PROJECT BLOG - Dwell: landscape in the figure

recent posts
> July 2021 - funding announcement > what's Dwell?
> September 7th 2021 - National Threatened Species Day
> places - Thultharrung | Tolderol Game Reserve Wetlands
> Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
> October 9th 2021 - World Migratory Bird Day
> people - Sue Hawksley
> R&D process - choreography
> people - Tammy Arjona
> places - Goolwa Beach
> Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis)
> people - Jesse Budel
> R&D process - composition
> publication - Landscape in the figure: cultivating presence as nature
> people - Billie Cook
> places - Chapman's Track, Morialta Conservation Park
> Chestnut-rumped Heathwren (Mt Lofty Ranges) (Hylacola pyrrhopygius parkeri)
> February 2nd 2022 - World Wetlands Day
> Hooded Plover update from Ratalang Basham Beach
> March 3rd 2022 - World Wildlife Day
> people - Richard Hodges


July 2021 - funding announcement

Dwell: landscape in the figure - has received funding support from The Australian Government's Regional Arts Fund Project grants, which supports the arts in regional and remote Australia, to make a screen-dance work focusing on threatened ecological communities in South Australia, which will be premiered at Signal Point gallery, Goolwa in August 2022.

> Funding announcement



Lignum (Duma florulenta) at Tolderol. photo: Richard Hodges

We're excited to be embarking on the first creative R&D sessions for this project, after quite a bit of planning, preparation, organising permissions etc. I'll be charting our process and progress in this project blog.

What's Dwell?
Dwell: landscape in the figure is a project to make a screen-dance work focusing on threatened ecological communities in South Australia. The central concern of this work is habitat, with a focus on specific threatened ecological communities, and the potential impacts of their loss. We'll be making R&D visits to three diverse habitat types - coastal, heathy stringybark woodland, and wetland - collecting written, drawn and embodied movement 'snapshots' and recorded sound & image. We'll explore how the space, structure, dynamics and diversity of the locations form and inform movement, aiming to get a feel for what it could be like to live in such environments. Importantly, the project doesn't present the dancers in the locations as 'figure in the landscape'; rather it aims to embody and evoke the 'landscape in the figure'.

Who's Dwell?
The creative team comprises Sue Hawksley (concept, choreography, performance), Richard Hodges (photographer/video/visual artist), Tammy Arjona & Billie Cook (dance artists) and Jesse Budel (composer/sound artist).

Where's Dwell?
We'll be visiting sites at Tolderol Game Reserve, Morialta Conservation Park and Goolwa Beach.

Why Dwell?
The Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula regions of South Australia are a declared biodiversity hotspot containing unique ecological communities, yet nearly all have been affected by human activity. Especially at risk are those species with niche needs, which cannot yield and adapt to changing circumstances if their habitat becomes climatically unsuitable. Dwell aims to raise awareness and build empathy by highlighting the precariousness of existence where niche environments are being lost, and to motivate audiences to become more curious and caring for their environment. The predominant Western attitude toward the natural environment positions humans as separate from nature, a view which has enabled us to consider the planet in terms of resource exploitation rather than as a living system of which we are part. Now faced with global-scale degradation of climate and nature, we need to transform this attitude toward a more empathic relationship with our world. In making Dwell, I seek to cultivate a sense of embodied presence in and as nature, and in so doing, to better understand the part I/we play in it. Presence as place.


7th September 2021 - National Threatened Species Day

On 7th September 1936 the last known thylacine (Tasmianian Tiger) died in Hobart Zoo. National Threatened Species Day was established by WWF-Australia and the Australian Government's Natural Heritage Trust in 1996 as a day to commemorate the extinction of the thylacine, and to reflect and raise awareness of other species of plants and animals which are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered in Australia. In South Australia, it is estimated that 73 species have become extinct since European settlement, and more than 1000 species are currently listed as threatened. [1]. We REALLY need to take action NOW to prevent more species being lost.

Read more about National Threatened Species Day and the work of WWF-Australia and get involved by joining their Regenerate Australia campaign.

[1] Government of South Australia, Department of Environment and Water


places - Thultharrung | Tolderol Game Reserve Wetlands



Tolderol Game Reserve Wetlands. photos: Richard Hodges

One of our locations is Tolderol Game Reserve Wetlands, on the shores of Lake Alexandrina near Langhorne Creek. The Traditional Owners of the Lower River Murray, Lakes and Coorong are the Ngarrindjeri. This is Yarluwar-Ruwe (Sea Country), and the Ngarrindjeri name for Tolderol is Thultharrung.

Tolderol is located at the southern end of the East Asian Australasian Flyway - the world's biggest migratory shorebird flyway. It is recognised as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention as part of the Coorong and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert Ramsar site, declared in 1985, and forms part of the Living Murray Lower Lakes, Coorong and Murray Mouth (LLCMM) icon site.

Tolderol would have been low lying littoral wetland, temporarily flooded depending on water levels in Lake Alexandrina. Prior to purchase by the South Australian government in 1970 it was privately owned and had become very degraded, like so much of the Fleurieu swamp region, due to draining, damming & diversion of water along the Murray-Darling Basin, and overgrazing by cattle. It is now a largely artificial and technologically managed environment in a process of rehabilitation and recovery. It comprises a series of 17 constructed open and shallow basins, channels and levees, with beds of phragmites along the shores of Lake Alexandrina. Water levels are manipulated using pumps to inundate the bays with water from the lake, and tractors to plough and slash vegetation in drained bays which aerates the drying soils and improves the abundance of invertebrates on refilling. Three of the bays are used as a game reserve during the declared duck-hunting open season. These interventions encourage shallow salt-marsh / mud-flat habitat, which is perfect for the large number of foraging migratory and resident shorebirds, including threatened species such as the Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea), the Australasian Bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus), and the Southern Bell Frog (Litoria raniformis).

