The ongoing quest to create a manifesto continues …

In the previous installment of this story, I defined a manifesto as something which is:

Declarative! // For This! // Against That!

As you will have seen, Kim and I have never felt comfortable with that mode of communication. Perhaps we think too much, but we seem to always come to the conclusion that things are a bit more complicated than that. Also, bubbling away in the back of our minds was the idea that the Biennale staff themselves should be the ones to come up with a manifesto. Who are we to impose something upon them? All our experience in community-based co-design tells us that a solution is going to “stick” a lot more, if it’s the invention of the people themselves.

However, we hung around with the biennale staff for a fair while and no endogenous manifesto seemed forthcoming. They were just a bit busy, you know, actually getting their festival together. Then it occurred to me – the reason the Sydney Biennale commissioned us was so that they could outsource this work. Perhaps that’s the thing with arts organisations – they need artists to say the things out loud that they themselves can’t say.

With this in mind, I felt emboldened to scratch out the next manifesto iteration. This one, we called the “versus” drawing (or, as Kim calls it jokingly, harking back to Mad magazines of yore, “spy vs spy“).

This was the first draft, scrawled in my notebook en route to a meeting with the board of directors of the Biennale of Sydney:

versus drawing - first sketch
Continue reading “THIS vs THAT”

The Growing Up Hub: a new proto-manifesto emerges…

What is the function of a manifesto? And how far can you stretch the definition before it becomes meaningless? And then, even if you fall short of making something properly-manifesto-like, could the failed attempt be useful in its own right? (And if so, useful for what?) It’s with these questions in mind that I continue my ruminations on the role of manifesti in the Plastic-free Biennale project.

As I discussed in an earlier blog post, our first attempts at creating a Plastic-free Manifesto resulted in three things:

  • A what should we do? reflective dialogue, in which we nervously mapped out our relationship to the problem underpinning our project;
  • A CAPITAL-LETTERS-WALL-OF-WORDS inventory of all the plastic crap in our houses (our so-called “concrete poem”);
  • And a short punchy poem contributed by Wadi-Wadi elder Aunty Barbara Nicholson.

Perhaps Aunty Barb’s invective against the tut-tutting of a white do-gooder visiting a remote Aboriginal community comes closest to sounding like a real manifesto (Declarative! // For This! // Against That!). But Kim and I felt like we hadn’t yet scratched the manifesto itch – and our ongoing case of pruritus turned out to be generative.

Continue reading “The Growing Up Hub: a new proto-manifesto emerges…”

Microplastics Citizen Science Field Trip – the Video

The NIRIN 2020 Biennale of Sydney rolls on!

After being shut down due to COVID19 from March to June, the exhibition venues for the Biennale have re-opened until September/October. This is great news if you want to take the ferry to Cockatoo Island and see Plastic-free Biennale in the flesh, alongside a plethora of brilliant artworks from around the world.

While the exhibition is back on, public gatherings for scheduled events are still not allowed. We had planned two “Citizen Science Microplastics Field Trips” for kids and adults as a public program component of our project. But these were cancelled. Our plan had been to take people to a beach in Sydney Harbour. Participants would sift the supposedly pristine sand and discover how microplastics are everywhere. Alas, it was not to be.

Instead we used this period of isolation to make a “virtual field trip” – a video featuring our colleague, University of Wollongong microplastics researcher Nuwanthi Kanchana. In the video, Nuwanthi takes us through the basics, searching for the dastardly coloured fragments a Wollongong beach. It’s a bit like panning for gold!

If you look closely, you’ll see some cameos by our collaborators the Sisters of Perpetual Plastics, as well as Albie from kids’ music group The Plastic Highlighters. Credit to our friends at WayWard Films for shooting and editing the video.

And remember, despite all the attention given to COVID, the plastics crisis has not gone away. On the contrary, it’s intensified the production and disposal of plastic products, essential in protective products to keep humans safe. Plastic gloves, plastic masks, single use bottles of hand sanitiser, plastic packaging used by the postal service… The pandemic has ushered in an acceleration of plastic use. The focus has been on human health at the expense of environmental health.

masks wash up on the beach
Environmental activist Gary Stokes collected dozens of discarded masks from a Hong Kong beach in February.(Oceans Asia) – from article at the LA Times.

