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Using Art As A way To Motivate Change – with Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger

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Did you know that flying a helicopter over glaciers causes them to melt at a faster rate? Today on the podcast, Shonelle Gleeson-Willey talks with artist Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger, who shares her insight and expertise on climate change. We hear all about this accomplished artist’s methodology, and how she effectively shares information about the environment to motivate change.

 It’s vital to deliver educational material and information on climate change in a way that can best be absorbed by the audience, and Lea has been successful at dispersing and amplifying information in a way that promotes interest, inquiry, and ultimately action. 

 As an environmental artist, Lea examines topics such as human consumerism and its effect on islands. She uses print, photography, video and sound installations to create meaningful conversation about environmental topics, exploring and expressing her impressions through her profoundly moving art. 

 Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger studied at University of Sydney Australia, reviewing a Master of Contemporary Art as well as a Master of Fine Art. She’s an “artist at large,” embedding herself in various environmental frameworks instead of creating all of her art in a studio. Her work has been exhibited all over Australia, the U.S., and Taiwan. She also shares about getting to workshop with Al Gore in 2019.

 We’re privileged to hear the personal story behind some of her art on today’s episode. Her past works include observing and depicting humans’ behavior while they’re on holiday on various islands. She creates visceral memories with immersive installations, which is a very effective way to raise awareness about environmental issues and concerns in those observing her art.

 Lea’s heart and passion for environmental change is evident as she tells of her copious time sailing the oceans with environmental justice groups and seeing the effect of pollutants and chemical plastics in the waters. She paints a picture of nets, gloves and film canisters littering a beach near a penguin colony, and pulls us into her zeal for restoration as she describes the emotions that inspired her art during a visit to Antartica. With no single governing body limiting tourism to Antartica, and vessels carrying upwards of 500 tourists at a time now regularly venturing to the area, her urgent concern is contagious, relevant and inspiring.

 Lea’s amazing goal of creating art in order to spur discourse is beautifully described in her talk at the Royal Society of NSW, one of many lectures she’s been invited to give around the world. Be sure to follow her important work as she continues to spread the message of conservation.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 00:00
In this episode, we’re talking about how environmental and climate change information can be delivered, and therefore absorbed in many different ways to promote interest, inquiry, and hopefully action.

Intro 00:17
Hi, and welcome. Buckle up for a new episode of beyond the green line, the only podcast hooking you up for a virtual coffee date with some of the leading changemakers industry experts and everyday activists in environmental and agricultural sciences. So pop in your headphones, go for a walk and get ready for inspiration, ideas, insights and real life stories beyond the green line we balance along.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 00:51
Hello, and welcome to this episode of beyond the green line. I’m your host Shonelle Gleeson-Willey. And our guest today is Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger. An artist at large working to create a better understanding of our impact on Earth. Hi Lea it’s lovely to have you here today.

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 01:09
Oh, it’s wonderful to be part of this podcast series Shonelle. Thanks for inviting me.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 01:15
Thank you. So you’re an artist at large? That’s a really exciting title. How does it differ from different and other types of artists?

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 01:27
I think you’ve got the general situation where most artists create works within a studio or plain air. What I’m doing is combining a number of different things. But I’m going to spaces and almost like embedding myself within a framework to observe what’s going on. So for example, I did my Masters on Galapagos and Lord Howe Island, and their connections. So by spending two weeks on a ship in Galapagos, and this is a tourist boat, this is not, you know, a specialized research vessel. What it allowed me to do was to observe how we actually do interact on holidays, when we go to these places, and how the people that run them, they interact with the space. And so I created artworks and made social comments then about these interactions. I mean, I didn’t, you know, do video recordings of things that they may have done, which were not quite, you know, to the letter of what they’re supposed to do. But things like the captain saying to me, when I asked the captain why he wasn’t using the government mooring. He said, Oh, well they move. And I’m like, really! So you’d rather keep dropping an anchor and destroying what’s underneath than to use the government mooring. And so it’s, it’s that kind of observation that I get from being on site, being part of what’s actually happening with the interaction as a tourist.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 03:07
And what is the story or the message that you’re telling through the art that you then create.

