Bush Vandal (green wash)

Bush Vandal was developed while on a two-month residence at Birrarung House as part of the Nillumbik Shire Councils Laughing Waters Artist in Residence program.

 

Bush Vandal is a 6 minute (approx.) looped video of a fallen tree in the bush. The tree has been painted with green gouache. The video begins as I start to remove the paint using a toilet brush. It documents my behavior in the process of rectifying my act of vandalism. The sound in this video is of the actual environment and cleaning process.

 

Derived from the daily painting interventions I did while walking in the bush, Bush Vandal references the beauty, volatile nature and fear embedded in the Austrayan Bush: a place of recreation, a place of destruction, a place where bodies are dumped, an arsonists playground, a place outside of the rules.

OMG!
What was that?
Who's there?
What's there?
Where are you? Miranda!!!!!!

Tell me about the video work Bush Vandal?

Bush Vandal (Green wash) was developed while I was the artist in residence at Birrarung house as part of the Nillumbik shire councils Laughing Waters Artist in Residence program in aug-sept 2012. Birrarung House is a beautiful 1970’s mud brick house designed by Gordon Ford along the Yarra River in Eltham. When I first arrived I began to explore the landscape, the environment, by embarking on daily walks through the bush and along the river. 

The bush here was somewhat dense and fallen trees, trees that appear to have been snapped off at their middle, continually obstructed my walks through it and thus I was constantly navigating new passageways through the bush. From this I got the idea of heading out with different coloured gouache and every time a fallen tree blocked my path I would paint the tree in a really bright, almost toxic colour. 

The colours came about because I had noticed that most of the trees in the area had brightly coloured fungus growing on the south-side of their trunks - this being the side that didn’t get sunlight. This also tapped into the idea of brightly coloured things usually being dangerous. I’d been out here for only about a week at this stage and was finding it difficult to actual location where I was. 

I mean I knew that I was along the river, outside of Eltham but I was unsure of how far the next house actually was, where anyone was living there, whose land was on when walking etc. So when I got back to house I did a Google maps search view of where I was and realized through this Google map search that the fence that I had jumped wasn’t into private property but was into Parks Victoria Land. 

This residency is run in collaboration with Parks Vic and I had signed a contract agreeing not to interfere or damage the environment in anyway. Realizing that I had breached my contract and that I had damaged the environment I became completely paranoid that I had breached my contract and that I was going to be the first artist evicted from the residency in it’s entire history for painting trees. 

 

So I filled my rucksack with booze bottles (the only bottles I had around - thankfully plonk is now screw top) full of water, and the only scrubbing type of brush I could find in the house was the toilet brush. So I set off with this, back to the tree I had painted and proceeded to video myself scrubbing it clean - removing my crime. I videoed this process, as I am one of these artists that in the past had lost a lot of work by not documenting it. I know obsessively document everything I do. Now, I hadn’t spoke to a living soul either in person or via technology for about 5 or 6 days at this time, which in context of our current culture is a rarity.It was also bizarre to be only ten minutes from Eltham by car but feel completely isolated and unsure of who was around the area, other than knowing that there were people around, somewhere, which added to a kind of fear I think which I kind of got carried away with.

Anyway, I was out there scrubbing off this gouache as quickly as I could. The tree I had painted was about 30 meters way from a fire track. Three quarters of the way through cleaning the tree I heard a car coming down the fire track, now being completely paranoid at this stage I’m like OMG it's the ranger, OMG they’re gunna see what I have done, catch me in the act, I’m gunne be thrown out - this is gunna be sooooo embarrassing while I am scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing away. 

I could see the car, fortunately, they couldn’t see me. They proceeded to do a 4 point turn and proceed back up the hill - I dropped everything and hid behind a bush. The camera continues to record the static frame and sound of the car. When safe, I return to the scene and continue cleaning up. That's how the work came about. I was rectifying an act of vandalism 

 

This led me to think about corporations and the idea of green products and that more money, time and non-green processes go into the advertising of environmentally friendly products rather than spending resources on developing and sustaining environmentally sound practices/ products. It's installed in the gallery on a slick near infinity-edge LCD TV (very environmental) and is mounted on the brick wall of the downstairs gallery of The Incinerator Art Centre. It plays for about 5 mins, 30 seconds and is looped. 

 

It has a charm this work doesn't it, it's enchanting?

People really seem to enjoy it. I think what they enjoy about it the most is that it is kind of comical, yet sinister. I forgot that I am quite theatrical in my approach as well as my being that I can be quite camp which contradicts my physical image which people of see as a big burley, scarey kind of guy and really I am a pink pussy cat. So I think that the image of myself, the gestures, and the reaction to the car, the crisis that this temporally presents is something that people responded to. I am not sure what the judges liked about this work for it to be included in the show other the similarities to what I have just said. 

I also think that Bush Vandal (Green wash) was a good example of a different approach that artists use to engage in the political discourses surrounding the environment and environmentalism.

 

So many artists in the exhibition with different angles to upcycling?

It’s interesting seeing the work in this context or in an exhibition about environmental art, as I said I have never really engaged with environmentalism before and Bush Vandal (Green Wash) was an indirect response to this theme. 

It started off as a painting exercise really in order to begin a daily practice while in residence doing something everyday in order to begin the process of making art and that's what happened. This work also taps into, through the imagery and my persona, the action of pouring water over the tree which has this feel of pouring petrol over the tree and that perhaps I am about to start a fire which brings this other sinister reading of the Australian bush, landscape, environment and how vulnerable it is, how aggressive it is, how volatile it is. 

There are some provocative sequences that happen in the work that highlight different elements for people to contemplate one being the red-neck bogan in the bush; the booze thing; the aggressive volatile nature of the heteronormative masculine identity of the Australian male.