Selena de Carvalho

The bust of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen peers over Selena de Carvalho’s shoulder as she sits in front of the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) describing the genesis of her latest work.

 “I thought we were going to go hiking,” de Carvalho says. “But many of Iceland’s national parks were still closed because it was an extended cold season. So I hired a car and we went car camping instead.”

The trio illegally camped near an outlet glacier in Vatnajökull National Park. Wrapping her sound recording equipment in a plastic bag, de Carvalho submerged the recorder beneath the shoreline in front of the slowly diminishing wall of ice.

 The sounds de Carvalho recorded in Iceland now gently stream out of a King Billy Pine listening horn in the foyer of IMAS.

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Selena de Carvalho, ‘The Elasticity of Time (Souvenirs)’ 2017, Icelandic glacier recording, King Billy Pine, proximity sensor, soundlazer, raspberry pi. 

 “It’s the sound of the icicles chiming against each other as they were getting blown around in the wind,” she says.

 Welcome to the Anthropocene is a collaborative exhibition between artist-run initiative Constance and a trio of renowned scientific and research organisations. The project, which also features Pony Express and Ken + Julia Yonetani, pairs artists and scientists to explore the Anthropocene.

The Anthropocene, a contested term among the scientific community, describes our current epoch — one that is the result of human’s heavy-handed impression on the earth.

“Humans are changing the chemistry, geology and biology of the planet, and no environment is free of human influence,” curator Kira Askaroff says. Welcome to the Anthropocene explores themes relating to our changing planet. And the future of our planet, too.”

In three works, de Carvalho urges her audience to stop for a moment and think about our impact on the planet. She also delves into deep time and our perception towards time in general. ‘Shell Phones (Disaster Tourism)’ asks her audience to consider what might happen if we tuned in a little more and listened to things other than our own species.

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Selena de Carvalho, ‘Shell Phones (Disaster Tourism)’ 2017. Shells and mixed media.

Whispering out of the belly of a King Billy Pine listening horn, ‘The Elasticity of Time (Souvenirs)’ draws the audience in to listen to the sound of a glacier slowly trickling back to a liquid after several thousand years in a frozen incarnation.

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Selena de Carvalho, ‘Shell Phones (Disaster Tourism)’ 2017. Shells and mixed media.

“I found a data set from a study of King Billy Pine at Cradle Mountain. It got me thinking about deeper cycles of time and change, as well as the fact that nothing has ever really been stable. It’s just that we have an expectation of the environment to act in a certain manner in our lifetime. But when you have a look at deep time, the environment always behaves in all sorts of erratic, changeable and transitional kind of ways.”

‘Geomorphological Selfie’, a digital print on silk, shows de Carvalho clutched onto a rock formation. In 35 lines below the print, de Carvalho asks what it would take her audience to expand and explore their notion of time.

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Selena de Carvalho, ‘Geomorphological Selfie’ 2017. Digital print on silk. 

 Partnered with Dr. Alistair Hobday, who leads the Marine Climate Impacts and Adaptation area at CSIRO, de Carvalho was drawn into a new world of ideas and communication.

 “Scientists produce lots of abstract, varied, and specific kinds information. But this information is often dense and exclusive. That’s why artistic and scientific partnerships can be so powerful.”

 “Perhaps there isn’t the skillset within science to communicate this information, and communicate it to a broad audience. But that’s what artists do — they are the connectors between people, thoughts and disciplines.”

 Askaroff was drawn to de Carvalho’s interdisciplinary practice, and her ability to communicate often complex ideas. “Selena’s practice takes many forms, from installation, custom electronic participatory works to karaoke sung in bespoke costumes of extinct animals,” Askaroff says.

“I was excited by her use of technology and creativity as a means to raise questions and explore complex issues. Her practice is experimental, and manages to be poetic and magical while also being highly critically, thought-provoking and deeply engaged in crucial ecological questions.”

de Carvalho has been asking these questions for a long time. The Longley-based artist’s practice hinges on exploring human interaction with the environment and pressing the paradox of our need for wilderness and the untamed, yet how we also seek to control it.

As much as the environment fuels her practice, it also serves as a haven for de Carvalho. “I just love getting out of domesticity. I had kids at 21, and I think when you have children you suddenly are deeply saturated into a world of domesticity. And so, I have always found a sense of respite from going outside and having a more simple existence for periods of time.”

 The experience of collaborating with people in a field of dense knowledge also exacerbated de Carvalho’s need for action. The artist, who attended her first logging coup at 15 years old, thinks we need to pay attention to the scientific community a little more. “We are living in an era where we have these specialists who have studied the earth’s systems for their whole adult lives. And we’re not listening to them.”

 Listen and look at de Carvalho’s work at IMAS Mawson exhibition space, IMAS Reception and IMAS Wet Laboratories, 20 Castray Esplanade, Battery Point.

 Welcome to the Anthropocene runs until February 9.

*The writer is a board member of Constance Artist-Run Initiative

Learn more about Selena’s work at selenadecarvalho.com

 

 

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