Year the project commenced: 2019
Year it became impossible: 2020
Audience not reached:2500​​​​​​​
“I began a one month's artists' residency at Hazelhurst Gallery in February 2020 under the title The Chaos Loom. It was a planned collaboration with Illawarra-based artist Catriona Stanton to scaffold our diverse sculptural and installation skills - building ideas in the studio and working towards a shared public work. The process began in September 2019, pre-Bushfires, pre-flooding and pre-COVID 19.   I planned on using giant Gymea lily stems to create a freestanding loom large enough for people to move in and around . The loom was a means of weaving wall-like membranes of found objects, grasses, plastics and weed species between ourselves.    I described the work as being about living creatures now weaving habitats for uncertain futures. The 'chaos' referred to the effects of the unexpected and the unknown being woven into the work by many hands. The Chaos Loom was intended to draw passers-by towards it, engaging with non-traditional de-constructed'weaving techniques, based on each person's intuitive response.   I hoped for it to become a travelling 3D loom that could set itself up in public event spaces allowing the general public to interact imaginatively with it and the weaving materials around it.”
  “In January 2020, the month before we began the residency, both Catriona and I were affected physically and emotionally by the huge bushfires that engulfed the east coast of Australia. Catriona had family in Canberra and I had a small studio in Bermagui - both places were surrounded by fires. It felt like no work could be made without referencing the overwhelming devastation.  Then, one week into our residency, huge gale-force winds and wild wet weather hit Sydney and the Illawarra, bringing trees down on the Hazelhurst Studio and the surrounding grounds. We were not allowed back into the studio to work for two weeks and the planned large-scale outdoor loom was considered too dangerous in high winds.  Within the final week I had to re-imagine it as a smaller, indoor, less-interactive piece.  I decided to continue my Chaos Loom  experiments as part of a live event I was designing in Mt Druitt called FunPark for an audience in Western Sydney.  It was a way to continue exploring ideas whilst using the structures as practical community engagement spaces.  During this time, stories of a virus in China and Europe were in the news, and the week after our truncated arts residency finished, Australia implemented it's COVID19 protocols, and suddenly, all my future theatre/teaching and event work was put on hold.   Funpark was immediately cancelled and Hazelhurst shut the gallery/studio doors.
I put all the bamboo and grass sculpture we had completed on the roof of my car and drove it back to the Illawarra. I had nowhere to put them except out on my grassy verge, in front of my rented home. Catriona and I decided we would wait until the virus blew over, and then start seeking other locations to build our fragile habitats again.  On the way home, my mobile phone fell off the roof of my car at high speed on the highway and smashed to pieces. It seemed the final impossible moment in the deconstructed chaos.
 The 'chaos' I had initially imagined  creating 'within' the loom is now happening all around us, and living creatures (bird, fish, reptile, insect, mammal/human) are rapidly losing their habitats and lives due to fire, flood and COVID19.  The initial proposal I wrote in September 2019 had to be re-imagined repeatedly in response to the continuing upheaval.  When the fires died down in late January 2020, and before the other catastrophes, I went on a long road trip to the worst of the bush fire zones, stopping every 50km or so, and walking through still-smoking ashes, gathering the remains of trees, grasses, fences and burnt structures. I re-thought how to weave and construct a loom made from these burnt deformed sticks and focused firmly on habitat loss and reconstruction as my residency themes. I imagined the Chaos Loom would rapidly disintegrate into charcoal and burnt fibres, so I began using local bamboo stems as my base construction instead of bush wattles and gymea lilies.  Additionally I had been told that I would run the risk of being fined if caught, post bushfire, with the now threatened gymea stems on my roof racks.  Then, when the winds and floods blew trees down around the Hazelhurst studio in mid February 2020, I started gathering police and SES tapes as a weaving medium,  incorporating bright plastics amongst the grasses and bamboos. The 3D free-standing works began to go into a more 'sentient' mode - each piece developing an individual comic character, wearing their plastic tapes like safety-vests in a storm.
So, when FUNPARK (a place-making event, designed to give the residents of Bidwill a sense of pride in their own spaces) asked me to create spaces for people to gather outside (funded as part of the Bienale NIRIN program) I proposed the new-look Chaos Loom habitats as a fun interactive starting point, inviting Mt Druitt participants to use locally sourced plastics, tins, wires and plants and to weave new colourful structures with me.  When COVID19 canceled all live events in mid March 2020, I brought all the Chaos Loom habitats home and 'planted' them along the roadside verges near my house. I live along a railway line, and have been guerrilla gardening there for five years, so began making an improvised sculpture garden on the grassy verges with the structures. For 3 months I wondered if I could continue to create work that required many hands.   Then, through the local Illawarra council, I won a small grant increase the scale of the project and place these sculptural installations near a railway tunnel underpass. Catriona was unable to rejoin me but I involved another local artist called Louise Manner, known for her delicate and quirky illustrations, to collaborate with me on making some up-cycled art responses for and with the street.  Louise and I have now begun working with the community around the 'creative corners'  to tell local stories in painted and sculptural mediums.
The original direction for  'Habitats for an Uncertain Future' has now split into several distinct iterations: the woven 3D sculptural habitats will now house local book libraries and form large scale Bower Bird nests amongst the local trees, the railway fences will become giant looms on which we will weave abstracted landscapes using found plastics and the neighbours' wooden fences have become canvases on which we are coordinating large scale murals painted by local families. Ideally, the railway tunnel will also become a canvas , and I am working with a group of mid-20s street artists to conceive of a 'Habitats for an Uncertain Future' imagery.  When COVID19 eventually dies down, the  original chaos loom idea will re-emerge - this time becoming roving Performance Pods - small ti-pi like structures, colourfully woven with found plastics, wools, grasses and solar powered LED wires with the hope of creating small easily moved and cleaned performance habitats for 1-2 performers at a time.   Time will tell if this iteration needs to change shape again. Although the projects are building a faithful local audience it is currently substantially more intimate than the estimate 3000 who would have experienced the original project. Overtime though, it will grow and the plan is for an audience of around 8000.
Collaborating artists - 
Sculpture CHAOS LOOM - Catriona Stanton 
Graphics CREATIVE CORNERS - Louise Manner
AIR Curator, Hazelhurst Gallery - Carrie Kibbler 
and the neighbourhood of Austinmer​​​​​​​

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