caitlin franzmann

Lay Low


Friday, 1 September 2023, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia

Quandamooka artist and Ensayista, Elisa Jane (Leecee) Carmichael is the curator of the one night event Spring at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s after-dark event Artbar. Featuring roaming performances, multi-sensory installations and workshops across all levels of the Museum, the spring edition of Artbar celebrates First Nations artists, Country, and our connection to nature.

For one night, Leecee will bring together artists in a space for exchange and community. This gathering is for respecting Country and celebrating the knowledges and practices that have arisen from deep connections, which remain and are thriving.

For the event, Ensayos members will be sharing scents, sounds and posters that are part of The Gift of Scent peatland conservation project, including a new poster design ‘lay low’ relating to the Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island) peatlands on the east coast of Australia. Ensayistas Caitlin Franzmann and Renee Rossini will be there to share stories from and for peatlands globally.


Wolves in the Mire: A Letter


Dear Listener,

I would like to share a few thoughts, stories and questions.

Join me in creating a landscape by imagining:

The air is crisp and cold on my cheeks,
the temperature is around 0 degrees Celsius

Under a pale sky, the bog stretches as far as I can see. Piles of beige straw, broken reeds.
Patches of rust, muted golds and green sphagnum, as if the ground is one big quilt.
Fluffy heads of Cotton sedge nod quietly in a gentle breeze.
Thin plumes of fog crawl across the mire.

Silvery trunks stand as ghostly monuments or tombstones for once mighty pines.
The bark-less wood is worm-eaten and covered with patterns carved by tiny bugs.
Yet underground the tree is still alive. The roots store it’s life force, the sap, the blood.

A few blows with my axe against the dark roots reveals the secret: amber colored, sticky and full of resin. The scent of the heartwood almost burns through my nasal passages. I shave off splinters with my knife, it feels like carving a precious gem. The wood is so saturated with resin, it’s almost translucent.

In Norwegian, the process of the pine conserving itself in the bog is called Tyri.
This fat-wood used to be an important commerce good back in the day.
These pine «mummies» can be as old as 500 years.

As an artist working with smell, I was intrigued by this phenomenon. I brought the Tyri home to my alembic still, I ran a distillation of the wood shavings and extracted the aromatic oils from the pine roots.

Engaging in this project with Ensayos, I really had to ask myself,
How does one re-create the smell of a landscape?
How can I facilitate for an olfactive landscape to come alive in contact with other bodies and become meaningful for each nose?

When working with scent, I use molecules from the perfume and flavor industry as well as natural extracts of many kinds. When composing the scent «wolves in the mire» I studied a very interesting molecule called Geosmin.

Imagine a shower of rain after a very hot day.
Imagine opening your window, the smell coming through.

We humans don’t exactly have the best noses in the animal kingdom.
We don’t have a mutual language for describing the experience of scent.
We usually don’t need to rely on or sense of smell to navigate our everyday lives.
Yet scent is fundamental to us. Smell and memory are deeply connected.

When the raindrops hit the ground, bacterias in the soil react and start producing, releasing and exchanging chemicals like Geosmin and ozone. We inhale the freshness of the downpour and experience a unique sensation: «the smell of rain!» It is a scent so dear to us as a species, so connected to the survival of our food crops and the health of our soils that our capacity to detect these odorous molecules is exceptional, it is carried on through our evolution in our genes.

We can smell Geosmin in parts per trillion!
In other words, we are exceptionally good at smelling this molecule!

Lying down with my nose in the bog I smell Geosmin.
I let my fingers dig into the moss.
I pull out the sphagnum, I smell roots. seaweed, dog, bog, dog,
bogdog soilweed seadog roothub dogbog weedwolf mosstub searootbogweed…

The bog is a place of mystery and wonder.
Death-bringer and life-giver. Conserving degradation?

I recently heard an artist named Daniel Lie give a lecture about the queerness of the rotten:
In their work of sculpture landscapes, the contingency of decomposition of materials was held space for. They asked, can we use decomposition as a tool for breaking the binary:
Biomass and necromass, cherish all the states in-between?

Now, close your eyes.
Go back and imagine the bog:

Break down,
remember, exhale, retract, embrace, fill, expose, retain, lose, prepare, forget…

Put your right wrist up to your nose.

Inhale and feel welcome to accept this invitation to connect to this landscape, its stories as well as ours.

Diary Entry: Minjerribah, Australia, December 2022


Members of the Australia, Chile and northern European pod gathered to learn, share and play in the peat of magical Minjerribah on the east coast of Australia.  Before soaking into the details of this patterned fen foray, I would like to acknowledge the reason we were able to see, feel, smell, drink in and learn from these unique wetlands.

Our peat is here today thanks to the dedicated, intricate, holistic, and integrative care for Country provided by Quandamooka peoples since time immemorial.  I live and work and have the pleasure of learning from many parts of Quandamooka Country, from the leaves and bubbles and from the knowledge holders and protectors of land who carry these precious things.  No words on a screen can capture my sense of gratitude and privilege, all I can do is try to show it in the way I hold Country in my life, and work to protect and integrate it in diverse ways.  Ways that reflect that I am a first-generation migrant, my connection to this place can only ever be as deep as those surface layers of living plants above meters of deep, dense, rich peat, but I can learn of and imagine the richness below and show respect for its role in holding all of us occupying this surface layer for our short time.


I am Renee Rossini, one of the members of the Australian pod.  I am an ecologist who has soaked her feet in many types of unique wetlands in so-called Australia for the last few decades.  I am also an artist and educator.  I see ecology, and my place as a queer ecologist, as a science of weaving and transcending or blurring the lines between things – science/art, human/non-human, teacher/learner.  For me, ecology is serving a purpose – a lens to understand, cherish and communicate the rich narratives that exist around us, especially those that are overlooked or we are at risk of losing. My membership in Ensayos comes from this place.

For this blog, I was given the honor of documenting our collective experience.  I felt like I wanted to capture some of our learnings, our journeys of discovery and our discussions.  I wanted something less structured than an essay; it didn’t feel true to the sense of play and discovery we held as a group during our time.  Of all the scrawled drawings on napkins, and in sand, and on whiteboards trying to capture the ideas.  I sat with myself and pulled from the peat some key messages, or learnings, I felt we looped and returned too.  And given our time was on Minjerribah, on this very unique type of peat, I wanted to try and capture some of the things that our peat brings to the Ensayos table.  I felt drawn to document these things through words, pictures, maps.  And I want to string them together into something (hopefully) coherent.

What I love about Ensayos, its philosophy and our shared practice, is that everything is a process, a journey.  There is no room full of canvases at an opening event, there is no final show, or sale.  I owe Freja Carmichael so much for teaching me about this over our years together.  There are core themes – a heuristic – and core places – bogs, mires, fens, peat.  And it’s how we are all playing with and interacting with those things that we try to capture and communicate.  In the spirit of this, I’ve tried to alleviate the pressure on myself to ‘complete’ something.  And instead, to ‘document’ something, capture a tiny view through a window of a much larger structure that is only partially visible.



It’s easy to forget how unique Minjerribah and the broader sand island system is.  You can be driving up a hill, distracted by the glittering sea, and forget that the slope you are climbing is the face of an ancient dune.  And below the bitumen, and scribbly-bark litter, is nothing more than sand.  No bedrock, nothing solid.  Just sand.  It could shift – if we sit in deep time, it has shifted a long way.  Its solidity now comes from its crust of plants, and people. 

Explaining how so much sand came to be in this place requires some big spatiotemporal thinking.  I have attempted to capture so many things at once – on the bottom, how the sea has risen and fallen over the past 150 thousand years, because Quandamooka Country is sea and land, they are inextricably tied, they are not separate beings.  In the centre, how that shifting of the sea made way for the shifting of sand.  How ancient volcanos and coastal breezes worked together to build immense dune fields that are so old we forget we are standing on giant sandhills.  And on the top of the page, how that shifting of coastlines created the shifting of people, and how I can relate to the deep connection of First Nations people as a European migrant, how I can remind myself of where my ancestors were on the other side of the planet through all this shifting sand. 