Richard and I had a fantastic site-visit a few weeks ago with Sam Hardy, the wetland ecologist from the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board, which was totally enlightening, Sam really knows this place (including where all the Red-bellied black and Eastern Tiger snakes hang out). Thanks for showing us around Sam! :)

So why are wetlands important?
Wetlands are land areas that are saturated or flooded with water either permanently or seasonally. They replenish groundwater aquifers, purify and filter harmful waste and ensure clean fresh water. Wetlands act as sponges, shock absorbers and carbon storage units. Wetlands are critical for biodiversity.
BUT - wetlands generally get very bad rap; they are often negatively associated as swamps or wastelands, as places that harbour disease, and therefore need draining and drying. Globally, 87% of wetlands have been 'reclaimed' and repurposed in the past 300 years, 64% of them have gone since 1900. A shift in environmental awareness and understanding of the importance of wetlands, and concern for their loss, contributed to the establishment of the International Ramsar Convention in 1971, which recognises the global need to protect these unique ecosystems. [1]

The Ngarrindjeri Vision for Country:

"Our Lands, Our Waters, Our People, All Living Things are connected. We implore people to respect our Ruwe (Country) as it was created in the Kaldowinyeri (the creation). We long for sparkling, clean waters, healthy land and people and all living things. We long for the Yarluwar-Ruwe (Sea Country) of our ancestors. Our vision is all people Caring, Sharing, Knowing and Respecting the lands, the waters and all living things". [2]

[1] Ramsar Fact Sheet 1, 2015. Wetlands: why should I care? Available from: https://www.ramsar.org/document/ramsar-fact-sheet-1-wetlands-why-should-i-care

[2] Ngarrindjeri Nation. 2006. Ngarrindjeri Nation Yarluwar-Ruwe Plan: Caring for Ngarrindjeri sea country and culture. Prepared by the Ngarrindjeri Tendi, Ngarrindjeri Heritage Committee, Ngarrindjeri Native Title Management Committee. Camp Coorong: Ngarrindjeri Land and Progress Association.


Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)


Curlew Sandpipers camouflaged at Tolderol. photo: Richard Hodges

The Curlew Sandpiper depends on wetland habitat like Tolderol. These amazing little birds - typically about 20cm - breed in the Arctic Siberian tundra and then migrate south, following invisible highways in the sky called Flyways, to overwinter in Australia, Europe and North Africa. The highway to Australia is the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, which takes in 22 countries.

The Curlew Sandpipers travel to Australia in two waves - the males set off after breeding, leaving the females to incubate the eggs and then migrate when the young have either fledged or failed. Before migration they eat and eat to store up fat and then make stop-overs at intertidal zones along the route, starting to arrive in Australia from August.

These are wading shorebirds; they don't have webbed feet that facilitate swimming like seabirds, so they survive in the shallows, wading up to belly deep pecking and probing the mudflats for molluscs and worms. They wear two sets of plumage; the breeding feathers are rusty-brown (hence the name ferruginea) to conceal them against the bright lichens & mosses of the Arctic tundra, while in their overwintering gear they become camouflaged grey-brown birds roosting and feeding in a grey-brown environment.

BUT - At the Federal level the Curlew Sandpiper's conservation status is CRITICALLY ENDANGERED.
The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) designation is NEAR THREATENED.
The populations of Curlew Sandpiper have declined by more than 80% in the past 50 years. [1]

Every stage of the Flyway is threatened by habitat degradation due to urban and industrial development, pollution, agri & aqua-culture, irrigation etc. These birds are faithful to their routes and destinations, so if one part of the chain is broken or empty they won't be able to make it. Its a bit like planning to drive the Canning Stock Route; you meticulously calculate distances and stop-overs to make sure you won't run out of water and petrol, but only after setting off do you find out that the service-stations and fuel drops you were depending on have either run out or closed down...

Given everything they go through to get here, its super special to see Curlew Sandpipers during our site visits to Tolderol.

[1] Ann Jones. Flying for their lives. Australian Geographic, May 10, 2017. Available from https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2017/05/migratory-shorebirds/

Check out the AMASS/Space for Birds research project (AMASS - Avian Migration Aerial Surface Space) for an incredible StoryMap of the Curlew Sandpiper's migration.


9th October 2021 - World Migratory Bird Day

Sing, Fly, Soar - Like a Bird! the theme of this year's World Migratory Bird Day, an annual global campaign dedicated to raising awareness of migratory birds and the need for international cooperation to conserve them. [1]

[1] https://www.worldmigratorybirdday.org/about
See also: BirdLife Australia's Migratory Shorebird Program


people - Sue Hawksley


Sue at Tolderol. photo: Richard Hodges

Sue Hawksley is an independent dance artist and environmental worker based in the Adelaide Hills. After her initial training at the Royal Ballet School in London, she toured the world performing with major international companies including Rambert Dance Company, Mantis, Scottish Ballet and cie. Philippe Genty. She holds a PhD in Dance & Choreography from the University of Edinburgh, and has extensive experience as a dance educator.