So what I’m really interested in is trying to make sure that we’ve got the awareness, you know, so what I created from for my masters was that connection between the Galapagos through currents so that you could smell the water, you could smell the plastic that I collected from Lord Howe Island, all these things were quite visceral within the space. And so when the person walks into the room, they don’t just get a two dimensional piece on a wall or a small three dimensional sculpture. What I’m hoping to do is to create that visceral memory, about what interaction we really do have in the environment. So I want to create that, that awareness through these things. So I’m not really restrict myself to any particular medium either.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 04:13
When you’re I guess, on these, these trips, and you see these things happening, how do you feel like you have to approach that with any particular type of sensitivities? Obviously, there’s, there’s cultural influences and there’s, there’s other things that plays out how do you manage that?

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 04:33
Mostly you can all you can do is raise the question. If you ask the question about what you’re observing, then that usually brings some sort of awareness. So just you know, you’re not telling them what to do. You can’t go into somebody’s space and say,’ Hey, you’re doing this wrong, because I say so’. But if you ask a question about why something would be done in a particular way, then that makes them think about their action. And maybe through those questions, they explore the impact that they’re having in other ways. So I’m trying to do that when I’m there but you’re really walking that fine line and you’re not there to disrupt somebody’s holiday.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 05:30
No ,be that lady get stories you want on their way home? Exactly. Don’t want that. That is, I guess, is great that you’ve got that awareness. But no, that you bring that that awareness to back to Australia and to the rest of the world as well, because you do exhibit internationally too, don’t you?

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 05:54
Yes, yes currently, I’ve got some work in the Explorers Club in New York, where they’re showing work that came from the recent residency that I did with Schmidt Ocean Institute and so that was with Nautilus magazine. So that’s been a really great exhibit currently. But yeah, so I’ve exhibited in Europe and Americas.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 06:20
And in 2019, you were one of only 1000 people who participated in the Climate Realty Leadership training by Al Gore. This is fascinating. Can you tell me what this training was like, and what you were able to take away from it?

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 06:37
Oh, it was spectacular. I’ve got to say, hats off to Al Gore. You know, he got a thought he had so many people apply. He said something like three and a half thousand people applied for this, this workshop, three day workshop. He was there every day. It was free. I mean, fundamentally, you had to pay to get there, you had to pay for your accommodation. But the entire course was free. And I thought that, you know, that was a great thing that he had arranged all his funding to pay for everything else to pay for the place that was in Southbank in Brisbane, you know it was just such a great thing to go to, and listen to some of these speakers that we’re now starting to hear a few, you know, a bit more of on the mainstream. Elysian, the gentleman who started Elysian, he’s become more mainstream. But there were there were so many people there that were talking about the future and how we can change things and what opportunities Australia has to make a global difference and, you know, back in 2019, we still had hope. Sorry, to, you know, speak about the, you know, the bear in the room, but

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 08:02
Migg have read down the tone. But we really do. We really did.

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 08:08
Yeah, yeah, we thought that the government could lead us out of coal mining into, you know, hydrogen, and there were people willing to do putting in all their money put in so much money to do this and we’re not talking little bickies you you’re talking billions of dollars from private people working to try and support this transition. And, you know, we’re now what, three, four years later? And we’ve done nothing really to push that barrow which we could be doing.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 08:46
So enough. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 08:49
But you know, for me, it was about giving me a platform, a scientific analysis of what I already knew, you know, I’ve been talking about it for a while before that. But it gave me a way to coalesce these things that I’ve been speaking about, and talking to others about, and giving talks about. So he’s still running this course. I mean, he was running them all the way through COVID. When the world was in lockdown, they were doing them on Zoom. So people could still become Climate Reality leaders.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 09:31
Is it aimed at people who have a background in this already and therefore it is giving you as you said, a platform to I guess, to speak to have your voice heard and a way to actually do that? Or is it also education so anybody can go along who might not necessarily have much of a background in climate science and understanding what’s going on there?

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 09:56
Oh, absolutely. Both of those things. You know. Yes there are those there and I was at a table, everyone was given a table and we had, I think dozen people at our table. And on a 20 people at our table, sorry. And there were people there who were from so many different walks of life, the surprising ones that were there with those who were with the national party, and you know, which are not necessarily known for their climate leadership. But these were people who said, “look, I’m here so I can change the national party from the inside”. You know, they wanted to get all the knowledge they could in order to be able to try and get that transition happening from within these big, bulky structures that are so embedded in doing things in a particular way. There were, you know, designers there that were fashion people, there were people studying at university, there were students, high school students so it really crossed so many boundaries and they really weren’t, there were no boundaries. In terms of the people that were there.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 11:09
You then went on to be an artist in residence on board the R/V Falkor, with the Schmidt Ocean Institute, while they completed multibeam mapping of the Coral Sea marine park and North Tasman Sea, the Great Barrier Reef, since then you use the resulting sonar mapping that creates 3d maps of the underwater landscape, which is also known as bathymetric survey. It’s much like LIDAR does on land. And this is to bring awareness about the current state of our oceans to can you tell me what you saw and the art that you’ve created to tell that story?

