Rural Utopias

Table of Contents

During her residency, Elizabeth Pedler recorded interviews with community members, capturing documentation of plants, land­scapes, and land management practices. The par­ti­cipants included farmers, Noongar elders, biolo­gists, and local artists, who focused on the chang­ing landscape, endemic and intro­duced species, and water ecologies, shaped by geographical and human factors. In doing so, she explored the eve­ry­day lives and interests of people whose way of life was very diffe­rent to her own. Navigating dif­fe­rent life experiences and pers­pectives on farming, animal husbandry, climate, and food, Pedler dis­cussed with locals their perspectives on how they relate to the land on which they live, working to understand, as an outsider to the community, how the distances between them were formed and what can be learned from different perspectives.

  • Elizabeth Pedler and Juno in Wellstead. Photo by Richard Davy.
  • Elizabeth Pedler mixing clay in buckets in the garage. A black doggo can be seen out of focus on the bottom left.
    Elizabeth Pedler in Wellstead. Photo by Kerry Dell’Agostino.

Amongst the stories are field recordings by Jos­ten Myburgh and the voices of Juno and Esmae, two girls who were born into the project — Juno to Pedler and her husband Andrew and Esmae to local hosts Kerry and Richard. Bringing together hu­man stories, site recordings, video of plant life, and sculpture of the two children with clay partially sourced from Richard and Kerry’s dam, the artwork shares the stories written across the landscape of Wellstead and looks to the shifting future — of clim­ate, community and landscape — these two girls may yet see.

  • Video of plans and flowers being projected on to sculptures of two children
    Elizabeth Pedler, Nature or Nurture, 2023. Photo courtesy of the artist.
  • 'No one is an island', a video work being projected on to the side of a building
    Elizabeth Pedler, No one is an island, installation view, 2020. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Presented alongside Pedler’s installation is a selection of engravings by Joseph Banks, chosen by members of the Well­stead community who sel­ect­ed the flora they recognised growing in their area, entwined with the daily lives of the com­mu­nity. The scientific and detail-oriented recrea­tions of each plant species is juxtaposed with the varied stories of agricul­ture, conservation, revege­tation, and regenerative initiatives from interviews with community members, occasionally over­lap­ping with the sounds of children chattering or crying, to present a story of how the landscape is impacted by and impacts human stories. In this way, Pedler presents the story of Wellstead as a story that cannot be captured solely within a pre­cise en­gra­ving, but a messy entangling of human and non-human lives with connections, inter­de­pen­dencies, and relationships with others.

  • Sydney Parkinson, Melaleuca angustifolia (from Banks' Florilegium Parts V & VI), 1772–1784, colour engraving on paper, The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia. Photo by Dan McCabe (@artdoc_au).
Elizabeth Pedler & Josten Myburgh, What is written upon a leaf, what is held within a seed, 2023, mixed media installation, Sydney Parkinson, Baeckea imbricata (Banksian name: Philadelphus imbricaus) (from Banks' Florilegium Parts V & VI), 1772–1784, colour engraving on paper, The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia, purchased 1982, Darwinia fascicularis (from Banks' Florilegium Parts V & VI), 1772–1784, colour engraving on paper, The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia, purchased 1982, Utricularia Caerulea (from Banks' Florilegium Parts XI & XII), 1772–1784, colour engraving on paper, The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australa, purchased 1983. The Art Gallery of Western Australia, 2023. Photo by Dan McCabe (@artdoc_au).

ArtistElizabeth Pedler

Elizabeth Pedler is a socially engaged artist, focused on a dialogic approach to collaboration. Interested in the range of participation pos­sible in art, Elizabeth’s practice spans from playful and interactive ins­tall­ations to collaborative relational aesthetics. Identity, ecology, and community involvement are areas of particular focus, and have led to significant artistic development in her recent arts practice, engaging with audiences through the sharing of expe­rien­ces and storytelling.

Elizabeth’s work has been shown at the Disrupted Fes­tival of Ideas, Social Impact Festival, Tarrawarra Museum of Art, Perth Institute of Con­tempo­rary Arts, Fringe World Festival (Perth), Harvest Music Fes­tival, Melbourne Fringe Festival, and Gertrude Street Projection Festival, amongst others. She was awarded a PhD (Art) by Curtin University in 2018, and is a recipient of the Australia Council ArtStart Grant, and the WA Department of Culture and the Arts – Young People and the Arts Youth Fellowship. Elizabeth is an art program coordinator at Alinea Recreation Centre, working with artists with diverse physical and neu­rolo­gi­cal disabilities. She also teaches Anthropology and Sociology, in the school of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry at Curtin University, Perth.

Collaborator: Josten Myburgh

Josten Myburgh is a musician based on Whadjuk Noongar boodja in Boorloo, active in exploratory and experimental music as a saxophon­ist, composer, improviser, sound rec­ord­ist and curator. He works with distinguished voices in experimental music locally and internationally including Michael Pisaro-Liu, Jameson Feakes, Emilio Gordoa, Sage Pbbbt, Sabine Vogel and Eduardo Cossio, and has published work on Another Timbre (Sheffield, UK), Edition Wandelweiser (Haan, Germany), Flaming Pines (London, UK) and Tone List. He is founding co-director of Tone List (2016-), director of the Art Music Award-winning Audible Edge Festival of Sound (2017-), and curates and produces experimental music projects in collaboration with arts ins­ti­tutions, festivals and inde­pen­dent artists. Notable per­for­mances include Vestafor Festival (Rosen­dal, Norway), FILEC Festival (Cuernavaca, Mexico), the Perth Inter­na­tio­nal Jazz Festival, Fremantle Biennale, Supersense Festival of the Ecs­ta­tic (Melbourne), Festival Cable#8 (Nantes, France), Sacred Realism (Berlin, Germany), the NOW now (Sydney) and Inland Concert Series (Melbourne & Perth). He works regularly in interdisciplinary settings, most often with dancers Daisy Sanders and Joshua Pether, contem­po­rary artists Elizabeth Pedler, Katie West and Lena Czer­ni­awska, and theatremaker Noémie Huttner-Koros. His work was included in the international survey of sound art curated by Franscisco Lopez, Audio­sfera, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid) in 2020. He was awarded the Schenberg Fellowship in Music Composition in 2019.

Community Host Partners: Wellstead Community Resource Centre and Windi Windi Pastoral Co.

Wellstead Community Resource Centre (CRC) is a com­mu­nity managed non-for-profit organisation. Well­stead CRC offers a mix of social, eco­no­mic, tech­no­logical, health and wellbeing opportunities, otherwise unavailable to the geographically isolated community.

Windi Windi Pastoral Co. is a farming business owned and run by Richard Davy on the south coast of Western Australia, east of Albany. The farms have been run holis­tically (holistic resource management—Allan Savory) using bio­dy­namic and organic principles since 1999. Richard has an artful approach to his work, documenting through image and word, the natural and manmade landscapes about him.