The Performance of Moss: Corrie Wright’s site specific art
 by Tamsin Kerr

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It is a small performance of gathered moss shaped into line of bowls along a mostly untrodden path at the bottom of Spicers Tamarind Retreat in Maleny.

The place is steep, dank, full of the sound of rushing water from the downhill waterfalls. The path runs near the bottom of the property. The moss bowls are always changing; by the time of these photos in mid December, some have closed over, already overflowing within their own microworlds, others have been removed.  More will go over the next few months until all that is left is the memory of the art and many travelling moss spores seeking new habitats. The place remains: a rainforest country, always damp with slippery muddy paths and lush green dankness. A place for human silence and natural solace.

Moss is the oldest terrestrial plant, requiring neither roots nor complex structures to survive. It thrives in damp places and creates microhabitats for many other small flora and fauna. A complete and complex beauty emerges when we take the time to kneel and examine these simple plants. Corrie’s work links the lives of moss to that of the Buddhist alms bowl; another humble object that conveys the everyday ritual of non-attachment and gifting. It is the negative space of the bowl that is valuable: able to be filled, open to possibilities.

The idea for these moss bowls had taken root the previous year as Corrie sat embroidering a scar in a tree at the same site. Making such a minute work required long sitting and stillness; so, unlike a rolling stone, she began to gather moss, and went on: collecting and researching moss over the following year.

Corrie has long been interested in environmental art, in the performance and process of making as much as the product. She has stitched leaves together on her pedal sewing machine while talking with the audience who literally give her the power to continue on the attached bicycle. She has camped for days at sites to understand the sense of place before she decides on the artform that best reflects its genius loci.

There remains a slight doubt in the minds of both artist and audience as to the value of ephemeral and environmental art.  At the initial meetings of artists, Corrie wondered for a moment how she fitted in with artists such as Hew Chee Fong (second prize) or Elli Schlunke (people’s choice) who were making stone and mammoth works, and when she heard she had won, her first thought was how brave the judges, Jude Turner, Christine Ballinger, and Kathleen Hunt, were to make such a choice. But over time, their decision and the work’s validation sits well, not only with the small beauty of the work, but also with the direction we need to take, the paths less travelled.  “Sculpture on the Edge” deserves its epithet.

Ephemeral art has held a place on the edge of mainstream practice but rarely is brought or valued as public sculpture. Andy Goldsworthy prefers his rainshadow works over his large stone sculptures, but he cannot make a living from such short performances. Art and architecture prizes tend to go to the individual who contributes a monumental heroism to our cityscapes. But this year, Alejandro Aravena won the Pritzker with a community designed affordable housing humble piece and Corrie Wright won the Sculpture on the Edge with an even more lowly gathering and tending of moss. The world is changing, and we are valuing the beauty of the everyday and the ephemeral, the gradual processes of art in nature, and the connections we make in understanding such works. Artists and architects are listening more to the site and its community – human, plant, animal, stone, and water; the resulting partnerships let this more-than-human community speak in its many voices. And by attending such performances of place, however short-lived, we are valuing this connection to the locales we inhabit.

Perhaps the world is unfurling change in the same way as Corrie’s gathering of ever-changing moss? Perhaps hope lies in that alms bowl shape of negative space, in the daily ritual of tending to place? Corrie’s work not only connects us to the everyday wonders of moss, but also inspires us to make our own partnerships with the small worlds that surround us. We might all rebuild such play and ritual in the bottoms of our garden, using moss to dress the wounds opened by our too-fast pace. With humans returned to their natural ecology, the world turns more freely. Corrie Wright’s slow and patient art using the small and often overlooked is worthy of louder celebrations as we learn to inhabit these creative lessons in site-specific transformation and connection.

Dr Tamsin Kerr is a writer and artist as well as running the Cooroora Institute on the Sunshine Coast of Australia: sharing the song of the earth through creative practice.

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“Is there a clue within each subtle voicing which when gathered together provides a key with which to sound the landscape?” (p183 Landmarks Robert Macfarlane)

 

Moss n. a small flowerless rootless green plant grown in damp habitats. Every cell of moss can photosynthesise & reproduces by means of spores released from stoked capsules.