Sue established articulate animal in 2014 as a platform for her creative and critical inquiry into movement. Her choreographic practice is concerned primarily with issues around presence, embodiment and environment, with a particularly interest in interdisciplinary and collaborative practice. Research concerns include somatics, dance and technology, and improvisation in performance. These days, Sue is most often to be found outdoors - either working professionally in conservation & landcare, regenerating the degraded bushland on her property in the Adelaide Hills, volunteering with local landcare groups, or developing her environmental dance practice.

"I have been fascinated with movement all my life, exploring it through dance, somatic movement practices, massage, technology, travel ... I have always been drawn to engage with the natural environment in my creative practice, but I never seemed to stay anywhere long enough to get to know the 'material' of the place. I always felt like a tourist, scratching the surface of places but not meeting the heart.

But since moving from Scotland in 2014 to live in the Adelaide Hills I have become deeply invested in landcare, and spend much of each day in the bushland. Through seven+ years hands-on experience in landcare and conservation, combined with decades of experience in somatic and creative practice, my felt understanding of this incredible natural environment and my relationship to it is deepening. Its like I've put in my 10,000 hours (and more) to achieve mastery of an art-form. My landcare practice has become a large part of my movement training, with place as my teacher. The physical practices include digging, dragging, reaching, pulling, climbing, lifting, leaping, crawling. The attentional practices hone my capacity to shift awareness from micro-detail (grass, mosses, lichen, ants...) to macro-overview (ecological communities, forests, weather...).

Over half the world's population (myself included for much of my life) reside in dense urban environments and many experience the distress of feeling estranged from nature. How to address this? It is not feasible or helpful that we all head for the hills or to the 'wilderness', that idealised construct of a nature absent of humans (which we disturb by visiting!), so the DWELL screen-dance project is one opportunity for me to bring an experience of nature to the audience. It also engages my deep concern about the degradation we are witnessing, on a massive and accelerating scale, of the environment we depend upon to sustain our lives and those of non-human species, and is part of my inquiry into how to cultivate a better relationship with our world.

I'm loving the whole process of making DWELL - the site-visits to Morialta, Goolwa and Tolderol are fabulous, and working with the talented and inspiring team. Thanks guys!"


R&D process - choreography


Sue & Tam at Goolwa - we're working on an active-listening exercise, not sleeping! photos: Richard Hodges

The choreographic processes for Dwell explore how the space, structure, dynamics and diversity of the three locations form and inform our movement. We have been making regular site-visits to Tolderol, Morialta and Goolwa, and have started working in the studio using 'body-recordings' taken during those visits to collaboratively develop the movement material for the filming sessions.

What do I mean by 'body-recordings'? While Richard & Jesse use equipment like cameras and microphones to record the image and sound, Tammy, Billie and I use our bodies to record our felt-impressions and sensations of being on-site. We also use notebooks to write and draw our reflections on our experience. In the studio, we then guide our embodied memories, in order to 'translate' them into a dance language that re-connects us to the different habitats. Our aim is to inhabit and be inhabited by each location.

Each of us is allocated to a specific habitat: Tammy, to Goolwa, Billie to Morialta, and Sue to Tolderol. There's always a second dancer present, who acts as witness, scribe and look-out. During our site visits we collect our body-recordings and sensorial snapshots of our presence in the environment through active-listening and somatic movement techniques of yielding and connecting to place. With an attitude of perceptual openness, we explore witnessing and being witnessed by the environment, aiming for an embodied understanding of the relationship that connects humans and nature.

• Initially working with eyes closed, we use active-listening techniques to pay attention to and note the qualities of the sounds, smells, and tactile sensations, and our felt-experience of being immersed in them.

• We then begin to open up the visual and kinetic perception, taking in glimpses of the surroundings and making micro movements toward stimuli.

• We focus on our breathing to help turn our attention inwards, so we take notice of the internal surfaces that are in contact with the external environment - 'the world in us'.

• We use touch to draw our attention to the skin surface, generating a feeling of the cells of the body pressing out to connect with the surfaces of environment, and a sense of the mass and volume of our presence.

• Engaging the imaginative sense, we hold in mind a 'flagship' animal which inhabits that particular site. For Tammy this is the Hooded Plover, for Billie, the Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, and for Sue, the Curlew Sandpiper. The aim is not to mime these creatures, but to develop an empathic understanding, imaginatively asking what if our lives depended on the specific attributes of this habitat?

Importantly, when on site-visits, we adjust our creative and somatic practices to respect that these locations are threatened refuges. We recognise the need to take care and cause minimal disturbance to the already precarious lives of the inhabitants. We don't dance about as if our presence would not be felt; rather we work mostly in stillness, absorbing the sensations and feelings, and then take our embodied-experiences to be developed choreographically in the the studio.


people - Tammy Arjona


Tammy Arjona. photo: Richard Hodges

Tammy Arjona is a dance artist and choreographer with a broad range of experiences in creative development, exploratory movement practices and dance education/community work. She was based in London for more than 20 years, performing internationally and creating work with leading choreographers including Siobhan Davies, Jeremy James, Fin Walker and Michael Clark. In 2008 she was awarded the prestigious Jane Attenborough Dance in Education (JADE) Fellowship. Now living in the Fleurieu region, Tammy's performance work extends beyond the theatre into alternative spaces, exploring a process of collaboration with sound artists, musicians, visual artists, and writers, with a focus on interdisciplinary research tasks and the development of improvised scores.