After driving up the dune, you come to a lake.  And if you drive on, you come to a fen.  Or if you are craving an ice-cream and the wind in your hair, you swoop through the ‘S-bends’ and smirk as Country opens up into a heathy, low laying area – the patterned fens.  There are many kinds of water on the sand islands, and each type holds a different story, has followed a different path, and because of that brings different things to the table.  If we listen to it, and watch it, it’s easy to see the differences and what they create.



The beauty of this trip was we had holders of peat from three very different places, each with different links.  We are still in the early stages of getting to know each other’s wetlands, but we are engaging all of our senses to share.  We have different commonalities; Tierra del Fuego and Quandamooka both share legacies of Gondwanan connection, Finland and Norway and Tierra del Fuego share cool climates we in Quandamooka Country cannot know.

The peat we meet on is unique.  It is formed within a fen – where the water that feeds it comes from the ground, not from the sky.  Many fens are fed by calcareous aquifers that lend alkalinity to the water.  Our fens are fed by aquifers on sand, with the water that enters them already holding acidity from its journey.  Prof Cath Lovelock and team at The University of Queensland have measured water held within the island (i.e. before it comes to the swamp) at pH 5.  It then becomes more acidic when it percolates through the fen.  Our peat is built from vascular plants, not mosses like Sphagnum.  Our peat builds in the tropics, where the warm weather should promote bacterial activity and decay so fast that peat won’t build.  Instead, acid, phenols and lack of oxygen slow decomposition.  I tried to capture some of the ways we talked about this peat being unique.

Imagine the heath.  Short, spiked plants encrusting the sand.  We creep through it, we want to be IN IT, not just peek at it from the edges.  We find a channel in the fens by listening to where the water rushes.

We plunge in. We drift with the current.  We get a view from the water’s perspective.  We can feel the peat, we can touch it, squeeze it, caress it.  From the water, you can see how our Quandamooka peat builds.  We have sphagnum here too – we are still searching for it but struggling to find it.  Our peat is built by vascular plants, by reeds and sedges.  In particular, a sedge called Empodisma minus.  But it doesn’t act alone, it clambers over and fills the spaces between so many other plants – banksia, saw sedge, and Ungaire.

Ungaire is such a pinnacle of our time with peat on Minjerribah.  We sit on the Carmichael balcony, listening to the Great Ocean and fondling Ungaire that is drying.  Sonja and Leecee will turn this strong and subtly coloured fiber into bags, baskets, mats, knowledge, and connections.  Our gifts to the pavilion in Venice were held by Ungaire nets woven by Sonja.  We ask why some Ungaire is pinker than others, and want to work to relearn this, because pink is such a beautiful colour.  So much of our learning, speaking and adventuring centres on this plant.  Tall, firm, and subtle.  Floating in that channel, I thought a lot about how building our peat needs both the soft, filling, spongy elements made by Empodisma AND the firm, structural elements of the Ungaire.  And how that is a lesson you can learn from other organisms, and from us.


Oceanic Thinking @ UQ Art Museum, Australia


19 July-17 December

Works that are a part of Ensayos ongoing inquiry into peatland protection can currently be experienced at University of Queensland Art Museum (Brisbane, Australia) as a part of a group exhibition Oceanic Thinking. Ensayos works, including posters, scents and audio are exhibited alongside artworks by Amrita Hepi, Madison Bycroft and Angela Tiatia. The exhibition and associated programming challenges visitors to think together with the liquid, vast, biodiverse and non-binary spaces of the ocean to explore the legacies of the past while speculating together on our collective future.

“Oceanic Thinking” is the inaugural exhibition of the multi-year project “Blue Assembly”. In collaboration with campus partners including UQ’s Centre for Marine Science, the project coincides with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). A companion to Blue Assembly, The Clam’s Kiss | Sogi a le faisua is an online journal by UQ Curatorial Researcher-in-Residence Dr Léuli Eshrāghi with Senior Curator of UQ Art Museum Peta Rake. The Clam’s Kiss includes contributions of essays, reflections, interviews and poems in the spirit of ceremonial and political practices of reciprocity and affirmation that are evidenced in the sogi practice (shared breath of life or ritualised kiss) common across many Great Ocean cultures and restricted in a time of planetary health crisis. 

Ensayos member Freja Carmichael has contributed a reflection on the language of weaving present in ‘River Dreaming’, an early fibre work by Ngarrindjeri weaver, Yvonne Koolmatrie (b.1944).

To close the Oceanic Thinking exhibition, Ensayos members from Norway and Chile will join the Australian research pod on Minjerribah (Moreton Bay, Australia) for a collective residency and to co-facilitate a field work masterclass with UQ’s post graduate students and local artists.

Ensayos participation in this exhibition has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Image credits.

1. “jalo gaba ” 2022: gulayi (Quandamooka woman’s bag) by Sonja Carmichael and glass vessel hand blown by Jarred Wright. The vessel holds incense co-created through conversations, shared research and the many hands of Sonja Carmichael, Freja Carmichael, Leecee Carmichael, Renee Rossini, Caitlin Franzmann, Glynn Carmichael, Jasper Coleman and Ira.

2. “Damp” and “Rich” 2022: scents by Christy Gast and agustine zegers in glass vessels by Jarred Wright and “A Gift of Scent [Bog Hollow, Amenia, New York]” 2022: sound work created by Karolin Tampere.

3. “Wolves in the Mire” 2022: scent by Randi Nygård and Simon Daniel Tegnander Wenzel in glass vessel by Jarred Wright. 

4. Digital renderings of posters designed by Christy Gast, Camila Marambio, Rosario Ureta with collaboration from WCS-Chile.

Patterns in the Peat: Minjerribah – Ensayo #6



12 -15 December 2021


Following our noses into the patterned fens of Minjerribah (also Terrangeri), the Australian research pod began thinking and feeling with the black waters, heath wildflowers, the paperbark trees, Ungaire, spreading rope rush, sundews, a wallum sedge frog and many dragon flies we encountered. Bringing together our experiences as a group that includes Quandamooka lineage, we spent our days ‘swamp witching’ – seeking connections within the peaty ecosystems, to each other and to the stories and histories of Moreton Bay, the traditional lands and waters of the Quandamooka People.

Our new friend and palynologist (one who studies fossil pollen), Dr. Patrick Moss, shared a useful article to introduce us to the uniqueness of the subtropical sand island patterned fen formations. As the article describes, fens are a type of peat forming wetland that are fed mostly by groundwater and are usually dominated by grasses, sedge and rushes. Bogs, like the bodies in Tierra del Fuego, are fed mostly by rain water, have less water exchange, are more acidic, and are often dominated by Sphagnum mosses. Over time, most fens transition into bogs. There are many types of fens and bogs with their scientific names offering clues to where and how they were formed. Patterned fens are formed by peat accumulating at varying rates in different places, leading to a mosaic pattern of flarks (pools of water) or strings (linear stretches of water) and ridges (vegetated risings).1

We began our field research in Eighteen Mile Swamp which stretches most of the eastern coastline in Naree Budjong Djara (my mother earth) National Park. The wetland, or swamp, or peatland, or fen, or mire (depending on who you ask), lies in a large sand trough formed over millennia with the rise and fall of the sea. It is protected and nourished by ancient dunes and complex hydrological systems. A large underground aquifer is contained within the sandmass of Minjerribah which feeds into many of the freshwater wetlands and lakes. Karboora (meaning ‘deep silent pool’) is a ‘window lake’ formed by a depression in the sand that exposes the water table. Karboora is one of the most sacred water bodies on Minjerribah and because of its significance to Quandamooka culture, visitors are requested to approach with respect, take time for quiet reflection and not to swim in it.Karboora receives a constant influx of groundwater that overflows via a creek into Eighteen Mile Swamp. Despite this intimate relationship between groundwater and surface water, the island’s groundwater is still being piped to the mainland providing at least 60% of Redlands water supply.3

From the beach, we could see distinct scars of a sand mine on the otherwise forested central dune.  Following decades of impact studies and protests, the last of the sand mining operations on the island ceased in 2019. With public access still limited, we studied Renee’s satellite geo mapping system to get a sense of the mine’s scale and proximity to the adjacent wetlands. We witnessed trucks moving across the ridge and wondered… ‘Rehabilitation?’. Moving on, we heeded a warning from an eastern brown snake not to enter the scrub beyond the coastal foredunes. Approaching from the west instead, a midden exposed by road cuttings showed us that this has long been a place of abundance and gathering for the Quandamooka people.

