Dyerren Dyerren Dragon Tree 2020

Salvaged native cypress (Dyerren Dyerren in the Dharawal language), steel, soundtrack and sound system, wool, Cypress benches

Listen to the whole soundtrack.

For the inaugural Bankstown Biennale: Symbiosis, we continued our investigation of the Dragon, the Serpent, in religion, myth and philosophy of many of the world’s cultures. The Rainbow Serpent of Indigenous Australia, the Taniwha of the Maori, the Naga of India and Southeast Asia, the Chinese Dragon, the European Dragon; these and many others are  associated with water, often dwelling under lakes or rivers, creating floods or droughts. They are weather makers who might also dwell in the sky, sending thunderbolts or life-giving rains. Benevolent life force or violent power, the Dragon demands human respect. 

From root to twig-tips, an entire native Cypress tree snakes across the gallery. Salvaged from our place in the bush after the long Drought and the devastating Green Wattle Creek Bushfire of 2019/20 that killed it, the sectioned trunk is rejoined together by meticulously crafted, steel curvatures. A swirl of smaller branches and twigs, like a cyclonic spiralling weather system, is the Dragon’s tail, its head at the root. 

Threatened species of the area are named by the Bankstown World Music Choir, in English and in Latin. Sydney Aboriginal man, Matthew Doyle, (Muruwari & Eora), enunciates the names of trees in Dharug, and Dharawal local languages, also threatened and now emerging, and the names of dragons, skinks and snakes, along with words that describe a deep Indigenous connection to trees and wood –  specific words like birragu, a hollow tree, bulbi, a leaning tree, bulu, the shadow of a tree, djurduralang, the tree bark for making fishing lines. Musicians from diverse cultures and traditions were invited to contribute to Boyd's composition, a deep, sonorous drone that throbs and rumbles through Dyerren Dyerren Dragon Tree – from horsehead fiddle, to bass gaida, horn, and tanpura. Voices and instruments emanate from speaker-houses made from the twigs of the tree, and from sound-speakers emerging from beneath its root. The wiring, red as sap or blood, connects the parts, meandering from the root, like fungal mycelium.

Visitors were invited to sit on a bench made from the same kind of Cypress tree, to contemplate, to listen, and to make their own sculptures from the twigs of the tree. During the exhibition, more and more model houses whirled across the wall as though from the centrifugal force of the Dragon’s tail.