Strand Ephemera 2019

Strand Ephemera 2019
Leela Chakravarti and Edward O’Brien: Coral Bleaching (photo: David Tattersall)

There is always something beautiful, something whimsical and something political in Townsville’s biennial sculpture festival, Strand Ephemera, as I said four years ago, so I try to get to it. That’s increasingly difficult because our winters are stuffed so full of big arts events that locals have to give up either work or sleep to get to everything (visitors at least have the advantage of being here on holiday) but that’s a good problem to have, and we do our best.

Here’s a small gallery, similar to the one I posted in 2017, Continue reading “Strand Ephemera 2019”

Strand Ephemera 2017

Townsville’s winter is a busy time for all sorts of open air events because the weather is so reliably beautiful. The fact that tourist numbers are up, as Southerners escape their own not-so-nice winter weather, doesn’t hurt either. Strand Ephemera, occurring in odd-numbered years since 2001, is one of the highlights. (I posted articles on the 2011 and 2013 events but missed out on 2015.)

This year’s event closed last Sunday. The ‘People’s Choice’ winner was also my own favourite because it ticked so many boxes – appropriate to the site and to the notion of ‘ephemera’, saying something important (i.e., ‘don’t trash our oceans’) without letting the message overwhelm the art, collaborative and local. Here it is:

Strand Ephemera 2017
Marion Gaemers and Lynnette Griffiths: Ancyent Marinere … are those her sails?

The sails were even more dramatic at night Continue reading “Strand Ephemera 2017”

Ghost nets become art

croc sculpture
Ghost net crocodile on the beach at Strand Ephemera 2013

What is a Ghost Net?

Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been lost accidentally, deliberately discarded or simply abandoned at sea. They drift with the currents and tides for many years, continuing to catch and kill turtles, sharks, fish and other marine wildlife.

Northern Australia supports an array of marine and coastal species including six of the world’s seven marine turtle species and four sawfish species, many of whose populations have declined elsewhere. Ghost nets are part of vast rafts of marine debris arriving from SE Asia that are fouling this otherwise pristine coastline, mostly owned and occupied by Indigenous peoples of Australia.

Who are GhostNets Australia?

Over the past 10 years Indigenous Rangers from the NT and QLD have been concerned about the many turtles that are entangled in ghost nets and the large number of nets that wash up on the beaches. The Rangers collaborated with other non-government organisations, calling themselves the “saltwater people,” to clean up and monitor ghost nets in the Gulf of Carpentaria. In response to these concerns, GhostNets Australia (initially known as the Carpentaria Ghost Net Programme) was established in 2004.

GhostNets Australia is an alliance of over 22 indigenous communities stretching across Northern Australia from the Torres Strait and the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Kimberleys. Since its establishment, the project has achieved the removal of over 12,000 ghost nets of varying sizes from approximately 2500km of coastline. Less than 10% of them have been attributed to Australian fisheries.

This has resulted in the recovery of a proportion of the trapped wildlife, particularly marine turtles, and the prevention of the ghost nets from returning to the sea where they can continue their destruction.

This project promotes indigenous interests and seeks to assist Aboriginal communities to manage their sea country by building skills and knowledge, assisting in the establishment of institutional frameworks and opening channels of communication between these communities on a scale that has never before been experienced in Australia with a single project.

This multi award winning programme is managed by the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group (NGRMG) with funding from the Australian Government until 2013. The Australian Government funding is matched by stakeholders’ cash and in-kind contributions.

This information on GhostNets Australia is based on their web site and their Facebook page.

So where does the crocodile come from?

I knew Marion Gaemers had had something to do with it but I didn’t really know her role, so I asked her to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. This is her answer:

After initially collecting and burning the nets in the communities, the organisers wondered how they could be used instead of destroyed, so they had a competition to see what people could make from the nets. The winner was a woman who made a guitar strap and her prize was to go to Hammond island and work with the locals on producing items with the net. At that time they mostly made bags.

