Place Works

Over the last five years Martin Walch has been working on the Mt Lyell Project as an artist in residence with Copper Mines of Tasmania. The project is ongoing, and now consists of a number of sound recordings, animations in 2D and 3D, stereoscopic pairs in travelling cases, as well as large re-photographic works based on J.W.Beatties Mt Lyell photographs from 1893-6.

Over the last five years I have worked on The Mt Lyell Project as an artist in residence with Copper Mines of Tasmania, at the Mt Lyell Mine, Queenstown, on the west coast of Tasmania. The Project is on-going, and now consists of a number of sound recordings, animations in 2D and 3D, stereoscopic pairs in travelling cases, as well as large format re-photographic works based on J.W. Beatties' Mt Lyell photographs from 1893-6.

My aim has been to make a contribution to the 120 years of continuous documentation of this landscape, and to undertake and document my personal investigation of the interactions between the people of the area and their environment.

A mine is a landscape being re-created at the very instant of its annihilation, and the geologic violence of this reality literally 'under-mines' any neat conceptual divisions between concepts like wilderness and culture. Mt Lyell is contested ground, a no-man's land that exhibits aspects of the tragic wasteland and the majestic Eden. Parts of it remind me as much of the trenches of the First World War or abandoned nuclear test sites as they do of Monument Valley or the Grand Canyon. At Mt Lyell mining has put the chemistry of explosives against geology at a scale that is sublime.

In this sense the old Mt Lyell open-cut mine is now a wilderness. In Common Landscape of America, 1580-1845, John Stilgoe traces the roots of the word wilderness to the Anglo-Saxon 'wylder ness', which identified the nest or lair of the wild beast. But in this age, when all topographies are under the gaze of the satellite, there can be no true wilderness in that traditional form. We no longer fear these so-called wild places, they are domesticated and fully mapped, they are wild landscapes perhaps, but not true wilderness. The spaces we fear now are different, the lair of the beast is now the den of man, the dark hole filled with our own excreta; the nuclear dump, the toxic waste storage tank, the abandoned mine-field, the nuclear test site, the battle field, the wasteland of cultivation gone feral.

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