"I was desperate to get away from the city and to reconnect to the country that I'd left so many years ago. Goolwa, South Australia offered opportunities to meet some incredible artists who were nurturing and welcoming, encouraging me to explore working in different ways. From my time based in London I have a range of experiences in creative practices and exploratory methods for developing a movement language for performance work. Connecting through these practices in deep listening, and techniques in switching attention between the inner and outer spaces of the body, I feel they are useful for understanding the landscape around me and how to be sympathetic to its vulnerability. I'm interested in artistic projects where there is some kind of feedback between me and the landscape and how I can connect others to it.

In 2019 -2020 I undertook extensive research and development with photographer Richard Hodges, dance artist Sue Hawksley, musician Andrew McNicol and visual artist Susan Windram to create live performance events for From the Inside [Tokuremoar], [1] a group exhibition responding to the the delicate yet resilient habitat of Tokuremoar Reserve. The experience of being led into this ancient melaleuca habitat on Ngarrindjeri Country with such sensitivity and awareness had a huge impact on me and I developed an ongoing fascination with the sensory experiences of inhabiting and embodying the natural environment.

Working on Dwell and engaging in listening tasks in the natural environment with Sue has allowed me to let go of the known and to discover what else is present when you truly give time to noticing. Hours can slip by with the concentration of simply paying attention."


places - Goolwa Beach



Goolwa Beach. photos: Richard Hodges

Goolwa Beach is a sandy, high energy surf beach on the Southern Ocean at the river port of Goolwa near the Coorong and the mouth of the River Murray. This is Ngarrindjeri Yarluwar-Ruwe (Sea Country). This type of beach is home to beach-nesting birds such as the Hooded Plover; they nest at the base of the sand-dunes, which as shock-absorbers to protect the inland swamp areas. It is rich in Goolwa Cockles, commonly known as pipis, and called kutis by the Ngarrindjeri people who have harvested them sustainably for thousands of years, evidenced by the many shell middens in the area.

Like so many beaches around the world, contemporary people tend to treat this strip of sandy land on the ocean's edge as just a surface for recreation and exploitation, rather than respecting it as part of an ecological community and unique habitat. The beach, dunes and inland swamps at Goolwa are all highly disturbed due to ongoing development, pollution, tourism, recreation, dogs, and 4WD vehicles in some sections. There has been overfishinh, and overharvesting of pipis, which are such an important food source for many of the inhabitants of the beach. Goolwa Beach is also very exposed to coastal erosion, which is likely to accelerate if sea-levels rise as predicted due to climate change.

Thanks to ongoing careful revegetation and weed control programs, and restricting access to the dunes, local groups and council are helping to manage threats, reduce erosion and enhance biodiversity, gradually improving the healthy functioning of this dynamic environment and the chances of survival for some of the most vulnerable inhabitants, such as the beach-nesting birds.

In 2009, South Australia's Marine Parks network was proclaimed to protect marine habitats and biodiversity, and support sustainable marine activities. Goolwa Beach now lies within the Encounter Marine Park, which stretches from the Onkaparinga River at Port Noarlunga to the Coorong Conservation Park at the River Murray. It provide sanctuary for species such as the leafy seadragon and is on the migration route for Southern Right whales and the occasional humpback. The Goolwa Pipi Co are also doing fantastic work in collaboration with the Ngarrindjeri and the Marine Stewardship Council, to ensure sustainable pipi harvesting.

On our site-visits Tammy and I sat or lay quietly on the edges of the dunes, attending to the small sounds, smells and sensations amid the roar of the ocean and the blast of the wind. It was calmer on early morning visits, but then the beach was busier with dog-walkers - our meditations were often interrupted by energetic hounds and their humans. Here's a few examples from Tam's notebooks of her reflections about her experience:

• expanding out, drifting ... I felt like I was opening out, a 'no-edges' feeling.

• long, lengthening through the limbs, a feeling of hanging, dripping through ... movement travelling inside.

• a nudging feeling - rocking/pushing/shoving - disturbance.

• contrast - 2 layers happening at once, out of synch - a drift in the spine + snakey-undercurrent channel in the throat and ears

• interruptions, punctuations - the human stuff ... was passing, not hanging around. Everything else was more elemental. Glancing back along the beach and a lot of movement, people moving, dog tails: rhythmic movement that stands out against the landscape.

Later, in the studio, we refer back to these notes to help Tammy retrieve the embodied memories and the sense of connection to place, and craft them into dance motifs and phrases for the film-work.

Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis)


Hooded Plover. © Andrew Crouch 2020 (with permission: birdlifephotography.org.au)

The wide open sandspace of Goolwa Beach is great habitat for beach-nesting birds like the Hooded Plover. Affectionately known as Hoodies they are dumpy little shorebirds, typically 21cm, with a distinctive black hood, and a characteristic run-pause-feed motion as they scurry across the beach to forage for food in the shallows. Plover is the common name for the Charadriidae family, from the Latin pluvia meaning 'rain' - it was believed that the birds flocked when rain was imminent (I don't know if that is actually true!)

In breeding season they lay their eggs just above the high tide mark, in nests that are just shallow scrapes in the sand. Like other sand-nesting birds, they are particularly vulnerable to disturbance from people visiting the beach, introduced predators, dogs and off-road vehicles. The nests and plumage are so well camouflaged it makes them hard to spot and therefore easy to accidentally crush. Incubating adults can be scared off the nest so the eggs fail. Adults and chicks feed in the shallows at the shoreline, but the journey from dunes edge to waters edge is precarious because of so many threats. If the chicks are persistently disturbed they stay in hiding, which can be for so long they starve to death.

