‘Perhaps aesthetic wisdom at least in part is knowing how to let go of knowledge-or at least of knowledge as conscious representation and conceptualization -so as to let matter bring its intelligence to bear on the ways in which we approach and work with it. Material intelligence would then belong neither wholly to human beings nor to matter.’ Luce Irigaray
The totality of the other . . . touches us beyond all knowledge, all judgement, all reduction to ourselves . . . Rachel Jones
structural colour. . . the scattering of light within a transparent medium. So the passage of light through the colour substance of the wings is an unpredictable journey. Michael Taussig
oh taxonomy!, 2015, video projection for installation strange attractors
The internet headlines read: Woman in US: Dolphin ruined my holiday
Lima: Painful inner ear damage from military ship sonar kills 450 cetaceans
Indian government grants “non-human personhood” status to dolphins
M reminds me that “dolphin” is a singular individual that other dolphins whistle up by a unique “name”. So some individual behaviour is different and solitary. When solitary, some dolphins might try to play “inappropriately” with human beings – a kind of reverse anthropomorphising from a dolphin perspective . . . but they are responsive and easily dissuaded. But how can I know them (without profiting and being entertained) by making more human-associations or by comparison of my projected similarities?
All I see is the tip of a fin in the water. I keep wondering at the enigmatic grey shape- the intelligence in the Port River water that does not belong to me, is not me, and is not human.
. . . I can only know a dolphin through “attentive distance” –by tracking WITH the irreducible extent of its difference.
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strange attractors: on living charms was my response to the project brief for Climate Century sited in the historical Wenman Room previously devoted to sail-making. Conceived by Vitalstatistix, the project was centred on the ecologies of Port Adelaide and projecting its future into the next century. It involved a series of speculative conversations where local contributors to ecological mindfulness and action, scientists and artists were brought together to offer new perspectives. Artworks were made in response to these conversations, individually arranged consultation and ensuing research. I met with Mike, ecologist biologist and expert researcher on the Port River dolphin population with Flinders University ( and beyond). I also met a dolphin tour operator and talked to others about the symbiotic relationship between the Bitter Blue Butterfly and the now rare Coastal Bitter Bush. The leaves of the male plant allow it to reproduce, eat and grow to maturity.
strange attractors refers to an aspect of chaos theory whereby random qualities of phenomena such as temperature or wind speed for example coalesce into ordered patterns that work together. This work explores the potential for thriving in a sustainable Port ecology through processes of “tracking with” the environment. As opposed to “tracking” in which the object of study is isolated from the human observer, tracking with requires a commitment to the relationship and a distance from and respect for the daily patterns of the non-human animals involved in an environmental context. In short the difference is observed through relations in a co-extensive system of life. To explore with wonder the nuance of landscape; the river, the Otherness of plants and the other animals that can never be reducible to our terms of lived understanding. To thrive we must empathise and accept the charms of their difference. In tracking with one is invested in the quest to know the Other and to have a wider frame of being and becoming beyond ourselves and into the future.
in the work I wanted to offer a sense of “lite” source material from the Internet where one encounters trivial or sensational headlines about human /animal relations. Each text in my installation took the form of a headline but with a projected ideal future in which animal intelligence was represented and acknowledged as parallel and comparable to that of humans.
-Pacific Specific: Local cetaceans opt for candidates with emotional intelligence in cross- species elections
-Bitter Suite: Happy couple Adriana Q. Klotzschii and Thedinesthes Albocinta move their relationship to higher ground on former site of Torrens Island Power Station.
-Aduncus -No Meme Feat-Tail exercise fad wins over local female community
Video screen on /off alert signals were conditioned by their comparison with the open /shut movement of a dolphin blowhole which might remind us of the mammalian link with human animals. Wooden sleeves encased heritage furniture –machines and so on from the historical artefacts in the room and coloured Perspex and video imagery connoted taxonomical stereotyping processes that so impede the richer understanding required for a thriving ecology. Weather and temperature patterns and water levels were intimated through other material objects conditioned by air movements.
Some of the more generous and insightful amongst us who have already understood the urgency of ecological knowledge and action for the future as well as the present feel the burden of their commitment even while choosing it. It is one that must be shared.
Julie Reed Henderson