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ephemeral launch @ Wollongong Art Gallery

The launch for ephemeral was held at Wollongong Art Gallery on Saturday 27 September 2014. It was organised by the the South Coast Writers Centre (SCWC), the event titled EPHEMERAL was one of a series of SCWC ekphrasic events where writers and poets responded to artworks in other media. Thank you SCWC!

Rike, Director of SCWC was MC
Aunty Barbara gave the Welcome to Country
Jack Baker officially launched ephemeral

I thank Rike, Aunty Barbara and Jack Baker for their generosity and support of ephemeral. All made a gorgeous contribution to the day and ephemeral in general.

This page documents the day:

View some of the responsese HERE

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Jack Baker kindly supplied a copy of the notes he used for his talk:

Thanks Rike and thanks Aunty Barbara for your warm words of welcome.
And a big welcome to Greer Taylor, creator of ephemeral.

Ephemeral – have you ever walked along a beach, same place each day? But each day the nature of the beach is different: some seaweed that wasn’t there yesterday, some shells from yesterday disappeared presumably covered with sand. On my walk today I found this piece of glass. It’s like I can have a little piece of the beach in my pocket for the day.

Ephemeral – the dictionary says it just lasts for a day … or two … or that it’s transitory. Like Lake Eyre, we all know it’s an ephemeral lake. Mostly it’s a dry salt pan. Not like Lake Illawarra, we all expect it to be there all day every day. It’s been permanent for millennia.
Ephemeral like the lovely ripple marks in the sand at low tide
Ephemeral like the extravagant build-up of life around Lake Eyre when it’s full of water
Ephemeral like the lovely arrangements of flowers/leaves/rocks made by Greer when she’s in the wilderness
Ephemeral – and as W.B.Yeats says
          For everything that’s lovely is
          But a brief, dreamy, kind delight

But there’s the shift you see – did you see it?
My beach
Yeats’s poems
Greer’s creations in the wilderness – are NOT so ephemeral after all.
I can hold my piece of glass for longer than a day
I’ve been reciting Yeats’s poems from my Everyman’s edition for years
I’ll be admiring the photos of Greer’s wilderness creations for years to come
And the book is much more than evocative photographs. There’s:

Poetry eg p31* 
Surrounded only by wilderness
I feel my alive-ness
and my usual silence is broken…
I shout to the stars, for they know
I am here…

Prose eg p21     
For a day I became a bird — flying low / over the dry outback.

Connection to nature eg p48        
I float like an insect on a leaf, rocked
by the breeze and its attendant surface ripple.

Stories eg p34   
In the distance a tree lost its battle with gravity
and falls with a sound like rolling thunder.
And in that moment of snapping connections
‘tree’ becomes ‘log’.

and there’s Messages eg p44        
A tree was cut years ago, its massive stump left as a reminder of the CRIME … the CRIME … the CRIME

Greer, I’ve worked in Ecology and Conservation Biology for many years, so I identify strongly with that particular message. A favourite quote of mine comes from a bloke who’s written about the current global extinction crisis, Edward O. Wilson. He’s considered to be the father of Ecology.
E.O.Wilson says:
every scrap of biodiversity is priceless, to be learned and cherished, and never to be surrendered without a struggle

Greer Taylor says:
p73   Wilderness is a repository for questions we do not yet know how to ask. It is nurturing and brutal, complex and simple, chaos and order, parsimonious, deep, full, mysterious... It is a reminder of other ways of being. It explains the reality of our existence: the web of life to which we are connected, without which we cannot be.

So! Who is this Greer Taylor; let’s meet this woman who can focus so clearly on nature and have us wondering about our place in nature.

Greer is a visual artist based in Wollongong. For the last 9 years she has worked full time, mainly making installation sculptures. She exhibits around Australia: recently at Sculpture by the Sea in Bondi and Lorne Sculpture Biennial in Victoria, as well as in solo and group exhibitions. She won the inaugural Sculpture at Scenic World Prize, held in the Jamison Valley rainforest in Katoomba in 2012 and, earlier this year, won the U.W.S. Acquisitive Sculpture Award.

