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Regional Art Stories Sandalwood: ten region epigraph

by Tristen Harwood for Regional Assembly

epigraph one

“The world [Earth] is our sovereign, our solace, our beloved.”

– Freya Mathews

epigraph two

Futility of all literary and artistic pursuits:

• 80% of Earth’s biomass are plant species

• At 15% bacteria across all ecosystems is a distant second

• Antarctic krill, a tiny crustacean, have a total biomass of a 100th of a percent, which is comparable to that of humans

• Antarctic krill cannot read, attend a gallery or concentrate on a screen

epigraph three

Either begin with a memory or the dirt.

Which, who, which does which?

Not now thanks, it’s raining.

I don’t know. I think of history as a kind of negotiation of completion. It expands and retracts.

Do you mean history or the past, memory?

Memory is the internal combustion engine of history. The eternal combustion engine is a monster.

Dirt can be monstrous too. Dorian Sagan wrote once that “life had been living in water, but then it evolved to split water’s molecules. This made a monstrous fire […] Green beings spread across the surface of the planet in a kind of green fire that has not stopped burning.

It begins with fire and extinction. “The release of oxygen (O2) from water (H2O) must have been a horror show for any beings that could feel.”

But what I wanted to say about the past is that it’s a map, it’s a concern for those concerned with mapping time. It’s not not history, which is also linear or narrative at least (memory is something else). History is the desire for fact where there can only be fiction. That is, as Saidiya Hartman says “Fact is simply fiction endorsed with state power… to maintain a fidelity to a certain set of archival limits.”

Dirt endorsed with state power is the state, it is enclosure – state sovereignty.

History is a mode of negation, look at any modern map, it’s always a representation of a certain – in this country – colonial ideology. It’s full of absence, reified.

epigraph four

What if the State had never existed.

epigraph five

Boab tree standing alone in a carpark in Darwin City, errant, regional.

“You can only search for your roots through poetry or knowledge.”

– Eduard Glissant

epigraph six

The colonial organisation of space is a process of simultaneously making territories uninhabitable and inhabitable, marking out ‘who matters and who does not’. This topography of cruelty is achieved by a physical, symbolical and administrative separation of peoples, land and life support systems enacted partly through the remote infrastructural control of water, housing, telecommunications, electricity, calories and so on. Cast an eye onto ‘remote’ Indigenous communities that exist in a state of siege. The targets here are not simply Indigenous lives or people, but Indigenous life, ways of being.

epigraph seven

“Each city receives its form from the desert it opposes”
– Italo Calvino 

The desert changes and churns, grasses burn, rain comes and the land floods.

Tourism: the orange earth engraved with an endless road, that long stretching emblem of frontier mythology, rousing the neo-colonial imaginary and promising ‘untouched’ land, removed from the commotion of the city.

epigraph eight

This month Richard McLellan, David Watson, and Kingsley Dixon published an article, presaging the extinction of the Australian (so-called) sandalwood. They urge the government to list Sandalwood, which though ‘wild’ is considered a forest product and so over-harvested to be sold and made into incense, candles, perfume, burned, it does smell nice.

For thousands of years before international trade sandalwood burned for thousands of years in ceremony.

epigraph nine

If as Henri Lefebvre has said, the city is socially constructed by its occupants. It is the product of collective labour. But what of the regions and their people, if we are to consider that the regions act as symbolic counterpart, a resource, and the getaway of the city?

epigraph ten

“Decry the sky tears to no more suffering

Delight the faces of earth smile

Where rivers meet the sea

The cities are made on soils”

  • Lionel Fogarty Stay Alive Next 16 Years (Fish Trap)

Just soils and relations

don’t rely on the state, the city, the region as the measure or form of space.

Soil reject priorities of the state.

Dirt memory remembers enough to exorcise itself of state power

Recalls, in ghost tongue, all the proper names for footprints, animal tracks and fallen leaves.