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 11:44
Oh, look, that was a that was a really interesting challenge. Just getting on board because of COVID was tricky to say the least. I mean, I had three false starts on getting onboard this ship, because it arrived in Australia in 2019, at the end of 2019, early 2020. And it was going off to WA and it was doing looking at actually deep sea coral reefs there. I was supposed to be there didn’t get there. But I was supposed to be at Christmas didn’t get there. But I made it in the February. So you know, as soon as the border open, jumped into Queensland, and I was on board and it was fabulous. I mean, Schmitt are an amazing group that doing some extraordinary support for our marine biologists, geologists, anything to do with the oceans. So, to be part of that I was so privileged to be part of their group. And there were 32 of us onboard this vessel for a month.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 12:48
Were you the only non crew or not non scientists? Oh, wow. Okay, that that would have been very, really special.

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 12:56
Yes. It was-it was everybody else that was on there was either a student working in some sort of Marine Scientist, or Geologists, or crew. So yeah, it was it was pretty special. And they was everybody was just so supportive. And they really love having the artists on board, because they add that different dimension to what’s going on. So, for me, I’ve been doing this series of drawings for a long time now. So, since I went to Galapagos in 2014, I have been sitting at the front of the vessel that I’m traveling on. And every morning, I draw what is immediately in front of the vessel. This became a problem when I realized after day one where we, you know, left port, and I looked out to sea the next morning, and that was all I was going to see for the next month was just the ocean because we were not making landfall, we were going nowhere to look at from the surface. So, I started to work with Alicia, one of the PhD students from Woollongong. And we were we were working to map what was under the vessel that the vessel was actually using the multibeam to map for the one hour prior to seven o’clock every morning. And so it created this journey where she was giving me these computerized visuals of what was happening underneath the ship. And I was then translating them into a pencil drawing within a book. And so it really became the focus of a lot of what I was doing was how to how to interpret this landscape because we just can’t see it and there are mountains under there, three kilometres high, that you just have no idea that they there and some things that aren’t mapped at all and you know, it was pretty mind blowing. So in working with Alicia and with the technologists there as well, we Viet, and he was one of the other technologists, I was working to get some of the code, because what happens is because huge bank of computers, and as the pings ring out under the water to collect the data, and as the name says it’s multiple beams, it’s not just one beam going down, this is multiple beams going down into the water. And so what was coming up into the computer was really code and the code was being translated. And then that was being formed into these three-dimensional landscapes, which was really just a skin, you know, because we’re not seeing what’s underneath, because we’re not doing core sampling or anything like that. We don’t know and we can’t look at it because it’s buried underwater. So we can just get an idea of what skin is being formed from this landscape.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 16:05
and what were they looking for? What was the research, you know, therefore?

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 16:11
So this is part of a larger, this particular mapping is part of the larger, worldwide program, where they’re trying to map the entire ocean by 2030. So it’s truly ambitious. And but it’s, it’s, you know, they’re arguing at the moment that if we map everything, then we can figure out which bits we really need to save, you know, there are questions that if you know, what’s down there, are you going to save it? Or are you going to exploit it? You know, it does raise other questions, but I get it, you know, it’s an area that we’re still going to looking at going to Mars, and we go to the moon and all of this, but we have no idea what’s in our own oceans, and all the amazing creatures and the landscapes that we see down there. So being involved with those scientists was fantastic because I learned so much about geomorphology now and the underwater landscape, but But in, in the translation of these multibeam imagery back into the computer, I was really interested in the code and what the code looked like. So I asked if I could have a section of code, and they were all fine with that, because it’s open source, all their information that they collect is all open source. So they gave me a they said, look, it’s really big. So they gave me a notepad file. And I got home. And I thought, This is really great. And I opened up the computer and I’m looking at them going, that’s really exciting. I’ve never seen half of those symbols, they look really cool. I’ll just print out a few pages. And I pressed print. And I’m waiting and waiting and waiting. And it’s spooling and spooling and spooling and spooling and spooling and spooling and ongoing woah. So when this reach 600 pages, I thought maybe I should try different things. So I stopped that I thought, maybe if I translate it into a PDF, then I can easily just print a page and I tried to do that. And when it got to like 57,000 pages of gone, it’s just crashed. I go “Holy moly! you know, this is really extraordinary”. So then I went in, and I just collected sections of these code and started to create different interpretations of the landscape that we were mapping. And then I was getting computer generated images of and so I started to then create these images just using the code.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 18:50
And that code is what we see one of your exhibitions as a backdrop, is that correct? Where you’ve got the, you’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong here, but you’ve got the shapes of the fantastic looking, I thought there was sea urchins or the circular shapes, and then you’ve got the code background behind that. Am I getting that right?