At most of the sites we visited over the following days, Sonja showed us the distinct pink and cream hues of Ungaire, a reed and cultural weaving fibre that grows in many of the island’s peatlands. The Carmichael women have been working alongside their family, Elders, and community members on the regeneration of Quandamooka weaving practises. Back at their home, Sonja and Leecee shared how they are each reviving and honouring their heritage and the plant communities of the island through traditional weaving techniques and contemporary adaptations. Freja describes her family’s ancestral connection beautifully in the catalogue accompanying her 2016 curatorial project Gathering Strands at Redland Art Gallery:

For our ancestors, weaving was a way of life. In keeping with the seasons, fibres were carefully harvested and women would sit and twist these reeds to string, and loop, knot, coil and plait them into unique flat bags, beautiful baskets and intricate mats. Food and other important items would be transported in these woven forms. Scents of country would be imbued and physical traces captured within them, symbolising strength in togetherness and the transmission of our rich culture. 4

Caitlin and Renee continued searching for the elusive spreading rope rush (Empodisma minus) which seemed to have been taken over by Paperbark forests, ferns and rushes at the margins of the fen bodies. It wasn’t until Renee’s curiosity for wildflowers and fearlessness of the snake season led us along a shrubby ridge, right into the centre of a wetland. Here the spreading rope rush dominated the edge of a deep black pool. Intermingling within the wiry network of rhizomes, Ungaire stood tall. The spreading rope rush was likely one of the first plants to thrive in early inland pools of mineral rich water on the Moreton Bay and Fraser Coast sand barrier islands. It is thought to have played a key role in transforming these pools into the sites of refuge they are today for rare plants, fish, amphibians, insects and birds.5 It is a highly resilient peat forming plant, meaning it only partially decomposes, accumulates and compacts into layers of peat in the slow moving, almost still, waters of the wetlands.6  It resprouts, impedes drainage, reduces evaporation from the wetland, releases organic acids and, in some contexts, it can inhibit the growth of other plants.7 All of these properties have bestowed Empodisma species a scientific title of ‘ecosystem engineers’8, meaning they collectively have the ability to modify their environment and to create new habitats.

Glynn Carmichael, took us for a walk to Fern Gully Lagoon, a wetland that has sediment cores dating back over 200 000 years. Research, led by Dr John Tibby, suggests that Minjerribah might have provided a significant refuge for plants and animals during the driest and coldest period of the last 100 000 years of Earth’s history. Core samples provided evidence of wetlands on the island since the Last Glacial Maximum – a period between 26 500 to 20 000 years ago when glaciers advanced and sea level lowered.9  The Minjerribah wetlands now provide essential habitat for a vast number of unique threatened species.  These include the water mouse (Xeromys myoides), Yellow Swamp Orchid (Phaius bernaysii), the Swamp daisy (Oleris hygrophila), Wallum froglet (Crinia signifera) and the little acid loving frogs that are dependent on the reeds for their existence.10  Considering the ancient past and possible future transitions of the fen bodies, it may be more apt to refer to the Empodisma species as a ‘slow ecosystem engineer’. Perhaps the spreading rope rush is showing us virtues of rest and a different kind of productivity and growth that emerges from deceleration. Bundjalung writer, Melissa Lucashenko declared a similar sentiment in her speech at the 2022 Invasion Day rally, ‘Some of our mob say, rest can be revolution…Not in a selfish way. In a way that we are all something bigger than just ourselves’.11

While peat fires in many locations are cause of great concern because they can release huge amounts of greenhouse gases, it has been suggested that the rhizomes of the spreading rope rush protect the underlying peat from ignition and facilitate post fire regeneration of the fen vegetation.12 Similar to much of the Australian landscape, fire has been a part of fen development on the sand islands for millennia. Dr Patrick Moss met with Ensayos and described how peat core samples are ‘botanical and fire archives’ that can be studied to understand change in vegetation communities and local fire regimes. He noted that Minjerribah has some of the best records from the subtropics of Australia, demonstrating vegetation and moisture presence for over 40,000 years.

The ‘botanical and fire archives’ tell stories of major climatic shifts and human activity. They tell of a transition from frequent low intensity fires linked to traditional fire management practises to lower frequency burns in the post colonial settlement period.13 Existing between the fossilised lines of pollen and charcoal lies a message, where traditional knowledge was being practised there was greater biodiversity. This continues to be understood by the Quandamooka people today who are working, together with fire ecologists, to reinstate regular low intensity burning. The benefits to the health of the ecosystems are clear.

Our last stop before heading back to the mainland was Capembah Creek, named after Capembah, the ‘big hill’ to the south of the creek. The creek is situated within the coastal rainforest to mangrove habitats of Moongalba (sitting down place), also referred to as Myora Springs.  The creek is fed by a spring flowing to the mangroves, where saltwater and freshwater meet. We walked with the creek, bordered by finger-like aerial roots, or ‘snorkels’, emerging from the waterlogged peat. The network of Mangrove roots, salty canopy and build up of peat provides a natural barrier for the inland ecosystems, offering protection from storm surge, flooding and erosion. We were presented with a very different scene at Pulan (Amity Point), where recent coastal erosion has encroached into beachside private properties, raising a question – at what point is the land to be given up for the sea?


Because the Australian Ensayos pod is creating a gift of a scent for our Chilean friends that care for the peatlands of Tierra del Fuego. The scent, to be infused in the Chilean Pavilion of the 59th Venice Biennale, will be inspired by the peat dominated wetlands of Minjerribah and their stories of slow transformation, refuge, fire, ancestral knowledge and healing.

Because South East Queensland continues to experience rapid population growth and tourism is the Island’s major employer. Despite being listed as ‘internationally important wetlands’ under the Moreton Bay Ramsar site, groundwater continues to be extracted from the island. Pollution, altered fire regimes, impacts associated with development and resource extraction and climate change remain as potential threats to the wetland ecosystems.

Because attempting to delineate and classify wetlands is a slippery task. Water and land meet in a variety of ways and when they do, possibilities emerge. In the liminal zone, rest is both death and rejuvenation. In the rhizomatic network of spreading rope rush, linear time loses its power.

Because information about the deep past is in the peat. Whilst scientists are reconstructing past landscapes through pollen fossils and charcoal, the Quandamooka people are remembering, reviving and reimagining cultural traditions and ecological knowledge. Ensayistas submerge their bodies in the black water and sniff out feelings and stories. These are all integral acts towards caring for the fen bodies. Knowledge is the gift that we share with each other.


Caitlin Franzmann, Renee Rossini and the Carmichael family – Sonja, Freja, Leecee, Glynn, Jasper and Ira.


Cruising with windswept hair in ‘Suzi’ (Renee’s 4WD jeep) and through the generosity of our hosts Sonja and Glynn Carmichael.


  1. Moss, P. (2014)‘A peaty archive: the patterned fens of the Great Sandy region’. Wildlife Australia, 51 (2), 20-23.
  2. p.22-23, State of Queensland. (2020) Naree Budjong Djara Management Plan 
  3. SEQ Water. (2019) Planning your water future: Redlands
  4. p.6, Carmichael. F (2016) ‘Weft and Warp: A Sense of Touch’ in Gathering Strands exhibition catalogue first published 2016 by the Redland Art Gallery, Redland City Council
  5. Moss, P. et al. (2015) ‘Patterned fen formation and development from the Great Sandy Region’, south-east Queensland, Australia in Marine and Freshwater Research, Volume 67. CSIRO
  6. McLeod. A. & McPhee. D (2011) Eighteen Mile Swamp Friends of Stradbroke Island
  7. R. Fairfax & R. Lindsay (2019) ‘The Patterned Fens of Great Sandy Region, Australia’, Mires and Peat, Volume 24 (2019), Article 22, 1–18
  8. p.7, TA Hodges & GL Rapson (2010) ‘Is Empodisma minus the ecosystem engineer of the FBT (fen–bog transition zone) in New Zealand?’Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 40:3-4, 181-207
  9. Tibby, J. (2017). ‘Persistence of wetlands on North Stradbroke Island (south-east Queensland, Australia) during the last glacial cycle: implications for Quaternary science and biogeography’. Journal of Quaternary Science, 32(6), 770-781.
  10. McLeod. A. & McPhee. D (2011)
  11. Lucashenko, M. (2022), Speech delivered at Invasion Day rally , on RadioReversal, 4zzz, aired 27 January 2022.
  12. Moss, P. (2014)‘A peaty archive: the patterned fens of the Great Sandy region’. Wildlife Australia, 51 (2), 20-23.
  13. Moss, P. and Stewart, P. (2014) ‘Fire Patterns of South Eastern Queensland in a Global Context: A Review’, presentation for The Large Wildland Fires Conference, Missoula, USA.