There are over twelve thousand species of moss…an ancient plant.

I visit daily …a water ritual of care & discovery…..moss has ways to heighten the attachment of water to itself & invites it (water) to linger just a little longer….every element of moss is designed for its affinity for water.

They (the moss bowls) are visitors …although comfortable in their place …damp filtered light…everyday i visit….as I walk down the Forest Walk I experience anticipation. This anticipation was heightened when the work was first installed…..but each day I survive the anticipation with the viewing…..seeing…. looking…

What has happened in the last 24hours?

N.B. Moss bowls: do you ever wonder about what life puts in your bowl? Every  moss cell of every leaf is in intimate contact with the atmosphere….. What synchronicity brings you to a particular place at a particular time & with whom?

Into each bowl there are a myriad of textures all competing for attention. What is left is a residue of connection that was not there before & may not be there again. How does the content of other close bowls effect each bowl? ……moss almost never occurs singularly ….the more the moss shoots are  tightly packed  the greater the holding capacity 

Today one moss bowl was running away …fallen out of its cradle….to where? …or was it pushed?…..

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do we ever pause long enough?

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Will what we receive eventually nourish us? Are we simply on our way? Do we just have to keep showing up? Retelling the enormity of people’s experiences can only be suggested. All we really know is something exists afterwards that was not there before.

‘wherever you go there you are’ is a site specific art installation by Corrie Wright.

The installtion is located at Spicers Tamarind Retreat Maleny and is part the The Sunshine Coast Art Awards  &  Sculptures on the Edge 2015.

Conceptually ‘wherever you go there you are’ is formed from the universal image of the Zen nuns Alms bowl, how to find meaning proffered in everyday experience.

Background

In 2014 I worked on site along with 3 other artists; Elizabeth Poole, Judy Barrass & Jenny Fitzgibbon over a 7 day timeframe to create a series of ephemeral sculptures.

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Moss + Alms bowls as metaphor

“Its (moss) life and ours exist only because of a myriad of synchronicities that bring us to this particular place at this particular moment.” AnitaSanchez.com

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“Every cell in a moss plant can photosynthesize. Every single cell of these little tiny plants cranks out food. So moss plants don’t need roots to absorb nutrients from the soil. They don’t need soil. They don’t need a vascular system to pipe nutrients from the bottom of the plant to the top. They’re simplicity itself.” AnitaSanchez.com

Alms bowls –

In Buddhism the Alms bowl conveys sacredness, non-attachment & mutual & daily giving. The bowl is one of simple form often an everyday object that we fill to give or receive & open to possibilites….Is the asking important?

The Site- Inspirations & grounded possibilities

 

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Collecting …does shifting our perspective help us figure everyday out?

Gathering moss was a daily event to source areas. Maleny surrounds proved to be a rich source,  a micro perspective found unexpected cache of abundance. Favourite site were the gutters in the main street & the alleyway  of the local hardware. Gathering is much more than collecting its a source of connection to place, people & community.

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The Process

‘ I think that  outcomes are always assured but unpredictable. It is in this unpredictableness that process is important to me & integral to the outcome. Stepping outside what I already know is always daunting, exciting, challenging & worth the effort.  Many months have taken to produce twenty-one finished moss bowls. Making the wire & paperpulp substrates, gathering moss, adhering the moss to the substrates needed a vast amount of research, testing, trial & often error before any results were forthcoming’.

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Installation – does installation render the familiar unfamiliar? Do we contribute with the ideas we share, the quality of our connections & the conversations we start?

Working with different forms & processes is an approcah that seeks to create conversation around the complexities of the place & time in which we live.

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On-Site – install

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Casualties & Deterrents

15 days in and it was too much to the bush turkey….or was it the bush turkey? ….something pecked one apart…. not to be dettered i made up some chilli spray…ok so far…25 days in now minor tampering, one trample (the smallest one)

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do you every feel like running away?…..today I found one trying to get away…unhurt but needing not to conform with the others!

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After time … adjusting to environment is more than the conditions …the pecking is leaving bare patches….but the bowls are  sitting more & more comfortable ..contents overflowing onto the ground…do we inpart a small piece of ourselves with every experience?

 

 

 

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