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 19:13
They’re all about the ocean. So that backdrop is a different aspect of how we’re impacting on oceans. So this code is different to that. So the works that I’m still producing from this code, there was seen in a magazine that was just recently published about the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s trip. So in the Orion magazine, which is a magazine from America, so I one of my drawings is in that magazine, talking about that, but the one you were talking about the ceramics, they’re based on a coral from Lord Howe Island called Favia speciosa. So it’s like a brain coral. And I’ve made these really quite large and the text that is on these corals. This is the list of plastics that I collected from my time on Lord Howe Island. I did three walks, one on each of the main beaches, and I collected every single item off the beach, in those walks, and then I catalogued it all colour coded it, measured it. And so I then created a work called Corpses of the Everyday, which is a 5 meter by 3.6 meter sheet of builders plastic, with this coat with this detail information all over it as a single line of text. So text has been part of my work for quite some time.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 20:42
That is, I guess, mind blowing for me, because I always thought of Lord Howe Island as really pristine, and that you, you wouldn’t find so much plastics, but I guess it’s the same as everywhere else, isn’t it? There is just so much plastic in our world that we can’t get away from it. We’re drowning in our own creation really,

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 21:04
Totally, completely drowning in it. And it’s not just the physical pieces, although the physical pieces, the impact is just extraordinary and just dreadful, the physical pieces, but as they breaking down, they’re releasing all these endocrine disruptors, which are starting, which had been in the last 10 years, starting to make themselves known through the changing of fertility rates amongst different creatures that live in our oceans. So you know, it’s not just the plastic, I mean, I went to the plasticity conference a few years back in Sydney. And they were talking about the fact that we started with like, 50 types of plastic. And the manufacturers and designers come aboard and say, Oh, we like what this one does but we wanted to do what that one does. So they started mixing them a bit like an artist’s palette. Now we have over 57,000 different types of plastic. And it’s not so much the plastic, which the physical, the physical plastic itself is inert. It’s the actual binders they’re using to hold these plastics together. That’s where, you know, a big part of the problem and our future problem as they break down in our oceans, or our land, or, you know, end up in our water systems is going to come from.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 22:34
Yeah, a very big problem for us now and as you said, into the future. Hopefully, we have some very brilliant minds among us who can solve this problem. Yeah. So in 2017, you were awarded a place on the Ninth Wave Floating Lab on their inaugural trip, which was on a 16 meter sailing boat, which they’re about bringing people together from different artistic backgrounds to connect with local people. Can you tell me more about this and how it promotes cultural diversity?

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 23:09
Look, I’ve been with them in previously, and this particular one you’re talking about in 2017, this was to Antarctica. So, you know, we’ve got to put it in perspective. I was on a 30 meter ship with them in the Faroe Islands, which was fantastic. And then I go to Antarctica, and I was on a 16 meter sailing ship, you know, going across the Drake Passage,

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 23:35
and hot bedding at the same time.

