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Greener Pastures: Finding meaning in the great outdoors

Read Monday, 6 Apr 2020

From the Yellow Sea to Yucatán to Country – this selection from the archives is a journey through the outdoors. These discussions and investigations address nature as a source of inspiration for technology, art, design and communication. Or, they consider landscape as character, antagonist and deity – and note that every small detail plays a part in our interconnectedness. 

Leaf litter on a wet bitumen walkway
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Podcasts

As streets and cities become quieter, and one of Melburnians’ few permitted outdoor activities is taking a walk (or run), you might notice birdsong coming to the fore. In a talk from 2012, art historian Janine Burke questions if good design can be ascribed to birds. Throughout Artful Nesting, she shares her passion for aesthetically pleasing natural creations while musing on what can  or should  be defined as ‘art’.

There is much we can learn from a bird’s toolkit  about ourselves and about the world. Interviewed by Sean Dooley, celebrated science journalist Jim Robbins unveils the mysteries of these warm-blooded, egg-laying, feathered creatures in Feather Permitting.

Host Sophie Cunningham discusses the Landscape as Character in its own right, with writers Cate Kennedy and Adrian Hyland. In this vigorous discussion of craft, the writers credit landscape as muse and antagonist in their works, and question how urban sprawl, climate change and Indigenous traditions affect the way Australian writers interpret and engage with landscape today. 

In Black and Green, anthropologist Eve Vincent, Indigenous organiser and strategist Karrina Nolan and Unstable Relations contributor Jon Altman discuss tensions between mainstream environmentalism and Indigenous Australia. Hosted by Tony Birch. 

And, in a recording of our unique, intimate A Walk in the Park series from spring 2017, philosopher Damon Young and sociologist Ruth Quibell take a lap of Princes Park while talking about movement, thinking, daily conversation and … well, the act of walking itself.

Videos 

Outbound was a series exploring issues in rural and regional Australia. Stories of Country features three storytellers from the south-east and their connection to Country. Host Genevieve Grieves says, ‘In Indigenous ways of being, Country is place, Country is connection, knowledge, belonging and identity’ – and notes that these storytellers bring a view of Country that goes beyond many conceptions of what land is.

How does landscape determine story and character? Four renowned adventure writers Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love, The Signature of All Things), Robyn Davidson (Tracks), Tim Cope (On the Trail of Genghis Khan) and the late Rayya Elias (Harley Loco) interview each other about their physical and creative journeys in Tracks, Trails and Other Journeys

Plus, historian, playwright and TV writer Bill Garner elaborates on how camping makes us Australian – painting the camper not as an elusive figure, but a more inclusive figure than we might imagine. 

Hot Desk Extracts

Nimity James used found text from newspaper reports, Google searches and dreams to produce ‘Fox Dialogues: Reports from the Natural World’. These prose poems offer thoughts on nature as consolation and transformation while meditating on a pervading need to have animals in our lives. 

Check out extracts from Thabani Tshuma’s collection of poetry ‘Cultural Nomad’ – in which the writer characterises nature as a sympathetic listener and observer. 

Notes

Did you know that mudflats are one of the most ecologically rich environments in the world? Harry Sadler enlightens us on the beauty and significance of mud, and how shorebirds as far away as the Yellow Sea can remind us of how interconnected we are through nature. 

In ‘Lie of the Land’, André Dao considers different ways of interpreting landscape, and how each perspective projects a new meaning onto a place.

And, on a walk through Lower Eltham Park, Karen Andrews explores geocaching in ‘Ephemeral Art in Suburbia’. 

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Acknowledgment of Country

The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we live and work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past and present.