hide from the ever more dreadful news of how humans are impacting on the earth, but I also know that looking away at this moment in history would be infantile. In the name of progress we are doing things we can never take back, but simultaneously our survival from this point onwards depends on us looking it straight in the eye.

Every move we make as humans impacts on the environment: what and how much we consume, how we choose to spend leisure time and how much we are willing to spend on it. Resorts, sanitised eco-tourism and luxury travel has become part of our western consumerist behaviour, and some people don’t even understand the difference between a resort experience and a truly natural experience. Garish theme parks present nature as plastic rocks and chlorinated waterfalls. Futhermore, the catch is that less and less of these truly natural places will be reachable by you or I as the trend continues.

Click here for artwork by Lana de Jager

Nature has become a branded, advertised and commodified ‘product’. Surely, there’s some crazy stuff going on when nature is being trademarked and patented! As the world’s populations grow, more and more land needs to be used to power, house and feed everyone, resulting in the natural havens of the world shrinking very fast. Human impact has never been presented as clearly as by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report: People are affecting 70% of the land on earth that isn’t covered with ice. We’re wasting a quarter to a third of all the food we produce, and we produce it in high-carbon ways. We’re actually destroying the soil that feeds us at alarming rates, with tillage degrading the soil 100 times faster than it can form, and one fourth of all the ice-free land on earth is now being degraded by human beings. A rate of 1% increase of desertification per year every year is extremely alarming. (Juan Cole)

And, by the way, it’s not happening all the way over there in other countries, it affects you and me right here Australia. We take note of melting ice caps in places far away, or the plight of famers on the Murray River, but we might not notice the destruction of local wetlands or bush to make room for housing developments. The exotic, untouched areas of our world aren’t the only things that qualify as nature.

I allowed my mind to wander during a residency in Mildura, driving into the dry areas for research. I found plants that grow in areas that are, apparently, not compatible with life, yet these little legends thrive under the harshest elements and create havens for other life, like insects. These resilient plants need nearly nothing to survive but humans take so much that even that little bit might be gone soon, too. I imagined what the future might look like - when these tough legends of nature have survived 'The Climate Change' - and a time when it might be humans’ turn to rely on them for protection. After something that seems so impossible, the tough fauna and flora might become monuments to things our civilisation has ‘lost’, in similar ways we build statues to soldiers who have given their lives ‘for us’. In this way, maybe a modest knoll of grass can become an enormous icon, like the great Australian roadside attractions: the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour or the Big Merino in Goulburn.”