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 23:38
Yeah, because it was only there were eight of us on board. But there were only three, three actual bunk spaces. And so the captain and first mate were sharing the captain’s room, but the others there were only three spaces. So yeah, hot bedding was what was going on. So which means for those who don’t understand what hot bedding is, it’s where you sleep in a space. And then when you get up in the morning, the person who’s been doing the night shift will come and get their head down or go to sleep. And so you’re basically leaving a hot bunk for somebody else to come and getting, which when you’re in Antarctica, theoretically, you know, it’s not so bad because a bit warmer. But yeah, it was it was a pretty extraordinary trip with them to Antarctica. We were because we were the first shift in the group to go down and I believe they’ve done a number of trips since are after the one I did they certainly went straight away again. We had problems so you know, we got the Drake Passage in its full glory. Six days trapped in this little floating cork on the ocean was pretty mind blowing. And then, you know, we’re not even arrived and the boom pin his half out and the throttle cable is breaking. And there’s all these problems with the vessel. And it’s freezing because the heat is gone. And you know, it was it was pretty wild. Yeah.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 25:14
And you go the full Antarctica experience, I’ll say totally,

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 25:20
Totally. So we really only made it to Deception Island, where the Spanish station there were just fabulous. So, you know, we were able to effectively get all our repairs. And you know, that was really great. And we managed to leave to go to Livingston Island three days later. The end, when we’re in Deception Island, I was walking on the beach, and it was so interesting to see that we’re there. Our impact is already there we have all these, you know, there was just this not as much obviously as what’s on Lord Howe Island, because it’s got further to go. And it’s got currents different currents got to deal with, but there was still stuff there, there were photographic containers, you know, that you used to put your own film in before we went digital. There were those on the beach, there were gloves on the beach people things people had dropped overboard, obviously, when there been a tourist traveling down there. And then there was a piece that I created artwork called Unhappy Feet. This piece of plastic is probably out of all the plastics that were there, this was collected for me by one of the other people that were on the vessel when they went to one of the penguin colonies. And this piece is truly traumatic, it is what is left of a penguin who has eaten a net. So this blue net now could have been an orange net could have been your orange bag, but this was a blue net. And one would have assumed it had a piece of fish in it, which meant that the penguins gone, “yay, free food”. And it started to eat the net. But the net was so large that it can and the way that its throat is shaped is that so it doesn’t lose food, the fish because they’re slippery, it has all these little nodules inside its throat to push everything to keep it going down. And so it had to ingest this entire net. And when you look at the work Unhappy Feet, it is the internal map of the penguin, you can see where it’s heart was you can see where its lungs was, you know, you have this negative space of what you would never normally see inside the penguin manifested in this, net and you can see where its bodies tried to break it down. And it’s fused together. And it’s just for me, it was one of the most devastating things to see there.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 28:03
I’d like to guess discuss that a bit more of the actual emotional response to Antarctica, especially with things like this, because so I too have been on a trip to Antarctica back in 2020. And whilst mine was quite different to yours. I didn’t get thrown around drag passage on a sailing boat, we went on a research vessel, which was absolute luxury compared to what you’ve gone through. But I think I had a very similar emotional response. When we the first morning we arrived in Antarctica, I was obviously super excited and looked at the porthole in our room. And the first thing I saw was three ships. And for me I was for me it was kind of slightly devastating because it was the last frontier in my mind and the the emotional response of what I felt from that and then going on to the actual Peninsular and again finding evidence of humans. I guess in a way I was just in this is really weird space because I was really blown away and excited by where I was and the actual landscape was nothing I’ve ever seen before, but at the same time, devastated that it wasn’t the last frontier. How does, how did that make you feel?

