Alison Clouston & Boyd

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Adrift

“Adrift” (2006) is a sound and sculpture installation about water, the lifeblood of our land and our lives. It’s our response to the drought in eastern Australia and the struggle over water where we live in the catchment of Sydney.

Drifting across the floor is a flotilla of round boats or coracles. Like those ancient river-craft, these coracles are clad with stretched and stitched animal skins, but their ribs are made from soldered copper water pipes. Each has a hardwood paddle. The soundtrack is carried to speakers through a polypipe irrigation system swirling in eddies around each coracle. This branching network suggests the system of arteries and veins that circulates the blood in our bodies, the pattern of creeks and rivers moving water through the landscape, and the extraction of water for irrigation.

“Adrift” the soundtrack records the sounds of water moving through landscape and the human body, trickling from the creek near our home to the river that flows into Sydney’s major water supply dam and on to the sea, and borborygmi, the sound of human stomach rumblings, the signs of life.

The first part, “Whirlpool”, brings the small sounds of an ephemeral creek to circle a coracle, trickling from speaker to speaker, growing ever faster and louder until they are a giddy swirl. Then “Current” begins its flow, with a stone-hopping dance of water-sound bouncing slowly from speaker to speaker around a second coracle. A third coracle is engulfed in “Wave”, an inexorable tidal sweep of sound through the array of speakers. When this sea-sound builds to the quality of white noise, it stops. Silence is felt. Then fifteen stomachs erupt with “Borborygmi II”, a strangely comforting sound, personal and personable.

Small birds, depicted in ink nestled protectively or perhaps vanishing in the fur of cowhide, speak of species and ecosystems vulnerable to the voracious desires of humankind.

A coracle is almost an anti-boat, without stern or bows or rudder, a vessel adrift on the currents, just as we as a species are adrift in the currents of ecological disaster. But we do have one paddle as we navigate the boulders ahead in the proverbial creek, and the journey is partially mapped, in a tracery of watercolour on cowhide, a topography of the ephemeral creeks that flow from our place down to the cattle-trodden river, the city, and on to the sea.

Field recordings from Burnt Flat Creek, Wollondilly River, Tasman Sea. “Coracles”. Cowhide, soldered copper water pipe and fittings, auto butyl (inner tube rubber) “Hide nor Hair”. Cowhide, watercolour “Hide Maps”. Cowskins, watercolour. (Watercourses and coastlines from Burnt Flat Creek to the sea, sourced from topographic maps of the Central Mapping Authority of NSW.

2009 “Adrift” for Ultimo Science Festival, Sydney

2007 “Adrift” installation, for Grounded; art, activism, environment, Campbelltown Arts Centre

2006 “Adrift”, Mittagong Memorial Hall part of  Murray Darling Palimpsest, an exposition that took place in Qld, NSW, Vic, ACT and SA, with a symposium in Mildura through La Trobe University. Murray Darling Palimpsest builds on a history of art and environment at Mildura, linking artists and communities throughout the catchment and beyond, on the issue of water. This project is presented with assistance from the Arts and Culture Board of the Wingecarribee Shire Council.

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