The Hooded Plover is listed as vulnerable in South Australia and nationally; there are less than 800 birds in South Australia and only 7000 in Australia. Recent surveys found only 29 breeding pairs on the Fleurieu. [1]

Initiatives such as Birdlife Australia's Beach-nesting birds Project highlight the need for protection and shelter during breeding season, and take action such as cordoning off the nesting areas, signage to educate the public and the creation of little shelters. Under the program, breeding success rates for the Hooded Plover have improved from two to 55 per cent.[2]

► On the Right Track is a beautifully made short documentary film directed and produced by Davide Gaglio for Birds SA, which highlights the dangers for beach-nesting birds and the coastal environment from reckless driving on the beach, and which encourages people to respectfully share the beach.

[1] Landscape SA Hooded Plovers project

[2] Birdlife Australia Beach-nesting Birds Project
See also: Australian Geographic: 'Homes for Hoodies' - saving beach-nesting birds


people - Jesse Budel


Jesse recording at Tolderol. photo: Richard Hodges

Jesse Budel (b. 1991) is a composer-performer, sound artist and academic based in South Australia. His works are for diverse media and spaces, ranging from acoustic concert instrumentation through to installation works, and have been performed by the Australian String Quartet (AUS), Soundstream Ensemble, (AUS), Zephyr Quartet (AUS), Elder Conservatorium Wind Orchestra (AUS) and Corvus Ensemble (Alaska, USA). He has been an artist-in-residence at Adelaide City Library and Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre in Mount Gambier (SA, AUS), as well as at Arts Letters and Numbers (Upstate NY, USA).

In 2019, Jesse completed a PhD in Music Composition at Elder Conservatorium of Music, supported by a Research Training Program scholarship (provided by the Australian Government), and receiving a Dean's Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence. His research focussed on adapting the innovative field of soundscape ecology to compositional process, producing creative works responding South Australian ecosystems and soundscapes.

As an emerging member of the Acoustic Ecology and Ecoacoustic communities, Jesse currently serves as the Secretary for both the Australian Forum for Acoustic Ecology and World Forum for Acoustic Ecology. In the wider community, he is an ongoing contributor to the arts culture, and youth sectors, being recognised for his efforts with a SA Regional Awards Murraylands-Riverlands Youth Award in 2013, and as a Finalist for the Frank Ford Memorial Young Achiever Award at Arts South Australia's 2020 Ruby Awards. In recent years, he has developed a variety of community arts installation sites, including the Murray Bridge Piano Sanctuary, Featherstone Sound Space, and Strata.

"My practice is informed by my background in acoustic ecology and ecoacoustics, fields that explore the acoustic environments, or soundscapes, that both humans and non-humans are enmeshed within. Amongst the many lenses through which we can comprehend sound, one of the most inspiring and thought provoking for me is the consideration that sound, transduced through various forms of energy (kinetic, acoustic, electromagnetic), is a manifestation of all of the activity of a place and time. A soundscape reveals to its listeners a place's collective goings-on and inherent interdepencies, the delicate balances (or more pertinently, imbalances) between humans and non-humans at a site."

R&D process - composition

By Jesse Budel

Important for me in site-specific practice is a period of attunement to place. First, I explore existing documentation and resources on a place for both informative and practical purposes, before subsequently visiting and spending anywhere from several hours to a day (or more) cultivating an experiential awareness of the place. One of the key activities in this regard is soundwalking, a method of walking around a place and prioritising the listening experience, becoming aware of the layers, rhythms and relationships of a soundscape and its contributors. I might also make some initial recordings as reference material to reflect on before undertaking larger field recording ventures, but generally aim to focus on forming a mutual sensitive attunement between myself and the place-ecosystem-soundscape.

Distinct to this project is a focus on the perspectives and experiences of critically endangered species associated with each of the sites in question - the Curlew Sandpiper at Tolderol Conservation Park, the Chestnut-rumped Heathwren at Morialta and the Hooded Plover at Goolwa Beach - which in turn provides a direction for my initial explorations at each place, shifting between small-scale and large-scale activities. For each of the Dwell sites, my initial reconnaissance to each location was made in tandem with the dancers involved at each site and Richard.

The first visit, to Tolderol on September 19 with Sue, Tammy and Richard, revealed a rich tapestry of avian arias and vegetative vocalises (encouraged by the steady breeze across the plains and lake system), with distinct land and sound patches striated by levee banks. We focussed on the activity around certain bays of water that were prime habitat for the Curlew Sandpiper, particularly Bay 4. One preliminary recording made here was a hydrophone recording of the irrigation channels, featuring a chorus of water-dwelling insects.

Subsequently, a visit to the hills of Morialta on September 21 with Sue, Billie and Richard situated us within relatively dense bushland, carved up by roads, walking tracks and overhead power lines humming constantly. A light wind rustled the leaves of the eucalypt canopy, with occasional calls from transitory birds (notably galahs) punctuating the mid-morning movements, as we explored the understory habitat of the Chestnut-rumped Heathwren.

On Oct 9, a visit to Goolwa Beach (towards Middleton) with Sue, Tammy and Richard, had us positioned on the sand dune homes of the Hooded Plover, whose nests are typically situated directly on the beachfront. The roar of the surf came to the fore as I arrived (apparently quite calm just prior), requiring a 'grounded' listening experience for me behind the cover of the first dune peaks adorned with coastal shrubs.