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 29:26
Oh, look, you know, Antarctica, I feel really conflicted about it. I think that overall, we should stop going. I mean, we really should we have to have somewhere on the earth, that we don’t go as tourists that we just respect the space. Antarctica is a bit like Galapagos you know, so in the 90s you had 20,000 30,000 people going In 2014, when I went to the Galapagos, there was 216,391 people Antarctica and that’s got a single government body that Galapagos has a single government body that could control the tourism. Antarctica doesn’t have that, it doesn’t have one voice to say how many tourists can go there and this is where the problem really lies in the future of tourism down there. Because if you’ve gone to a vessel, and you can do all the ticks and checks with the safety, anybody could go. And that’s what being on that 16 meter sailing boat underlined for me. That there is no control, absolutely no control about where you go, what you see how you do it. And, you know, there are vessels now that are upwards of 500 passengers now that are going to head towards Antarctica. And they’ve got this pseudo-science thing happening, because we all want to, we all want to be a pseudo-science, now that we, we’ve seen it all through David Attenborough showing us all of this amazing stuff. So we want to get into the sub, and we want to do the flyover on the helicopter. And these impacts that we’re having. I mean, every time a helicopter takes off, it actually impacts the wind that it makes impacts on ice. So you know, in New Zealand, where you’ve got glaciers, and you’ve got these people who are doing these flyovers on helicopters, they’re actually causing that glaciers to melt quicker. Because all of that extra movement of air over the ice makes it melt quicker. So, you know, I really worry about that future. And I know that Australia and Greenpeace and a whole lot of other groups, trying to get more of Antarctica, sealed off, to not have it as part of the tourist thing. And luckily, at the moment, you’ve only got a section where people can really travel to, and that’s most people come down out of South America, either Argentina through Usuia or the smaller vessels or go out of Puerto Williams in Chile, and then they all hit down the Peninsula from there. So it’s just the sheer numbers that are going to create the problem and our impact. Physically there, what has remained, I mean, Deception Island Oh, yeah, great, we can go there. And what’s there, it’s an old whaling station that hasn’t been cleared up, that’s got all this metal, rotting and corroding. But it doesn’t create corrode like it does everywhere else in the world. Because it’s such a slow climate, it takes, it’s going to take 1000s of years for that stuff to get out of it. But we want to go and look at this whaling station and its debris and poke at. And what I found interesting about that whaling station is because the melt is, you know, it was summer, so there’s a certain amount of melt. But there was also a grease that was on the land, this fatty grease, and I really wondered whether that was the remnants or part of the remnants of the whaling industry that was there. And when we were outside on the vessel, it was interesting that whales were coming to the opening of Deception Island, to the Caldera, which is where everyone goes into the whaling station. But they didn’t go in and the Spanish station said they haven’t been going in, they don’t go inside it, and it would have been a place of refuge for them in Antarctica. But because we turned it into a whaling station, it’s almost like they’re taking their kids along out the outside and said,” Don’t go in there, the boogeyman lives in there, and go in the memory of it come out again”. You know, this is our legacy

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 33:56
It is I find it. Yeah, emotionally devastating. And I agree with you that we need to protect Antarctica better than what we’re currently doing. So let’s move on and have a chat about your awards. So you’re the finalist in the Alice prize and the North Sydney Art Prize. Can you tell me more about that?

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 34:19
Oh, look, I’m so you know, honoured to be recognised for my art to be recognized and be part of these prizes. And the Alice prize is such an amazing prize. I mean, it began in 1970. And it was all about bringing contemporary art from around Australia, into the central part of our nation. So that, you could have this connection. The people that lived in there could have this connection to what was going on around Australia. So now it’s run every two years. And my work that I had in the Alice prize this year is a work that has a connection between evolution and a connection between the now. So I’ve used, sectioned and stained trees, tree dandelion. So for those who don’t know, the dandelion, the thing that you love to hate in your lawn or in your garden, actually, in the Canary Islands grows into a tree still looks like a dandelion still has the same serrated leaves. Pretty extraordinary thing. So I did a residency in New York, and I worked on with the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. And they have a nature and technology laboratory. So I was able to work with the dandelion tree and so I sectioned and stained parts of it, and created a photographic series and I’ve painted in the work that I have in the Alice, I painted over the top of this with a landscape image of trees that has the trunks the actual section and stained images. So it’s that connection to the land and evolution and how one thing can become another over time, if given time. So that’s pretty, that was pretty chuffed that that they really liked the work and I’m, I’m there, you know, so and then also the North Sydney Art Prize, wow, I’ve been this is my second year in a row that I’ve been in them, in the prize. And especially since it’s been in the coal loader. It’s fabulous space, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the coal loader in North Sydney, but it’s really worth going and having a look at and they’ve got these tunnels in as part of this park area. And inside the tunnels are cells, you know, these carved out into the sandstone cells. I’m not sure what they were useful, but I’m using it, I’m going to set up an installation called the Suffocation of Avarice. And this installation is looking at the everyday. So you know, I’m actually putting in a table and chairs and a dining setting. And then at the end and I’m putting underneath it, things that are impacted by the way we don’t think about our daily existence. So you know, we go and have a meal, we don’t really think about the impact that simple, everyday thing can have. So underneath are some of those ceramic works with the text on them with the you know, litany of the pollution that in our oceans off New South Wales, and then then wrapping the whole lot in builders plastic. And you know this for me to smother the whole thing in builders plastic is about making that thing of plastic, more tangible, of that suffocation of what we’re doing to the environment more tangible, and our obsession with transforming the land to be more habitable for us, regardless of how that habitation affects what we’re, you know, what we’re impacting on, which is coral reefs, which is, you know, all of these things that our oceans are reedbeds that are being, deleted, sent to extinction. So, by wrapping it in the plastic, and having the sounds of gentle waves moving and dripping, and melting, so they’ll be part of it is the melting of Antarctica, that I recorded when I was down there. So, I wanted all to sort of create an awareness. So you know, it interacts with the dampness of the space and of the stone walls, and it asks us about how we change things, how we impact on things. Yeah, so this is, this is really what I want to do is to make somebody think about the everyday

