reviewing documentation, further research, writing & planning ..
Following the series of introductory visits to collections and the myriad of items I’ve seen in each one of them (Wildlife, Insect, Botanic Garden, Herbarium, Plant Phenomics and Soil), the conversations and concepts discussed, this project moves to another stage and to a different level of the research process. While there are still a number of collections I’ve yet to visit and I will also returning to these first ones, there are a number of different sorts of tasks and activities underway concurrently. One of the first practical tasks is to attend to the already considerable amount of written, visual and audio material that I’ve accumulated from each collection I’ve visited: it needs to be edited, labelled and evaluated and as I continue to document its an ongoing part of the project. Some of it I’ll use directly in work I produce for the residency and some will be retained for future reference, some is discarded and some finds it way into this account of the project. I begin following up conversations I’ve had with a number of people at each of the collections about their own research and this means researching, revising and reading from general to specialist areas some I’m familiar with and others are new, so I revisit the biology text books, popular science and specialist publications. Though well into reading and enjoying Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder, and my focus shifts (not too far), to the taxonomy and evolutionary theories of the eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth and twenty first centuries: cherry picking from Linnaeus, Darwin, the evolutionary biology of A O Wilson, Stephen Jay Gould, Andrew Parker to Systematic Entomology and CSIRO scientists “Integrative taxonomy or interative taxonomy?” (209-217). There is much to absorb and enjoy.
Another aspect of this stage of the project is planning and preparation. There are series of conversations and meetings with Discovery’s director Cris Kennedy throughout Aug – Sept about realizing the project’s outcome(s), Discovery’s programme schedule and CSIRO — pragmatic and conceptual. Part of this [plan] is for a Symposium and in light of the project’s conceptual focus and intention proposed in our application to ANAT, I start to review and assess other (numerous) art/science-science/art talk-fest- conferences and talk to colleagues. There is no value reinventing the wheel, so by clarifying the scope and focus of this event it does develop its own identity and name (Spectra2012)! The latter shifts the discussion further and Cris and I meet this time with academic writer and artist Mitchell Whitelaw (University of Canberra). This conversation and the planning continue.
This is also the first follow up visit to a collection and I return to the Soil Archive. Over three days (Sept) I re-examine some of the historical material, it’s a chance to take in the collection again —and with the Munsell Soil Color Charts at hand to look more closely at the contents of some of the thousands of neatly stacked soil specimens and to document these further. As well as this David Jacquier (ASRIS) and Linda Karssies (the Archivist) walk me through a number of the research laboratories in Land and Water. In one of these is Seija Tuomi who explains her work running the infra-red spectrometer lab, its applications and the spectrometer which makes rapid methods of soil assessment possible for research. On this (return) visit there is also a valuable opportunity to meet with the Dr Neil McKenzie Chief of CSIRO Land and Water Division. This meeting, the conversations with David, Linda and others, my experience of the Archive, the laboratories and the literature on soils, all contribute to my appreciation of this collection and (in the context of the others) —its significance.