12 -15 diciembre 2021  


Siguiendo nuestras narices hacia los pantanos estampados de Minjerribah (también Terrangeri), la cápsula de investigación australiana comenzó a pensar y sentir con las aguas negras, las flores silvestres de los brezales, los árboles de corteza de papel, Ungaire, los juncos, las droseras, una rana wallum y muchas libélulas que nos encontramos. Reuniendo nuestras experiencias como un grupo que incluye el linaje de Quandamooka, pasamos nuestros días ‘brujeando pantanos’: buscando conexiones dentro de los ecosistemas de turba, entre nosotros y con las historias, y las historias de Moreton Bay, las tierras y aguas tradicionales de la gente de Quandamooka.  

Nuestro nuevo amigo y palinólogo (uno que estudia el polen fósil), el Dr. Patrick Moss, compartió un artículo útil para presentarnos la singularidad de las formaciones de pantanos con dibujos de islas de arena subtropicales. Como se describe en el artículo, los pantanos son un tipo de humedal que forma turba y se alimentan principalmente de aguas subterráneas y suelen estar dominados por pastos, juncias y juncos. Los pantanos, como los cuerpos en Tierra del Fuego, se alimentan principalmente de agua de lluvia, tienen menos intercambio de agua, son más ácidos y, a menudo, están dominados por musgos Sphagnum. Con el tiempo, la mayoría de los pantanos se convierten en pantanos. Hay muchos tipos de pantanos y ciénagas con sus nombres científicos que ofrecen pistas sobre dónde y cómo se formaron. Los pantanos estampados están formados por turba que se acumula a diferentes velocidades en diferentes lugares, lo que lleva a un patrón de mosaico de flarks (charcos de agua) o cuerdas (tramos lineales de agua) y crestas (crecimientos de vegetación).1

Comenzamos nuestra investigación de campo en el Pantano de Dieciocho Millas, que se extiende por la mayor parte de la costa este en el Parque Nacional Naree Budjong Djara (mi madre tierra). El humedal, el pantano, la turbera, el pantano o el lodo (dependiendo de a quién le preguntes) se encuentra en una gran depresión de arena formada durante milenios con el ascenso y descenso del mar. Está protegido y nutrido por antiguas dunas y complejos sistemas hidrológicos. Un gran acuífero subterráneo está contenido dentro de la masa de arena de Minjerribah que alimenta muchos de los humedales y lagos de agua dulce. Karboora (que significa “piscina profunda y silenciosa”) es un “lago de ventana” formado por una depresión en la arena que expone el nivel freático. Karboora es una de las masas de agua más sagradas de Minjerribah y, debido a su importancia para la cultura de Quandamooka, se pide a los visitantes que se acerquen con respeto, se tomen un tiempo para reflexionar tranquilamente y no se bañen en ella.2 Karboora recibe una afluencia constante de agua subterránea que se desborda. a través de un arroyo hacia el Pantano de Dieciocho Millas. A pesar de esta íntima relación entre las aguas subterráneas y las aguas superficiales, el agua subterránea de la isla aún se canaliza hacia el continente, proporcionando al menos el 60 % del suministro de agua de Redlands.3

Desde la playa, pudimos ver distintas cicatrices de una mina de arena en la duna central, que de otro modo sería boscosa. Luego de décadas de estudios de impacto y protestas, la última de las operaciones de extracción de arena en la isla cesó en 2019. Con el acceso público aún limitado, estudiamos el sistema de mapeo geográfico satelital de Renee para tener una idea de la escala de la mina y la proximidad a los humedales adyacentes. Vimos camiones moviéndose por la cresta y nos preguntamos… “¿Rehabilitación?”. Continuando, escuchamos una advertencia de una serpiente marrón oriental de no entrar en la maleza más allá de las dunas costeras. Acercándonos desde el oeste, en cambio, un basurero expuesto por cortes de caminos nos mostró que este ha sido durante mucho tiempo un lugar de abundancia y reunión para la gente de Quandamooka.

En la mayoría de los sitios que visitamos durante los días siguientes, Sonja nos mostró los distintivos tonos rosa y crema de Ungaire, una caña y fibra de tejido cultural que crece en muchas de las turberas de la isla. Las mujeres Carmichael han estado trabajando junto con su familia, ancianos y miembros de la comunidad en la regeneración de las prácticas de tejido de Quandamooka. De vuelta en su hogar, , SonjaLeecee  compartieron cómo cada uno está reviviendo y honrando su herencia y las comunidades de plantas de la isla a través de técnicas de tejido tradicionales y adaptaciones contemporáneas. Freja describe maravillosamente la conexión ancestral de su familia en el catálogo que acompaña a su proyecto curatorial de 2016  Gathering Strands en Redland Art Gallery:  

Para nuestros antepasados, tejer era una forma de vida. De acuerdo con las estaciones, las fibras se cosechaban cuidadosamente y las mujeres se sentaban y torcían estas cañas para enhebrarlas, anudarlas, enrollarlas y trenzarlas en bolsas planas únicas, hermosas canastas y esteras intrincadas. Los alimentos y otros artículos importantes se transportarían en estas formas tejidas. Los aromas del país estarían imbuidos y las huellas físicas capturadas dentro de ellos, simbolizando la fuerza en la unión y la transmisión de nuestra rica cultura4

Caitlin y Renee continuaron buscando el escurridizo junco de la cuerda que se extendía (Empodisma minus) que parecía haber sido tomado por bosques de Paperbark, helechos y juncos en los márgenes de los cuerpos pantanosos. No fue hasta que la curiosidad de Renee por las flores silvestres y la intrepidez de la temporada de las serpientes nos llevaron a lo largo de una cresta de arbustos, justo en el centro de un humedal. Aquí, el torrente de cuerdas que se extendía dominaba el borde de un profundo estanque negro. Entremezclándose dentro de la nervuda red de rizomas, Ungaire se mantuvo erguido. La fiebre de la cuerda que se extiende fue probablemente una de las primeras plantas en prosperar en las primeras piscinas interiores de agua rica en minerales en las islas de barrera de arena de Moreton Bay y Fraser Coast. Se cree que desempeñó un papel clave en la transformación de estos estanques en los sitios de refugio que son hoy en día para plantas raras, peces, anfibios, insectos y aves.5 Es una planta muy resistente que forma turba, lo que significa que solo se descompone parcialmente, acumula y se compacta en capas de turba en las aguas de movimiento lento, casi quietas, de los humedales.6 Rebrota, impide el drenaje, reduce la evaporación del humedal, libera ácidos orgánicos y, en algunos contextos, puede inhibir el crecimiento de otras plantas.7 Todas estas propiedades han otorgado a las especies de Empodisma un título científico de ‘ingenieros de ecosistemas8, lo que significa que colectivamente tienen la capacidad de modificar su entorno y crear nuevos hábitats.

