Sawtooth ARI, Invermay, Launceston, lutruwita.
“In the settler-colony called Australia, the ocean marks the edge of the nation state, the leaky and porous boundary of territorial sovereignty. The figure of the island conjures the fantasy of a self-enclosed and self-contained world.”Launceston is situated at the intersection of three bodies of water; laykila/North Esk, plipatumila/South Esk and kanamaluka/Tamar. This close proximity to these bodies of water, coupled with the development of the city upon wetlands and floodplains means that these sites are highly sensitive to fluctuations in water levels, particularly in the suburbs of Invermay and Newstead. Presently, these sit below the water level - without levees in place, they would be subsumed by the waters surrounding Launceston. Since Launceston’s colonial establishment, however, thirty-six flood events of varying consequence have been recorded. It is within this flooded and tidal context that we propose a lecture performance in the form of a walking tour, engaging with historical flood sites through Launceston, local geographies and ecological sites as a means of thinking through and reframing archives, narrative and place. Borrowing from contemporary pedagogical strategies, this performance lecture would use walking through environments as ‘a means of provoking embodied multisensory “discussion and reflection” on matters of concern.’
In conducting this derive, we seek to engage in a tidal methodology premised upon recurrence and cycle in examining and interweaving the historical floods of 1929, 1969 and 2016 with accelerated futures of disaster, through an engagement with speculative considerations of uncertain hydrological futures and sea ontologies. This future is not solely anthropocentric, however. Through the context of reworlding, these hydrological futures become a multispecies concern, owing to the role of the Tamar wetlands as designated ‘Important Bird and Biodiversity Area’, due to the presence of chestnut teals and pied oystercatchers. Engaging in this methodology constitutes an embrace of fluid politics of memory and postcolonial tidalectics. This is of particular pertinence to these waterways, given their significance as cultural sites prior to Invasion and their subsequent recontextualisation as sites of conflict and the dispossession of Palawa peoples.
deluge recognises the political dimensions of the rivers and waterways of Tasmania, the fluid-like nature of Invasion, which began as a trickle and quickly became a catastrophic flood, disrupting and destroying much of what existed prior. Further to this, we recognise the intrinsic link between these waterways and the European development of Launceston and Tasmania, in their enabling of the transportation of populations, goods and materials, alongside an erosion of traditional knowledge and Indigenous land management practices. In conjunction with this performance lecture, deluge would be realised through two further outcomes; the publication of an accompanying field guide, comprised of archival research and texts further exploring concepts, themes and our ongoing research project through site-specific applications to Launceston’s waterways; and the conduction of a sandbagging workshop, both exploring ‘sandbag mentality’ as a contemporary Anthropocene condition – which would potentially see the physical outcomes of preparation (sandbags) exhibited.
This lecture performance stems from our ongoing collaborative research project ‘Ecological Gyre Theory’, which engages with the ecological turn in the humanities and contemporary arts practice. This public program would form one part of a series of works applying Ecological Gyre Theory to sites in Tasmania; such as Bruny Island, as well as seeking further opportunities through other lutruwita-based ARIs. The ecological lens of this project necessitates a further recognition that this work will be conducted in palanwina lurini kanamaluka; upon and with the lands of the Palawa people, whose struggle for recognition of unceded sovereignty continues in so-called Australia.
Postcard of Launceston's Cataract Gorge in flood, undated (Tasmanian Library, SLT)