In preparing to undertake recordings at each location, I have been keen to make a variety of recordings combining immersive soundscapes alongside the intimate experiences of each flagship animal, thereby providing options in the mixing process to shift perspectives between the two frames. This will likely involve several visits to each place, with some sessions focussed on recording broadscale soundscapes with surround sound (ambisonic) microphones, and others prioritising the delicate sounds that each of the flagship species encounters, using more directed microphone types and techniques (including contact mics and hydrophones).

As I write this, one recording trip took place at Goolwa Beach on November 9. I arrived at 6:30am, hoping to capture some of the dawn chorus of the dunes. Again, I encountered the ocean roar, which I recorded for some time, before moving to the dunes at Goolwa South (that I was familiar with through holidaying in the area as a child, knowing that the preexisting walking paths would minimise my impact on the fragile beach system). Here, I made several takes at various proximities to the beachfront, allowing for contrast between the levels of the dune soundscape and distant surf. With greater appreciation of the soundscape dynamics at Goolwa, my next visit will look to explore the behaviours of the Plover, exploring their localised sound worlds. In the coming weeks, once this upcoming stormy period has calmed, I look to do similar trips to Tolderol and Morialta, before beginning the mixing process and reconvening with the rest of the team.


publication - Landscape in the figure: cultivating presence as nature

An article by Sue, which includes a discussion about the DWELL project, has just been published online for the Brazilian journal Conceição | Conception, Vol. 10 special issue: Anthropo-scenes: performing arts, ecology, and diversity of ways of life.

Abstract
This article asks whether we can make embodied sense of the Anthropocene, and if so, how we might locate ourselves in a more empathic relationship with the non-human world? By feeling, at the personal scale, the part we play in the natural systems that support life, we may become more able to make the necessary changes in our actions to address the global-scale degradation of nature. I discuss somatic and creative practices that offer tools for cultivating a sense of presence in and as nature, giving examples of artists' creative practices, including some of my own choreographic explorations aiming to embody the 'landscape in the figure'.

Link to online journal article - Landscape in the figure: cultivating presence as nature
Link to PDF


people - Billie Cook


Billie in Morialta CP, photo: Richard Hodges

Billie grew up on Kaurna land in the Adelaide Hills. She is a performing artist, director, and community dance practitioner.

Graduating from Edith Cowan University, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), Billie received an Australia Council 'foot in the door' Fellowship to join Buzz Dance Theatre and has been developing her practice professionally for over 20 years. She has received numerous grants for projects and professional development with Australia Council and Arts SA and has been a peer assessor for a SAYAB (South Australian Youth Arts board), ARTS SA and the Australia Council for the Arts.

Billie was assistant director and then Artistic Director for Restless Dance Theatre (2005-2007) working with artists with and without disabilities, and made works on the company for national touring and for the Adelaide Festival Centre Space Theatre.

Currently studying her Masters in teaching (secondary education) at the University of South Australia, Billie uses Arts curriculum to assist students in creative body-based learning. She was Ausdance SA artist-in-residence for one year at Elizabeth East primary school in 2015.

"I often create work that connects to nature and place and have recently completed an educational resource for Australian dance Theatre's work The Beginning of Nature. I created Mound of Dirt working with Gabrielle Nankivell and the City of Unley, celebrating mud and nature play with families through site specific performance. I often collaborate with photographic artist Sam Oster, working in the landscape and on site specific locations with dance. I have created several dance films including The Forest Traversed which celebrated International Year of the Forest 2011, coming runner up at the Mercury cinema Dance on Film season.

I have strong ties to my Greek heritage and my work often reflects human connection. I was lead dance artist for Flinders University social inclusion program, training delegates from East Timor, Indonesia and Burma with Art skills for human rights. I worked with the Australian Refugee Association on projects for Syrian women, and with Sally Chance and Anglicare on the Acorn Project, using dance play for mothers who identify with mental health issues and their babies. As part of the 'Mad For' group exhibition of seven artists at Light Square Gallery, Adelaide, I created and performed a trilogy of work using my movement study of 0-5 years: performing a 5 year-old's choreography as a 41 year old dancer, directing a physical theatre work for Australian Dance Theatre Youth Ensemble, and presenting the final part of this trilogy as a short film Back in Babies Arms for SALA festival 2018.

Being a part of the DWELL project has been a coming back home, back to my centre, to nature, a rediscovery of landscape that I dearly love. Working with Sue through her gentle direction has been quite magic. It has left positive impressions of landscape on my body, heart and mind and heightened my kinaesthetic awareness that 'I am the landscape' like all other sentient beings. It reminded me how connection with nature is not just a luxury but a necessity for well-being. I will keep connected to our place at Morialta and always see it as very special place I can come to anchor and re centre. Thank you for this gift of place Sue"

places - Chapman's Track, Morialta Conservation Park



Chapman's Track, Morialta Conservation Park. photos Richard Hodges.

Morialta Conservation Park is in Kaurna Country (Kaurna Yarta), situated in the Adelaide Hills Face Zone just above the Adelaide Plains, and bordering onto Peramangk country. The name comes from the Kuarna place-name Marriyarta, meaning 'eastern country' (or possibly 'eastern cool place'), which probably referred to the specific area behind Norton Summit where the tributaries of Fourth Creek converge. [1] Kaurna Miyurna people lived up here on a seasonal basis, regularly using fire to manage vegetation regrowth and aid hunting.

