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Artist Spotlight: Eleanor Malbon

April 16, 2016

Meet Eleanor Malbon, You Are Here 2016 artist, and one of the artists participating in the Ready-cut Residency:

Image: Dom Northcott

Image: Dom Northcott


Hi Eleanor! What was your experience in Namadgi? How did the landscape inspire you?

The residency at Ready-Cut cottage was cancelled because the main road through Namadgi, Boboyan Road, was closed due to controlled burning. So instead we visited the southern point of Kosciuszko National Park and camped at Pocket’s hut. The landscape is very similar to Namadgi, it’s a connected ecosystem. I’ve spent a lot of time in Namadgi and Kosciusko NPs, and this time the landscape was inspiring to me due to it’s contrast with our cities and usual places of dwelling.

Artists, and poets in particular, have a long history of engagement with the natural environment. How does this theme feature in your own practice?

I wouldn’t point to any part of the earth and say ‘that’s natural environment’ or ‘that’s not natural environment’. I consider everything around us to be our natural environment, even when heavily transformed by humans into things like laptops or fridges.

So when we visited Kosciusko I looked at it as a part of the world that humans have demarcated as ‘conservation’ and tried to unpack the values (and problems) evident in creating such a barrier.

A section of my writing is directly concerned with the way that our civilisation disrupts, derails, subjects to markets and in many cases transforms landscapes to the point of destruction (cities and anthropogenic climate change are just a few manifestations of that).

As part of the residency, you collaborated with fellow residents Aaron Kirby and Cissi Tsang, can you tell us a little bit about the creative processes you went through, both individually, and collaboratively?

We had a lot of conversations about landscape on a thematic level. We posed ourselves questions; What is meant by ‘wilderness’? How does one ‘belong’ to a landscape? Can settler Australians ever belong here?

We didn’t necessarily agree on the answers to these questions, but we spent time learning about each other’s perspectives and playing with the boundaries of those questions. It was fun to learn what Aaron and Cissi think about these questions.

Much of the poetry that Aaron and I are writing at the moment is conceptually driven, so having critical conversations sparked by the place that we were in was an essential part of the creative process for this residency.

Have you ever participated in a residency program before? How can residencies help artists to develop their practice?

I have. I can’t speak about other people’s experience of residencies, but this residency helped me to develop my practice by giving me the space to write and talk.

What was the best thing about your time in Namadgi?

Two aspects; the first was the chance to collaborate with Cissi and Aaron who are both accomplished artists and thinkers in their own rights.

The second was the practical tasks of keeping ourselves fed, watered and warm. The hut is very minimally supported, and there is less infrastructure than at Ready-Cut (the original site for the residency) so more of our time was spent on the practical aspects of living there rather than on writing which I think has made for a richer experience over all.

And what did you find challenging?

Fetching water from the Goodradigbee river and carrying it in a tin bucket up the valley. It was hot and we stumbled, but we also recorded the sound of our footsteps and the water bending the tin bucket and we’ll use that in the show. And we then had drinking water which was also essential to the creative process by keeping us alive.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us a little about your creative findings as a result of the residency? What can audiences expect?

Expect music, poetry and images. The show will be a pastiche of responses to our time at Pocket’s hut. Aaron and I are writing poems, and Cissi is playing the guitar, transforming images through data and presenting her photography.

What events are you looking forward to seeing at You Are Here?

An attempt to perform “Kill Climate Deniers”.