HRH MC Nannarchy’s Plastic Wrap: 2020 Biennale of Sydney COVID-19 Lockdown Version

We at Plastic-free Biennale are constantly trawling the ocean floor for polymer gems to bring to you, dear fans.

Case in point: our colleague, HRH MC Nannarchy (from Cairns).

Now, as part of the Biennale, we had planned to convey the esteemed MC to Cockatoo Island via sedan-chair for an in-person exclusive audience, but COVID blah blah cancellation etc etc you know what I’m talking about.

So, here She is, unleashed on the whole internet-accessing universe, with her brand-new Plastic Wrap. And, if you do manage to get to Cockatoo Island to see the NIRIN Biennale 2020 exhibition there (until September), this video has also been incorporated into our installation in Building 101.

Video credits: thanks to WayWard Films for edits and digital finessing.

PS – our colleague Sister Ninny Nurdles recently interviewed MC Nannarchy at the Podcast of Perpetual Plastixcheck it out here.

More about HRH MC Nannarchy: She is aided and abetted by her granddaughter Helen Ramoutsaki. Dr Ramoutsaki is an Adjunct Research Associate with the Creative Ecologies Research Theme at The Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Queensland, Australia. To check out more from Helen and Nanna, click here

Podcast of Perpetual Plastics – Episode 2

It’s a meeting of plastic superheroes! Sister Ninny Nurdles (aka Amber Jones) in conversation with HRH MC Nannarchy, in episode 2 of the Podcast of Perpetual Plastix!

On her blog, Sister Ninny Nurdles writes:

This 16-minute interview focuses on Nanna, as she shoots her satirical plastic opinions, from her point of view as a plastic-led researcher and the Queen of the Plasticene Marine. Our conversation includes her views on plastic confession, the capital plastic sins, and her bid for royal domination through her royal divine right to a used-plastic monopoly-vinyl.

Throughout our lighthearted discussion, Nanna also attends to the serious underlying messages about over-consumption, plastic waste and privileging the economy over the environment. Find out about her ‘plasti-avarice’, what the HRH in her name stands for, and what her magic recipe is for saving the world. She might even be hiding something from us, so tune-in to find out.

It was an absolute honour to sit down and have a chat with MC Nannarchy. I would like to thank her on behalf of everyone here at the PLASTIC-FREE BIENNALE team, she is nothing less than a literary firecracker. To check out more from Helen and Nanna, click here.


HRH MC Nannarchy is aided and abetted by her granddaughter Helen Ramoutsaki. Dr Ramoutsaki is an Adjunct Research Associate with the Creative Ecologies Research Theme at The Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Queensland, Australia.

Sister Ninny Nurdles (aka Amber Jones) is one half of the Sisters of Perpetual Plastix, who we’ve invited to join us on the Plastic-free Biennale Project (read more here).

The Podcast of Perpetual Plastix – Episode 1

Here’s episode 1 of The Podcast of Perpetual Plastix, provocatively titled: “How can you put milk in a brown paper bag?”

Join Sister Ninny Nurdles on her audio journey tackling the big P problem with her friends and family members. Why do we use plastic? Is it really harmful to us and our environment? Find out what people think.

Song Credits: The Plastic Highlighters, Plastic in the House (2020)

Sister Ninny Nurdles (aka Amber Jones) is one half of the Sisters of Perpetual Plastix, who we’ve invited to join us on the Plastic-free Biennale Project (read more here).

16 plastic items fished out of the skip bin at Cockatoo Island, March 2020

Sisters of Perpetual Plastix are going off!

juundaal and amber
Juundaal Strang-Yettica (blue hair) and Amber Jones (Hawaiian shirt) at the Plastic-free Biennale headquarters, Cockatoo Island, March 2020

A few weeks back we introduced Juundaal and Amber, aka The Sisters of Perpetual Plastix.

The sisters joined us as “team members” in the Plastic-free Biennale project – they volunteered themselves to jump in and help out. In fact, Juundaal and Amber were students in “Art Nature and the Environment”, the class Kim and I taught at University of Wollongong last year. They approached us after class one day to take part. How could we say no?
Continue reading “Sisters of Perpetual Plastix are going off!”