From there GhostNets Australia employed Sue Ryan as an arts coordinator to find out which communities would like to have people come in and run workshops using the net. Over the five years or so of this project about ten artists have been employed to go into different communities on this basis.

I met Sue when we went to Moa Island and started the project there. Two other artists went after us and did this puppet project. After that I went to Mornington Island with Sue and with Lynnette Griffith (the third artist in the Umbrella Studio exhibition) to Darnley Island. Lynnette is the arts coordinator on Darnley. We wanted to continue to work together and so decided to have an exhibition of our work in Umbrella, “Mesh” in April-May 2013.

Gallery flyer for "Mesh"
Gallery flyer for “Mesh”

For my third trip to Mornington, Lynnette brought the Darnley island artists to work with the Mornington Island artists. From there we were employed by Floating Land Festival on the Sunshine Coast taking Moa and Darnley Islanders with Sue, Lynnette and myself as coordinators. Lynnette and I have also gone to Bamaga.

The crocodile shown at Strand Ephemera was made in Cairns, at CIAF (Cairns Indigenous Art Fair) 2011 with artists coordinating indigenous people and visitors to the fair to complete it. Ghost Nets Australia also did drop-in workshops at Strand Ephemera where they coordinated visitors to the strand to help make a large sea turtle.

croc sculpture close-up
Deadly no more

• A slightly shorter version of this post appeared in Waves, newsletter of the Reef HQ Volunteers Association, February 2014 issue.

Strand Ephemera

The city council runs a biennial art show on our beachfront, the Strand, and it is always worth visiting. I mentioned it here a week ago but it deserves more notice than that so here are some of my photos of it. As usual, clicking on a small image will take you to a bigger one.

Anemone on rock face
Erica Gray: Rock Anemone

If you started at the Rockpool end of the Strand, this giant fabric anemone is one of the first artworks you would have seen.

Around the other side of the Rockpool, there was a series of playful reo-rod and wire sculptures, a little more than life-size. From there on, it was a matter of looking on the beach, up in the trees and on the lawns all the way down to the park behind Tobruk Pool.

Wire sculptures
Aden MacLeod: People Watching People in the Spirit
Giant crayons
Bogdanis and Hynes: Colours of the Strand
Red and white ceramic mushrooms
Jean Downes: Mushrooming
Fabric figure of child on a swing
Fibres and Fabrics Association: I Remember When















The Fibres and Fabrics group had several groups of figures in trees along the Strand, taking their theme and title from the days when children were encouraged to get outdoors and risk a few bumps and scrapes. I first saw them just on dusk …

Fabric figues on tree branch
Fibres and Fabrics: I Remember When

Artists’ responses to the word ‘Ephemera’ and the location varied widely, from taking little notice of either, through to the use of fragile and/or recycled materials and taking the environment as subject matter. One of the most ephemeral works in the show was one which also appealed to me because of my interest in meditation, the zen garden created by Helena Rador-Gibson and a team of helpers. A new pattern was raked into the sand each afternoon; it was gone again before long, of course.

Raked sand and Magnetic Island
Helena Rador-Gibson: Zen Ephemera

There were 36 artworks in the show, so there are many yet to see. Perc Tucker Gallery ran a photographic competition in association with the event and they have put entries to it on Flickr, here. Bon appetit!

Choosing at leisure

Black Cockatoo portrait
Female Black Cockatoo

Like many people, I use a rolling display of photos as a screen saver. In my case, they are a random sequence, usually drawn from unsorted recent shots. One consequence is that I might slowly grow to like a particular photo, and this one from Billabong two months ago is one of those.

I can also use it to familiarise myself with a big group of photos and at the moment I’m doing that with shots from Strand Ephemera, a public art show along our beachfront. It’s a great show this year and if you’re in Townsville you should get down to see it – soon, since it finishes on Monday.