Colonist settlers arrived around 1840, and rapidly and radically changed the Hills Face by felling trees, mining, quarrying and grazing. Fortunately, the steepness of the slopes meant the area wasn't cleared as extensively as elsewhere in South Australia. Being just 10km from Adelaide CBD, Morilata was one of the first reserves to be gazetted for recreation and conservation in 1886; it was declared a conservation park in 1972 and developed as Adelaide's premier walking location in 1998. [2]

The Mount Lofty Ranges are classed as a biodiversity hotspot in South Australia; Morialta CP contains some of the best remaining native vegetation of the Mount Lofty Ranges and high species diversity. It is home to 16% of South Australia's flora on less than 0.0001% of the state's total area, and to nine of the major woody vegetation formations found in the Mount Lofty Ranges. [3]
On the heath covered ridge line at the top of Chapman's Track - our location for DWELL - the major vegetation group is heathy stringybark woodland. The understorey includes kangaroo-thorn, beaked hakea, iron-grass, prickly geebung, cone-bush (the names give a clue, its spikey in there!), offering great habitat for small birds such as the endangered Chestnut-rumped heathwren.

BUT - 17 native species are listed as THREATENED or ENDANGERD at the state or federal level, and the spread of invasive weeds, particularly European olive, is a major threat. A 2020 survey collated 786 plant species; of these, 300 are introduced. [4] Because of its proximity to the city, housing and infrastructure such as power-lines, the area is also subject to regular prescribed burns, which if carried out too frequently can affect some species' ability to recover and regenerate.
A series of almost contiguous reserves straddle the Hills Face Zone (including Ansteys Hill RP, Black Hill CP, Morialta CP, Horsnell Gully CP, Cleland CP and Belair NP), so the view from the city gives the impression of healthy native vegetation cover, while trees on roadside reserves cloak the view of cleared paddocks. Many people take it for granted that the biodiversity is more intact than it actually is: but the band of high quality vegetation is actually quite narrow and the HFZ landscape is chequered with areas that have been cleared for agriculture and housing, or where the understory has been slahsed or grazed. [5]

The last mouthful

An information board in the conservation park tells us:

"If the woodlands in the Mount Lofty Ranges were like a glass of water, there would only be a mouthful left. The other nine or so mouthfuls have been swallowed up by farming and housing. The last mouthful of woodlands is important to protect because it sustains layers of life".

There are things we can do to give back and help protect these precious last drops. National Parks and Wildlife Services do an amazing job of managing and caring for this country. Initiatives such as the Linking Landscapes grants are helping create wildlife corridors reconnecting the chequerboard pieces of public and private bushland. Incredible work is done by dedicated voluntary groups such as Morialta Biolink Landcare and Friends of Blackhill and Morialta CP to preserve the health and integrity of this largely intact heathy woodland habitat.

Its a powerful and evocative place. Bille wrote this beautiful prose poem following her site-visits to Chapman's Track:
Dwelling in the landscape.
I am the landscape.
I dwell here like all other beings dwell here.
I know my surroundings well.
This track, this horizon line, the tree to protect me from the rain, my favourite log where I sit and hear the forest floor giggle beneath my feet.
I am sensitive to my surroundings, the flora, the fauna, but I am strong in my place here.
I am the landscape.
Dwelling.

[1] Kuarna Place Names: Marriyarta. www.kuarnaplacenames.com/index.php

[2] Smith, P.A., Pate, F.D., Martin, R. (eds). (2006) Valleys of Stone: The Archaeology and History of Adelaide's Hill Face. Kōpi Books, Belair, South Australia.

[3] Keppel, Gunnar. (2020) Morialta Conservation Park: is the biodiversity hub threatened by the european olive? Biodiversity in Oceania blog, July 3, 2020.

[4] Anderson, J., Keppel, G., Thomson, S.M., Gibbs, J., and Brunetti, G. (2020) High diversity of native plants and vegetation types in the Morialta Conservation Park and the threat of invasive species. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia.

[5] Armstrong, D. M., Croft S. J., and Foulkes J. N. (2003). A Biological Survey of the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia, 2000-2001. Department for Environment and Heritage, South Australia.


Chestnut-rumped Heathwren (Mt Lofty Ranges) (Hylacola pyrrhopygius parkeri)


photo: Chestnut-rumped Heathwren © Tom Oliver 2011 birdlifephotography.org.au

Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens are little scrubwren-like birds that live in the dense heathy understorey of stringybark woodlands and forests. They are mainly insectivores, feeding on or near the ground, where they also build their small dome-shaped nests. They are shy and secretive, hiding in the scrub, although in breeding season the males perch on low shrubs or branches and sing out. Their flight is gently undulating, usually just above the top of shrubs over only short distances, before quickly dropping back into cover; if they are alarmed when on the ground they hop for cover like a bouncy ball. [1]

There are three subspecies of Hylacola pyrrhopygius. H.p. parkerii is endemic to the Mount Lofty Ranges, restricted to just a few locations, and geographically isolated from other subspecies. They need a very particular habitat mix of new growth, senescing (dying) and burned wood. They can recolonise burnt areas provided that connected and unburnt habitat is available nearby. They are sedentary birds, residing in the same area over several years, and seem poor at adapting to habitat change, which makes them very vulnerable. [2]

H.p. parkerii is one of the most threatened birds in the Mount Lofty Ranges, and according to research by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub, is one of 20 Australian birds likely to go extinct in the next 20 years if we don't take action now. [3] It is listed as ENDANGERED under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act (EPBA) 1999, the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 and the The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The population is estimated at only 1000 mature individuals, and decreasing. [4] Most of the suitable habitat with the healthy, biodiverse heathy understorey that Chestnut-rumped heathwrens need to survive and thrive, has been cleared, and that which remains has been fragmented, is of declining quality, and subject to understorey dieback due to Phytophthora cinnamomi (root-rot). Major threats are feral wildlife, especially cats and foxes, and inappropriate fire regimes.

