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Collaboration between Nien Schwarz and Murray Gibbs, 2001

Fremantle Arts Centre

Initiated in response to metis ll: wasted, an event which fosters communication between the visual arts and science, with a focus this year on ecology,

Wh-Eat is an installation that draws

its visual and material language from

the steadily advancing threat of secondary salinity in the Wheatbelt district of Western Australia. Resulting from decades of widespread clearing, irrigation, and mono-agricultural practices, salinity is the greatest environmental threat facing Western Australia. There is no single or quick fix solution to this ecological crisis. 


Artists and colleagues at Edith Cowan University Nien Schwarz and Murray Gibbs have responded to the critical state of salinity in the Wheatbelt by liaising with the State Salinity Council, CALM, Mias Bakery, CSIRO Land and Water, Oil Mallee WA, Parnell’s Nursery, Abhi’s Breads and Agriculture Western Australia, as well as with local farmers and concerned citizens. By translating into sculpture the impact of rising water tables on the mobilisation of salt, salt's effect on plants, as well as efforts to combat salinity, we hope to focus awareness on the problem and some

of the solutions that are being implemented. 


Narrow troughs of fresh wheat line the art centre’s main hall. Watering cans,

as an alias for a water table in transition, line the staircase. A floor-to-ceiling wall of toasted bread slices towers above buckets of crystallised salt water and earth. Bakery trollies sprouts salt-tolerant trees, including oil mallee and numerous eucalypts, and deep-rooted perennials. John Kinsella’s poem

Pillars of Salt, handwritten in white ink,

is featured on

a glass pane interface between

inside and outside, here and there. 


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