Glynn Carmichael, nos llevó a caminar a Fern Gully Lagoon, un humedal que tiene núcleos de sedimentos que datan de más de 200 000 años. La investigación, dirigida por el Dr. John Tibby, sugiere que Minjerribah podría haber proporcionado un refugio importante para plantas y animales durante el período más seco y frío de los últimos 100 000 años de la historia de la Tierra. Las muestras de núcleo proporcionaron evidencia de humedales en la isla desde el Último Máximo Glacial, un período entre hace 26 500 y 20 000 años cuando los glaciares avanzaron y el nivel del mar bajó.9 Los humedales de Minjerribah ahora proporcionan un hábitat esencial para una gran cantidad de especies amenazadas únicas. Estos incluyen el ratón de agua (Xeromys myoides), la orquídea amarilla del pantano (Phaius bernaysii), la margarita del pantano (Oleris hygrophila), la rana Wallum (Crinia signifera) y las pequeñas ranas amantes del ácido que dependen de las cañas para su existencia.10 Considerando el pasado antiguo y las posibles transiciones futuras de los cuerpos de los pantanos, puede ser más apropiado referirse a la especie Empodisma como un ‘ingeniero de ecosistema lento’. Tal vez la fiebre de la cuerda que se extiende nos está mostrando las virtudes del descanso y un tipo diferente de productividad y crecimiento que surge de la desaceleración. La escritora de Bundjalung, Melissa Lucashenko, declaró un sentimiento similar en su discurso en el mitin del Día de la Invasión de 2022: ‘Algunos de nuestra mafia dicen que el descanso puede ser una revolución… No de una manera egoísta. En cierto modo, todos somos algo más grande que nosotros mismos’.11

Si bien los incendios de turba en muchos lugares son motivo de gran preocupación porque pueden liberar grandes cantidades de gases de efecto invernadero, se ha sugerido que los rizomas del junco de la cuerda que se extiende protegen la turba subyacente de la ignición y facilitan la regeneración de la vegetación del pantano después del incendio.12 Al igual que gran parte del paisaje australiano, el fuego ha sido parte del desarrollo de pantanos en las islas de arena durante milenios. El Dr. Patrick Moss se reunió con Ensayos y describió cómo las muestras de núcleos de turba son “archivos botánicos y de incendios” que se pueden estudiar para comprender los cambios en las comunidades de vegetación y los regímenes locales de incendios. Señaló que Minjerribah tiene algunos de los mejores registros de los subtrópicos de Australia, lo que demuestra la presencia de vegetación y humedad durante más de 40.000 años.

Los “archivos botánicos y de incendios” cuentan historias de grandes cambios climáticos y actividad humana. Hablan de una transición de incendios frecuentes de baja intensidad vinculados a prácticas tradicionales de manejo del fuego a incendios de menor frecuencia en el período de asentamiento poscolonial.13 Entre las líneas fosilizadas de polen y carbón se encuentra un mensaje, donde se practicaba el conocimiento tradicional había mayor biodiversidad Esto sigue siendo entendido por la gente de Quandamooka hoy en día que está trabajando, junto con los ecologistas del fuego, para restablecer la quema regular de baja intensidad. Los beneficios para la salud de los ecosistemas son claros.

Nuestra última parada antes de regresar al continente fue Capembah Creek, llamado así por Capembah, la “gran colina” al sur del arroyo. El arroyo está situado dentro de la selva tropical costera hasta los hábitats de manglares de Moongalba (lugar para sentarse), también conocido como Myora Springs. El arroyo es alimentado por un manantial que fluye hacia los manglares, donde se encuentran el agua salada y el agua dulce. Caminamos junto al arroyo, bordeado por raíces aéreas en forma de dedos, o “snorkels”, que emergen de la turba empapada. La red de raíces de manglares, el dosel salado y la acumulación de turba proporcionan una barrera natural para los ecosistemas del interior y ofrecen protección contra las marejadas ciclónicas, las inundaciones y la erosión. Se nos presentó una escena muy diferente en Pulan (Punto de Amity), donde la erosión costera reciente ha invadido las propiedades privadas junto a la playa, lo que plantea una pregunta: ¿en qué momento se entregará la tierra al mar?


Porque la cápsula Australiana Ensayos está creando un regalo de un aroma para nuestros amigos chilenos que cuidan las turberas de Tierra del Fuego. El aroma, que se infundirá en el Pabellón de Chile de la 59.ª Bienal de Venecia, se inspirará en los humedales de turba de Minjerribah y sus historias de transformación lenta, refugio, fuego, conocimiento ancestral y sanación.  

Porque, al igual que las canastas tejidas intrincadamente transportan sustento, la red molecular de aromas transporta historias. Los ensayistas desean estar vivos con los olores del humedal y visitar cada nota.  

Debido a que la gente de Quandamooka es Yoolooburrabee, la gente de la tierra y el agua, y el 20% de la isla Minjerribah es tierra húmeda que incluye muchos lugares de importancia cultural. La vitalidad de la fibra textil Ungaire del pueblo Quandamooka depende de la salud de los humedales, al igual que la supervivencia de varias plantas y animales en peligro de extinción exclusivos de la isla. Es importante que la biodiversidad de estos hábitats esté protegida y preservada para un futuro cultural sólido y una conexión continua con el país.

Porque el sureste de Queensland continúa experimentando un rápido crecimiento de la población y el turismo es el principal empleador de la isla. A pesar de estar catalogado como “humedales de importancia internacional” en el sitio Ramsar de la Bahía de Moreton, se sigue extrayendo agua subterránea de la isla. La contaminación, los regímenes alterados de incendios, los impactos asociados con el desarrollo y la extracción de recursos y el cambio climático siguen siendo amenazas potenciales para los ecosistemas de humedales.  

Porque intentar delinear y clasificar los humedales es una tarea resbaladiza. El agua y la tierra se encuentran en una variedad de formas y, cuando lo hacen, surgen posibilidades. En la zona liminal, el descanso es a la vez muerte y rejuvenecimiento. En la red rizomática de las cuerdas que se extienden, el tiempo lineal pierde su poder.  

Porque la información sobre el pasado profundo está en la turba. Mientras que los científicos están reconstruyendo paisajes pasados ​​a través de fósiles de polen y carbón, la gente de Quandamooka está recordando, reviviendo y reinventando tradiciones culturales y conocimientos ecológicos. Los ensayistas sumergen sus cuerpos en el agua negra y huelen sentimientos e historias. Todos estos son actos integrales hacia el cuidado de los cuerpos de los pantanos. El conocimiento es el regalo que compartimos unos con otros.


Caitlin Franzmann, Renee Rossini and the Carmichael family – Sonja, Freja, Leecee, Glynn, Jasper and Ira.    HOW  Cruising with windswept hair in ‘Suzi’ (Renee’s 4WD jeep) and through the generosity of our hosts Sonja and Glynn Carmichael.   


Navegando con el cabello alborotado en ‘Suzi’ (el jeep 4WD de Renee) y gracias a la generosidad de nuestros anfitriones Sonja y Glynn Carmichael.  


  1. Moss, P. (2014) ‘A peaty archive: the patterned fens of the Great Sandy region’. Wildlife Australia, 51 (2), 20-23.
  2. p.22-23, State of Queensland. (2020) Naree Budjong Djara Management Plan 
  3. SEQ Water. (2019) Planning your water future: Redlands
  4. p.6, Carmichael. F (2016) ‘Weft and Warp: A Sense of Touch’ en Gathering Strands exhibition catalogue primer publicación 2016 por  Redland Art Gallery, Redland City Council 
  5. Moss, P. et al. (2015) ‘Patterned fen formation and development from the Great Sandy Region’, south-east Queensland, Australia en Marine and Freshwater Research, Volúmen 67. CSIRO
  6. McLeod. A. & McPhee. D (2011) Eighteen Mile Swamp Friends of Stradbroke Island
  7. R. Fairfax & R. Lindsay (2019) ‘The Patterned Fens of Great Sandy Region, Australia’, Mires and Peat, Volúmen 24 (2019), Articulo 22, 1–18
  8. p.7, TA Hodges & GL Rapson (2010) ‘Is Empodisma minus the ecosystem engineer of the FBT (fen–bog transition zone) in New Zealand?’, Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 40:3-4, 181-207
  9. Tibby, J. (2017). ‘Persistence of wetlands on North Stradbroke Island (south-east Queensland, Australia) during the last glacial cycle: implications for Quaternary science and biogeography’. Journal of Quaternary Science, 32(6), 770-781. 
  10. McLeod. A. & McPhee. D (2011) 
  11. Lucashenko, M. (2022), Speech delivered at Invasion Day rally , on RadioReversal, 4zzz, aired 27 Enero 2022. 
  12. Moss, P. (2014)‘A peaty archive: the patterned fens of the Great Sandy region’. Wildlife Australia, 51 (2), 20-23.
  13. Moss, P. and Stewart, P. (2014) ‘Fire Patterns of South Eastern Queensland in a Global Context: A Review’, presentación para The Large Wildland Fires Conference, Missoula, USA.

