Townsville floods remembered in PUNQ art show

Townsville’s winter is, as I’ve said before, so full of events that we hardly have time to take them all in. We were still recovering from Strand Ephemera, NAFA and the Fringe when PUNQ (Pop-Up North Queensland, co-ordinated by Umbrella Studio) opened a week ago.

There was a lot to see, as a look at their online program reveals. We didn’t get to all of it but did enjoy Golden Bee’s Hive Alive, the quirky Botanica-Techno installation in the Perfumed Gardens, and (getting to the point of the post) Alison McDonald’s site-specific After, a clever, powerful depiction of Ross River as a trail of, essentially, reclaimed debris.

‘After’, with Ross Dam in the distance and the port and Ross Creek in the foreground

It is introduced thus:

Our rivers are the life of our communities. We cannot live without the fresh water they deliver. Each year when the torrential rain from a wet season starts, many of those affected from the Townsville 2019 floods find themselves entrenched in the memories of so much that has been lost.

After is an installation that offers hope, created from once highly valued wooden parquetry flooring which has been degraded by flood and ripped up destined for the rubbish bin. Each individual wooden finger has been scraped of glue, sanded and cleaned … They will be re-laid in the original checkerboard pattern with many of the fingers having laser cut street names that flooded in 2019 Townsville floods. The fingers will be placed in the shape of Ross River and Ross Creek extending and undulating across the Townsville City Council Forecourt space.

[The street names may be a] permanent reminder for viewers who hopefully identify with this artwork and find comfort in seeing how many others were also affected by the floods and as future disasters roll on, theirs is not forgotten.

Is this river warning us about the reality of future impacts of climate change for our homes?’

'After' Alison McDonald
Detail showing the Stuart Creek area

Alison McDonald has built an impressive body of work over the last twenty years. Much of it references sustainability by either using recycled materials or pointing out our impact on the environment. Here she has done both at once.

And the 2019 floods are still being felt in everyday life. Houses are still awaiting repair or demolition, and people are still waiting for financial settlement.

Yet there are also reports of people keen to buy houses which have been rebuilt after being flooded, because ‘everything in the house is new’ and they are sure that ‘it couldn’t happen again.’

I hope, for their sake and mine, that they are right but I fear that they are wrong.

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