A fantastic initiative is the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia/University of Queensland Mount Lofty Ranges Woodland Bird Monitoring Program which has been running since 1999, collecting data from surveys of over 150 sites throughout the MLR which can be used to guide habitat restoration and rehabilitation programs, and inform how prescribed burns are carried out, such as using mosaic techniques to protect CRHW habitat. [5]

Check out and contribute to the Friends of Black Hill & Morialta Mount Lofty Ranges Chestnut-rumped Heathwren habitat restoration project - Horsnell Gully.

[1] https://birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/chestnut-rumped-heathwren

[2] Long, Kirstin & Bentley, Joss. 2010. Threatened Species Action Statement Mt Lofty Ranges Chestnut-rumped Heathwren Hylacola pyrrhopygia parkeri. Department for Environment and Heritage, Government of South Australia.

[3] Threatened Species Recovery Hub: Top 20 Australian mammals and birds at risk of extinction.

[4] Garnett, Stephen, Franklin, Donald (eds) 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Australian Birds. CSIRO Publishing

[5] What is happening to the woodland birds of the Mount Lofty Ranges? NCSSA fact sheet


February 2nd 2022 - World Wetlands Day

Wednesday February 2nd is World Wetlands, which marks the anniversary of the 1971 Convention on Wetlands. The theme for 2022 is Wetlands Action for People and Nature, highlighting the importance of actions to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands for humans and planetary health. [1]

"Wetlands are liminal places. They are where land and water meet. But where land ends and water begins is muddy and unclear. Different kinds of waters, fresh to brackish to salt, can meet and mingle in wetlands, as in the Coorong lagoon. In this way, wetlands prompt a range of questions about borders, crossings, and leakages for various agents, human and not, in various times and places." Emily O'Gorman [2]

[1] www.worldwetlandsday.org/

[2] O'Gorman, Emily. 2021. Wetlands in a Dry Land: More-Than-Human Histories of Australia's Murray-Darling Basin. University of Washington Press: Seattle.


Hooded Plover update from Ratalang Basham Beach


Notice board at Ratalang Basham Beach. photo: Tammy Arjona

Tammy saw this information board at Ratalang Basham Beach near Goolwa the other day; the last Hooded plover chick has died despite efforts to abate the many threats to its survival. Very sad news.


March 3rd 2022 - World Wildlife Day


Official poster for World Wildlife Day 2022 - created by Despina Kannaourou

March 3rd is the UN World Wildlife Day. The date was proclaimed in 2013 to celebrate celebrating the signing of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in 1973. The theme for 2022 is Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration. The theme seeks to draw attention to the conservation status of some of the most critically endangered species of wild fauna and flora, and to drive discussions towards imagining and implementing solutions to conserve them. [1]

[1] https://www.wildlifeday.org/


people - Richard Hodges


Richard Hodges. photo: Richard Hodges.

Richard Hodges is a professional photographer working with still and moving image, based in Goolwa, South Australia, where he runs Cadell Street Studio. He studied photojournalism at the Australian College of Journalism and studio photography at RMIT, and won the Russell and Maureen Rhode Award for Creative Photography (print held by Maitland Gallery Australian Photography Collection).

Richard works mainly in the arts, specialising in photographically documenting artists' work for media sites, catalogues, exhibitions etc., and is regularly commissioned by commercial enterprises to capture their products or services for advertising on electronic or printed media. He often works with large-scale projection to activate public spaces, both indoor and outdoors: projects. include Simulacrum (2012) a projection for Kumawuki (Big Wave) Regional Arts Conference Goolwa; Fantasmagoria (2016); Southern Surf Festival (2019); Little Bosa Sounds (2019/20); Stars of Night (2020).

Richard also creates short films, and contemporary visual experiences for festivals and live performances, and has project-managed and curated numerous live contemporary exhibitions and experiences, collaborating with actors, dancers, visual artists and musicians. These include: One River (2013) - live performance for the Canberra centenary celebration in collaboration with Margaret Worth, Michelle Murray and Bill 'Swampy' Marsh; Black Faced Shag (2014) - live performance in collaboration with Michelle Murray and Jeremiah Hill; Goolwa; This is a River (2015) - live performance in collaboration with Michelle Murray, Owen Love and Kylie Cain; Wellington SA., for Country Arts SA.

In 2019/20, Richard curated and project managed From the Inside [Tokuremoar] [1], a live performance and group exhibition of works responding to Tokuremoar, an ancient remnant Tea-tree reserve on the southern coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula, shown at Praxis Arts Space Bowden and Signal Point Gallery Goolwa.

"I am an outdoor person. The wind across my face, subtle sounds of the environment and the feeling of space are very important to my well being and creativity. Spending much of my life camping or living remotely, I have been able to observe, first hand, nature in its unspoilt remote beauty.

I now reside in Goolwa, bordered by the great Southern Ocean and the once mighty Murray River. There are pockets of habitat here but the encroaching impact of civilization is taking its toll. Working on the DWELL project, in three different environmental habitats, has shown how important these areas are to the survival of an ecosystem that is rapidly being dismantled by so called progress."

[1] From the Inside [Tokuremoar]