Dancing to the tune of the sea–Ensayo #4



June 12 – June 17, 2021


Caitlin Franzmann (artist) and Lynne Van Herwerden (marine biologist) sailed the waters of Whitsundays in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park of Australia with Lynne’s partner Carl. They were carried from Airlie Beach to South Molle Island and Cid Island by their 28ft fuel-free yacht, ‘Elcie Jay’.  On rare occasion they relied on her solar powered engine to reach safe harbor and their own muscle power to get ‘pequeño’, the little row boat, ashore.

Having not seen each other since the Magnetic Isle Connect residency on Yunbenun in 2019, there was much to catch up on. Lynne and Carl have since retired and simplified their lives to sail the East Coast of Australia with Elcie Jay.  They no longer abide to strict schedules and instead move with the elements, attuning with the wind.

In the mornings, Lynne and Caitlin steadied their seafaring legs and walked the islands. On South Molle Island, they witnessed the after effects of Cyclone Debbie that swept through the region in 2017 pulverizing coral reefs and tearing apart the backpackers resort.  There was an eeriness to the dilapidated buildings and weed overgrowth of the resort, relieved by walking further in to the national park. Cascades of butterflies, twining wonga wonga vines and ridgelines of windswept grass trees were a reminder that biodiversity and cultural heritage on the island persists. Weathered signage marked histories of the place, but not all histories. The islands carry colonial names associated with a Christian feast and men who never set foot on their shores. Some names (e.g. Daydream Island) have been more recently updated to entice tourists to the ‘aquatic playground’.

The Whitsundays and the neighbouring coastal fringe are the traditional home of the seafaring Ngaro people. At least 9000 years of occupation can be traced in the stone axes and cutting tools of a stone quarry still present on South Molle Island and in the cave rock art and middens at Nara Inlet. Earlier traces were submerged during the early Holocene, when global warming and melting glaciers caused rapid sea level rise. From the mid 1800s, conflict triggered by traders and colonists, followed by forced relocation by the Native Police, dissipated traditional knowledge across the region.  Despite this violence, the Ngaro people have maintained connection to their Country through the stories that travelled with their ancestors and through their ongoing spiritual relationship to the archipelago and sea.

Whilst being gently rocked by the ocean, Lynne shared her continued involvement in research around the risks of microplastic contamination in marine organisms and how natural hybridization in marine fish species may hold value in conserving biodiversity, particularly on coral reefs in global decline. They discussed how to live and travel with respect for all life and with as little impact as possible. With only a bucket as a toilet, the conversation naturally moved to dealing with human waste and compost. From a toilet flush in an urban centre, they traced the journey of human waste to the rivers and ocean. Carl shared the successes of his home experiments with ‘humanure‘.

On the deck, Caitlin learned how to tie essential sailing knots – clove hitch, bowline, double hitch, square knot, sheet bend. In the context of sailing, knots need to be secure and easily released. Whilst practicing, a question arose ‘How can we hold what we value dearly without limiting movement and change?’ The ocean knows.

They shared poetry. Following is Lynne’s ode to Elcie Jay, which is also an ode to her elemental friends.


She dances to the tune of the sea, 

Be it symphonic, romantic –

discordant or heavy metallic

She discriminates not,

taking it “on the trot”

A stampede of white horses rush her

She rides each, intimately mounted,

Adjusting to the stride and rhythm of each

Time after infinite time.

‘Tis the dance of the elements, 

Being one with all 

And all being one with you

LyNne Van Herwerden


Because relationships are to be nurtured and what better way to share our time and concerns than on Elcie Jay, moving with the body of water we care for.  

Because names carry stories. We must ask those whose ancestors occupied and managed this place for thousands of years what stories belong, and take time to listen to their response. In addition to listening, we must follow and support traditional custodians in ensuring that environmental and cultural heritage of their Country remains healthy for future generations.

Because as visitors play, the Great Barrier reef is in danger of losing its World Heritage listing and the Australian government is in denial about Climate Change. As of 2020, the biggest source of greenhouse gases in Australia were emissions during the combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity. 

Because activism operates at all levels and across disciplines. Learning to deal with our own shit is a great start.

Because just like the wind in the sails, poetry can move us. Words that speak of bodies can be felt in the bodies of others.


Caitlin Franzmann, Lynne Van Herwerden and Carl Van Wyck


By ‘dancing to the tune of the sea’.  


12 de junio – 17 de junio de 2021


Caitlin Franzmann (artista) y Lynne Van Herwerden (bióloga marina) navegaron las aguas de Whitsundays en el Parque Marino de la Gran Barrera de Coral de Australia con el socio de Lynne, Carl. Fueron transportados desde Airlie Beach hasta South Molle Island y Cid Island en su yate sin combustible de 28 pies, ‘Elcie Jay’. En raras ocasiones confiaron en su motor de energía solar para llegar a puerto seguro y en su propia fuerza muscular para llevar a ‘pequeño’, el pequeño bote de remos, a tierra.

Como no se habían visto desde la residencia de Magnetic Isle Connect en Yunbenun en 2019, había mucho con lo que ponerse al día. Desde entonces, Lynne y Carl se han retirado y han simplificado sus vidas para navegar por la costa este de Australia con Elcie Jay. Ya no se rigen por horarios estrictos y, en cambio, se mueven con los elementos, en sintonía con el viento.

Por las mañanas, Lynne y Caitlin estabilizaban sus piernas marineras y caminaban por las islas. En South Molle Island, fueron testigos de los efectos secundarios del ciclón Debbie que arrasó la región en 2017, pulverizando los arrecifes de coral y destrozando el complejo para mochileros. Había una inquietud en los edificios en ruinas y la maleza que crecía en el complejo, aliviada al caminar más hacia el parque nacional. Las cascadas de mariposas, las enredaderas de wonga wonga entrelazadas y las crestas de árboles de hierba azotados por el viento fueron un recordatorio de que la biodiversidad y el patrimonio cultural de la isla persisten. La señalización desgastada marcaba las historias del lugar, pero no todas las historias. Las islas llevan nombres coloniales asociados a una fiesta cristiana ya hombres que nunca pisaron sus costas. Algunos nombres (por ejemplo, Daydream Island) se han actualizado más recientemente para atraer a los turistas al “parque acuático”.

Whitsundays y la franja costera vecina son el hogar tradicional del pueblo marinero Ngaro. Se pueden rastrear al menos 9000 años de ocupación en las hachas de piedra y las herramientas de corte de una cantera de piedra todavía presente en South Molle Island y en el arte rupestre y los basureros en Nara Inlet. Las huellas anteriores quedaron sumergidas durante el Holoceno temprano, cuando el calentamiento global y el derretimiento de los glaciares provocaron un rápido aumento del nivel del mar. Desde mediados de 1800, el conflicto desencadenado por comerciantes y colonos, seguido de la reubicación forzosa por parte de la Policía Nativa, disipó el conocimiento tradicional en toda la región. A pesar de esta violencia, el pueblo Ngaro ha mantenido la conexión con su País a través de las historias que viajaron con sus ancestros y a través de su relación espiritual permanente con el archipiélago y el mar.

Mientras el océano la mecía suavemente, Lynne compartió su participación continua en la investigación sobre los riesgos de la contaminación por microplásticos en los organismos marinos y cómo la hibridación natural en las especies de peces marinos puede tener valor en la conservación de la biodiversidad, particularmente en los arrecifes de coral en declive global. Discutieron cómo vivir y viajar con respeto por toda la vida y con el menor impacto posible. Con solo un balde como retrete, la conversación pasó naturalmente a tratar con los desechos humanos y el compost. A partir de la descarga de un inodoro en un centro urbano, rastrearon el viaje de los desechos humanos hasta los ríos y el océano. Carl compartió los éxitos de sus experimentos caseros con ‘humanure’.