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 39:11
and what we can do. yeah. Yeah, exactly. We can do to, I guess, yeah, in our everyday how we can make small to even to large changes and on mass, we can have a difference. Yeah, it’s important.

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 39:27
Yeah, I mean, down to you know, your toothbrush. I’ve got another word called Gagged, which is it is which is a video installation, which will be shown in the Northern Rivers regional gallery for my solo show, which is coming up in May, which will run for two months. And that’s a discussion about texts that I got from oceanographer Carl Safina in the book ’Gyre the Plastic Ocean, and I’ve used that text with permission as the nexus for this work. And it is It discusses this witnessing the feeding of a chick by the, by the parent bird. And it’s fed the chick and the chicks going great, but I want more and the mother starts to then retch and gag. And, you know, the site as he describes it is so surreal, so out of place that, you know, his eyes are interrogating the scene and what’s coming out of her throat is a toothbrush. But she can’t get the toothbrush out because her neck needs to arch in order to regurgitate to feed her young and the toothbrush is straight and not bendy, so therefore the toothbrush is permanently stuck inside her body. Now, she under feeds her chick because she can’t get any more food in her gut, because she has this toothbrush. And it’s for me, it’s that touching of the everyday again, that we just don’t consider our simple thing of brushing our teeth at night, the impact of that one instrument if it is allowed to get where it should never be in our oceans, that it has such a knock on devastating effect for generations of species, not just the one bird that’s unfortunately walking around with the toothbrush.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 41:23
Well, thank you very much for our conversation today, Lea. It has been inspirational. Very interesting, and definitely at times funny and uplifting, to talk to you and share some of your stories about the work that you’re doing and the trips that you’ve been on. So were our listeners able to see your artwork on display in coming months.

Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger 41:48
Thank you Shonelle. Okay, well, the North Sydney May is a big month, because the North Sydney Art Prize opens in May, about mid May, and runs till the end of May. But I’m also in the in Ballina, the Northern Rivers community gallery there, I have a solo show there, which is about my Antarctic journey. So I’ll be giving three days of talks at the end of June because it runs for two months, that one, and I’ll be doing workshops and talks at the gallery in the last week of June before the exhibition comes down. So people can catch up with me there. And I’m also giving a talk during the North Sydney Art Prize as well. They’re doing artist talks at the Coal Loader so people come meet me. And yeah, asked me those questions that I have to think, “Oh, my God. How do I answer that?” You know, sometimes I can’t think of the answer straightaway. And I have to, you know, take a break. Yeah, exactly. Somebody asked me, I had some work in sculptures by the sea, in 2019, sorry, 2020, before everything shut down. And it was all about plastic. And she said, you know, the plastic comes from three or three rivers in the world. And I said, “that would be okay, if the plastic actually came from the West Coast of Australia. But I said this is East Coast plastic, so I can’t see your logic. If they’re all coming out of Asia, how is it making it through the Torres Strait into the East Coast?” So, you know, we have to we have to acknowledge that we are part of the problem. So but thank you so much Shonelle for having me on. You know, this podcast of The Green Line. I think it’s a great initiative by you.

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey 43:31
Thank you. It’s been wonderful to have you. So that wraps up this episode of beyond the green line. Thanks for listening. I’ve been Shonelle Gleeson-Willey your host

Outro 43:44
thanks for listening to this episode of beyond the green line brought to you by most environmental. Subscribe to our podcast for your weekly invitation to join the conversation. Until next time, keep thinking grain

About The Host

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey

Shonelle Gleeson-Willey is the highly credentialed Director of Moss Environmental. With over fifteen years’ experience working in the environmental sector as a Contaminated Lands Consultant and Environmental Manager on medium to large construction projects across Australia, Shonelle specialises in climate change risk assessments, contaminated land management, construction environmental management and sustainability.

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