She told me that she began writing in wild places rather secretly about 15 years ago (she’d always thought that she could NOT write) but as she accumulated more of her writing and also started making her small ephemeral artworks in the bush, she realised that the written work had a place alongside the visual work. The visual pieces capture the physical ephemerality found in wild places; the written works saturate the senses – the reader feels the ephemerality.

Before I hand over to Greer for her take on the book I have to launch it:
This beautiful book turns the ephemeral into the enduring. And it will endure all the better if we all buy a copy for ourselves and a few copies to give to friends.

ephemeral is launched

Jack Baker
September 2014

* Note from Greer: "ephemeral" does not actually have numbers enscribed on the pages... in an attempt to remove, at least part of, the linear aspect of a book.

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I had the opportunity to speak about the journey that brought me to this day:

This is quite surreal day for me… but most of all it is a day where I am able to share with you something I am deeply passionate about: my love of wild places in general and as encapsulated in this book.
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I have always found that sitting on a rock in a wild place is one of my favourite things to do:
when more than just your feet touch the earth
when your body feels the curves and bumps of the earth
and your fingers explore the textures of the rock you sit on
when your eyes seek patterns in the small universe around you
when your stop
when you can feel the earth breath 
that is the place from which this book has come…
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When I was younger I could never have predicted a day when I would publish a book that included writing – I had always thought I could not write to save my life!

…but on one of those days sitting on a rock words started bubbling up and I reached for an empty note book that for some reason I had carried around for ages…  and so to my surprise this conversation began.
… that would be about 15 years ago.

Quite a few years later I went to art college where I refocused my life onto ‘art-making’ – acknowledging that I could not ignore this thing that lives inside me like a mermaid and a wilderness.

At College, even though I went to learn to paint, I primarily re-learnt how much I love making objects.
Sculpture became my focus. I would (and still do) use objects collected from nature, especially sticks which I love: to me they are drawings that trees grow.

Initially I was only collecting in nature to bring back to the studio, but not making work in nature.


Greer Taylor speaking about the journey to reach today during EPHEMERAL at Wollongong Art Gallery

It was another few years later while soaking up the energy of the wild valley in which I was camped that I was drawn into the overwhelming fecundity of the day – wattle blossoms everywhere, the air was sweet and the earth was becoming a carpet of spent blossoms – red leaves dotted the ground ...and as this place was not frequented by too many campers (who so often strip camp areas of sticks for kindling) there was an abundance of sticks for me to play with.

I felt so much part of the flow - I had a sense of being inside a connection to everything – I remember it being a pretty potent experience. I  made quite a number of small works from the things I found that day and the next …

It was and still is when using fallen flowers, leaves or sticks, like borrowing their spent but still potent energy, calling them out of their timeline for a short moment to be arranged in small choreographed dances before they return to their task of becoming mulch…

I wrote no words on that trip – I just made things…
... that was about 8 years ago

On subsequent visits to wild places I have been drawn to either write or make, but curiously never both in the same place… and there are many times of course when I am simply drawn to sit on a rock: to stop, to feel the earth breath and smell the ants…

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It took quite a while longer again before I realised that the writing and the making belonged together
but once realised the seed of an idea to make a book was planted.
... that was about 5 years ago.

I continued making and writing (and sitting on rocks) but I also slowly began 'curating' the writing and images into a book that would be like a wild garden that could be wandered through in any direction
... that was 4 years ago.

And now today here I am able to share this project with you in the form of a physical book – it is tempting to say in its culmination but it is not – it is a project that will go on… but today is certainly a milestone along the way.

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At the  heart of this project are wild places – "ephemeral" is not specifically about the words or the artworks it contains: it is about being connected to nature about knowing that we are it and it is us and in that we are all things, and we will become all things. I hope that "ephemeral" might have the capacity to reinforce the importance of wild places in our lives, generate or revive an empathy for nature where one might have flagged or not yet existed.

Greer Taylor
27 September 2014