En la cubierta, Caitlin aprendió a atar los nudos de navegación esenciales: nudo de clavo, as de guía, doble nudo, nudo cuadrado, nudo de escota. En el contexto de la navegación, los nudos deben ser seguros y fáciles de soltar. Mientras practicaba, surgió una pregunta: “¿Cómo podemos mantener lo que valoramos mucho sin limitar el movimiento y el cambio?” El océano lo sabe.

Compartieron poesía. Lo que sigue es la oda de Lynne a Elcie Jay, que también es una oda a sus amigos elementales.


Ella baila al son del mar,

Ya sea sinfónico, romántico-

metálicos discordantes o pesados.

Ella no discrimina,

tomándolo “al trote”.

Una estampida de caballos blancos la acomete.

Ella monta cada uno íntimamente.

Ajustandose al paso y ritmo de cada uno.

Tiempo tras tiempo infinito.

Es la danza de los elementos,

Ser uno con todos 

Y todos ser uno contigo.

LyNne Van Herwerden


Porque las relaciones hay que nutrirlas y qué mejor manera de compartir nuestro tiempo e inquietudes que en Elcie Jay, moviéndonos con la masa de agua que cuidamos.

Porque los nombres llevan historias. Debemos preguntar a aquellos cuyos antepasados ​​ocuparon y administraron este lugar durante miles de años a qué historias pertenecen, y tomarnos el tiempo para escuchar su respuesta. Además de escuchar, debemos seguir y apoyar a los custodios tradicionales para garantizar que el patrimonio ambiental y cultural de su país se mantenga saludable para las generaciones futuras.

Porque mientras los visitantes juegan, la Gran Barrera de Coral está en peligro de perder su lista de Patrimonio Mundial y el gobierno australiano niega el Cambio Climático. A partir de 2020, la mayor fuente de gases de efecto invernadero en Australia fueron las emisiones durante la combustión de combustibles fósiles para generar electricidad.

Porque el activismo opera en todos los niveles y en todas las disciplinas. Aprender a lidiar con nuestra propia mierda es un gran comienzo.

Porque al igual que el viento en las velas, la poesía puede conmovernos. Las palabras que hablan de cuerpos se pueden sentir en los cuerpos de los demás.


Caitlin Franzmann, Lynne Van Herwerden y Carl Van Wyck


Por ‘bailar al son del mar’.

to move through the dark night of the soul


Ensayistas Camila Marambio and Caitlin Franzmann were invited to make an offering as a part of Art and Australia’s 2021 publication:  Issue Eight (57.1): Multinaturalism.

Our contribution (p.84-93) is a random and dynamic series of imaginings and intuitions that tell of Ensayos’ encounters with the Chilean firebush in 2018 and it’s Australian relative, the tree waratah in 2019. Through text and image, we tell of fortunes, transmutation and a cautioning of death, as a way to move through the dark night of the soul with you.

In the Editorial essay, Wrapped in flowers, listening to frogs (p.11-17), Tessa Laird describes how this issue of Art and Australia was born out of a time of loss, anger and despair, as well as love and survival. The publication seeks to decenter the human and encompass nature into the narrative through the lens of ‘multinaturalism’ – a term coined by the Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro and, as Laird acknowledges, the concept ‘grows out of Amerindian thought, in particular the writings of Yanomami shaman Davi Kopenawa’. Laird elaborates, ‘Like many Indigenous epistemologies, including those of this continent [Australia], Amerindian thought posits a time when all life was human. Various events led to the differentiations we see today: mountains, rivers, plants, animals but, underneath these external differences, beings maintain kinship.’

Acknowledging Ensayos’ South American–Australian connections in our combined issue of Más allá del fin and Discipline in 2019, Laird writes ‘Multinaturalism continues to cross-pollinate the two continents’ with contributions also from fellow Ensayista, Cecilia Vicuña, and contributors from Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia. This issue recognizes the need for ‘solidarities across and through difference’ and Ensayos is honored to be participating in the discourse with our Gondwana sister plants.

Las ensayistas Camila Marambio y Caitlin Franzmann fueron invitadas a hacer una ofrenda como parte de la publicación 2021 de Art and Australia: Issue Eight (57.1): Multinaturalism.

Nuestra contribución (p.84-93) es una serie aleatoria y dinámica de imaginaciones e intuiciones que narran los encuentros de Ensayos con el firebush chileno en 2018 y su pariente australiano, el árbol waratah en 2019. A través de texto e imagen, contamos fortunas, transmutación y un aviso de muerte, como forma de transitar contigo la noche oscura del alma.

En el ensayo editorial, Wrapped in flowers, listening to frogs (p.11-17), Tessa Laird describe cómo este número de Art and Australia nació de una época de pérdida, ira y desesperación, así como de amor y supervivencia. La publicación busca descentrar lo humano y abarcar la naturaleza en la narrativa a través de la lente del ‘multinaturalismo’, un término acuñado por el antropólogo brasileño Eduardo Viveiros de Castro y, como reconoce Laird, el concepto ‘crece del pensamiento amerindio, en particular del escritos del chamán yanomami Davi Kopenawa’. Laird elabora: “Al igual que muchas epistemologías indígenas, incluidas las de este continente [Australia], el pensamiento amerindio plantea una época en la que toda la vida era humana. Varios eventos llevaron a las diferenciaciones que vemos hoy: montañas, ríos, plantas, animales pero, debajo de estas diferencias externas, los seres mantienen el parentesco.

Reconociendo las conexiones sudamericanas-australianas de Ensayos en nuestra edición combinada de Más allá del fin y Discipline en 2019, Laird escribe ‘El multinaturalismo continúa polinizando de forma cruzada los dos continentes’ con contribuciones también de la ensayista Cecilia Vicuña y colaboradores de Brasil, Ecuador y Colombia. Este número reconoce la necesidad de “solidaridades a través de las diferencias” y Ensayos se siente honrado de participar en el discurso con nuestras plantas hermanas de Gondwana.

Fortunes of the Forest: Divination, Dance & Story


Fortunes of the Forest: Divination, Dance, and Story was a livestreamed, participatory performance incorporating plant knowledge through ritual, movement and conversation. The event took place on August 18, 2020 as part of the digital residency “Ensayos: Passages” in celebration of the launch of our online periodical Más allá del fin / Beyond the End, issue #3.5.

For Fortunes of the Forest, Australian Ensayos collaborators Dr. C.F. Black (Christine), Amaara Raheem, and Caitlin Franzmann came together to offer unique perspectives on plant consciousness.  As an Indigenous legal scholar and intellectual explorer, Christine’s ancestry, research and travel have shaped her understanding of how to interact with plant beings and other beings on the Earth in a lawful manner. Christine spoke of a deep knowledge about the microscopic and galactic that Australian Aboriginals gained from intimately knowing a place and its shifting structures.  Dance artist, Amaara Raheem, invited the audience to be seen and to move together in a guided hand movement score –  a ritual to acknowledge the collective and to begin aligning with the plants in the Fortunes of the Forest deck.

Caitlin Franzmann created Fortunes of the Forest with collaborator Man Cheung’s botanical photographs of plants found in Karawatha, an urban forest in Australia. One of a number of decks and guidebooks Franzmann has created, this deck prompts associations with living entities, with whom humans share primeval genes, and considers how we might attune to their ways of being on the planet.

Prior to the event, participants were asked to contribute to a collective question. The questions posed were varied, profound, full of care and urgent: Is technology evolutionary? How do we make our collective stories transparent? Can biodiversity be recreated? How can we encourage more complexity and curiosity rather than fear and control? How/where can justice and survival meet? Do plants feel pain? How do they communicate with each other? With humans? How might we listen to plants? Can they tell us how to fix this broken world? How to transform together without violence or hypocrisy? What causes imbalance in primordial energy. From these inquiries, an overarching question was created to pose to the divination cards.

How might we best connect with the world immediately around us, and what can we learn from the global pandemic?

Caitlin led a card reading and the women conversed, guided by the three plants (common thistle, coastal she-oak and forest blue gum), to get to the heart of the collective question. Threads, stories and more questions arose.  A key message that surfaced is that we are not necessarily custodians or guardians of the earth, but part of a much larger patterning within which we may experience turbulence, difficulties and transformations.  When we see ourselves as patterned in, we see reminders everywhere of how to be in relation with the world – to be in a ‘shared flow’.  Listen to the wind, to ancestors. Breathe with gratitude. Might the Eucalytpus salve humanity? The full discussion can be viewed in the video above.

