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When Waste Returns: Re-imagining 'use value' in a tidal river


Sierra, MA, When Waste Returns: Re-imagining 'use value' in a tidal river, Studio Research, (1) pp. 48-59. ISSN 1839-6429 (2013) [Refereed Article]

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Rivers are often contested zones. They are used to demarcate territory, separating states and countries; they offer precious resources in the form of fresh water and transport; and they bring the aquatic and the terrestrial into close proximity, connecting inland areas to the sea. Through two works of my own and those of several others, this paper examines works of art that address the roles a river is perceived to perform for a city. In particular, my work examines the context of a river in flood, and when flooding causes the "use value" of a river as a waste-disposal mechanism to be reversed. Underscoring this is the role of risk, and how risk underpins the perception of a river as a contested place.

To understand the riparian - the river’s edge - as an area where the social construction of nature can be summarily challenged, one only has to read Val Plumwood’s account of her close encounter with a crocodile, "Being Prey" (Plumwood 1996). As an artist living and working in Tasmania, I am aware of the role that rivers have played in the formation of the state’s self image; they are necessarily part of reflecting on Tasmania as place, as is mindfulness of the state’s social and economic divide in relation to ecological issues. Tasmania’s contested relationship to its natural environment is well known, particularly regarding forestry, with the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement Bill having stalled in the Upper House of Tasmanian Parliament for some months (Howard 2012; The Wilderness Society 2012). However, its most infamous contestation regarded a river—the struggle to keep the Franklin River from being dammed in 1983. With the close proximity to wilderness being a key reason to live and practice in the state, many Tasmanian artists address issues of ecological debate or sustainability in their work, including Bea Maddock, David Stephenson, Neil Haddon, and Ray Arnold. Since returning to live in Tasmania after a twenty-four-year absence, my practice, long based on the social construction of nature, now engages with the concept of the river as a rich locale for re-evaluating the nature/ culture interface.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:art, sculpture, installation
Research Division:Creative Arts and Writing
Research Group:Visual arts
Research Field:Fine arts
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Arts
Objective Field:The creative arts
UTAS Author:Sierra, MA (Professor Marie Sierra)
ID Code:88779
Year Published:2013
Deposited By:School of Creative Arts and Media
Deposited On:2014-02-14
Last Modified:2014-11-28

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