Following are the descriptions and images of each of the cards selected.


Cirsium vulgare // common thistle

This solitary plant was found on the fringe of Karawatha Forest. To some it is considered a sign of neglect, as it thrives on fertile ground that has not been cared for. It is a prickly plant with an erect stem and purple flower head that produce wind borne seeds. To match its lengthy stem, the thistle has a taproot up to 70cm long.

‘Vulgare’ is Latin for ‘common’ and suggests something undesirable about the plant. It is designated as a noxious weed in Australia with management requiring deep cutting of the taproot prior to seed dispersal. To some, however, it is a symbol of nobility or protection and to others it is a highly nutritious food source. As the plant has spines to protect it from predators, the edible stem, leaves, and taproots, have no need for bitterness.

Is there a situation in your life in which you are experiencing neglect? Are you neglecting people or situations that you consider nourishing? Like the roots of the thistle, are you able to tap to the source of this neglect? Can you consider your situation through a different lens? You may discover a hidden purpose or a heightened awareness of a need for selfprotection.


Allocasuarina littoralis // black sheoak

Casuarina is derived from the Malay word ‘kasuari’ (cassowary), referring to the similarity of the plants foliage to the bird’s feathers. ‘Littoralis’ is latin for ‘of the shore’ and whilst this tree is found along the coast, it also grows well in dry forests such as Karawatha Forest. In fact, ‘Karawatha’ is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘place of pines’ and it is thought that the pine-like Allocasurina littoralis influenced this place naming.

The black sheoak is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers grow on separate plants. In the winter months the male trees turn gold when laden with pollen and female trees bear conelike fruit after small red flowers. Wind, the vital force that we cannot see, plays a crucial role in pollination. Wind is related to air, breath, and spirit; that which moves, surrounds, and pervades. The whistling of the wind through the fronds are considered by Australian indigenous people as voices of ancestors and spirits around us.

Fallen needle leaves produce a thick mulch which inhibits other plants growing underneath. They are soil stabilisers with extensive root systems and root nodules housing bacteria that converts atmospheric nitrogen to nitrate which acts as a fertiliser.


Eucalyptus leaf // gum leaf

Leaves are the chief food producing organ of vascular plants, converting light and carbon dioxide into life sustaining carbohydrates. Gum leaves have intricate systems of netted veins that transport water and carbohydrates. This particular leaf shares a midrib, the principal vein that supports the leaf structure and function.

Eucalyptus trees draw a tremendous amount of water from the soil and the leaves play an important role in the ascent of the water and release into the atmosphere through tiny pores that open and close. This is advantageous to the plant and its surrounding environment because of its cooling effect. Eucalyptus leaves also have the ability to avoid drying out by exposing only their edges to the sun’s rays. Leaves can represent the connectedness of all beings in the universe because of their vast numbers growing from a shared source. This particular leaf’s interweaving veins also suggests relationships that are built on a strong foundation of collaboration and communication. How do you regulate your own energy in relation to your environment and others? Would your situation benefit from going with the flow or adopting gentle adjustments to better conserve your energy?

Dr. C.F. Black (Gold Coast, Australia) is an intellectual explorer and a writer. Her intellectual training includes a PhD in Law, Griffith University, her Australia, Australian Aboriginal ancestry, and travels throughout Native America and other Indigenous worlds. Her academic writing includes A Mosaic of Indigenous Legal Thought: Legendary Tales and Other Writings (Routledge, 2017). Research and travel have shaped her understanding of how to interact with plant beings and other beings on the Earth in a lawful manner. Currently, Black is developing online courses to share this knowledge with the general public. She is also an artist and short story author and is currently developing her first play: “The Assassination of the Soul of a Nation.”

Caitlin Franzmann (Brisbane, Australia) is an artist who creates installations, performances, and social practice works that focus on place-based knowledge and clairsentience. Her work has been featured in exhibitions globally, including the National Gallery of Victoria, Naarm/Melbourne; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; and Kyoto Art Centre, among others. Originally trained as an urban planner, she completed her Bachelor of Fine Art at Queensland College of Art in 2012.

Amaara Raheem (Black Range, Australia) is a Sri Lankan-born, Australian-grown dance artist who lived in London for fifteen years. She is now based in both Naarm/Melbourne and regional Victoria (Black Range) and is co-making a residential hub for reparative and speculative practices that investigate the blur between life, art, and climate. Currently completing a practice-led PhD at School of Architecture and Urban Design, RMIT University, Amaara’s practice intentionally crosses cultural, spatial, disciplinary, geographic, linguistic, and cosmic borders.

Fortunes of the Forest: Adivination, Dance, and Story fue una actuación participativa transmitida en vivo que incorporó el conocimiento de las plantas a través de rituales, movimientos y conversaciones. El evento se llevó a cabo el 18 de agosto de 2020 como parte de la residencia digital  “Ensayos: Passages” en celebración del lanzamiento de nuestro periódico en línea Más allá del fin / Beyond the End, issue #3.5

Para Fortunes of the Forest, colaboradores de Australian Ensayos Dr. C.F. Black (Christine), Amaara Raheem, y Caitlin Franzmann se unieron para ofrecer perspectivas únicas sobre la conciencia de las plantas. Como estudiosa del derecho indígena y exploradora intelectual, la ascendencia, la investigación y los viajes de Christine han dado forma a su comprensión de cómo interactuar con los seres vegetales y otros seres de la Tierra de manera legal. Christine habló de un profundo conocimiento sobre lo microscópico y galáctico que los aborígenes australianos adquirieron al conocer íntimamente un lugar y sus estructuras cambiantes. La artista de danza, Amaara Raheem, invitó a la audiencia a ser vista y moverse juntos en una partitura de movimiento de manos guiada, un ritual para reconocer al colectivo y comenzar a alinearse con las plantas en el mazo de Fortunes of the Forest.

Caitlin Franzmann created Fortunes of the Forest with collaborator Man Cheung’s botanical photographs of plants found in Karawatha, an urban forest in Australia. One of a number of decks and guidebooks Franzmann has created, this deck prompts associations with living entities, with whom humans share primeval genes, and considers how we might attune to their ways of being on the planet.

Prior to the event, participants were asked to contribute to a collective question. The questions posed were varied, profound, full of care and urgent: Is technology evolutionary? How do we make our collective stories transparent? Can biodiversity be recreated? How can we encourage more complexity and curiosity rather than fear and control? How/where can justice and survival meet? Do plants feel pain? How do they communicate with each other? With humans? How might we listen to plants? Can they tell us how to fix this broken world? How to transform together without violence or hypocrisy? What causes imbalance in primordial energy. From these inquiries, an overarching question was created to pose to the divination cards.

How might we best connect with the world immediately around us, and what can we learn from the global pandemic?

Caitlin Franzmann creó Fortunes of the Forest con fotografías botánicas de plantas encontradas en Karawatha, un bosque urbano en Australia, del colaborador Man Cheung. Uno de los muchos mazos de cartas y guías que ha creado Franzmann, este mazo incita asociaciones con entidades vivientes, con quienes los humanos comparten genes primitivos, y considera cómo podemos sintonizarnos con sus formas de estar en el planeta.

Antes del evento, se pidió a los participantes que contribuyeran a una pregunta colectiva. Las preguntas planteadas fueron variadas, profundas, llenas de cuidado y urgentes: ¿La tecnología es evolutiva? ¿Cómo hacemos transparentes nuestras historias colectivas? ¿Se puede recrear la biodiversidad? ¿Cómo podemos fomentar más complejidad y curiosidad en lugar de miedo y control? ¿Cómo/dónde pueden encontrarse la justicia y la supervivencia? ¿Las plantas sienten dolor? ¿Cómo se comunican entre ellos? ¿Con humanos? ¿Cómo podríamos escuchar a las plantas? ¿Pueden decirnos cómo arreglar este mundo roto? ¿Cómo transformarnos juntos sin violencia ni hipocresía? Lo que provoca el desequilibrio en la energía primordial. A partir de estas consultas, se creó una pregunta general para plantear a las cartas de adivinación.

¿Cómo podemos conectarnos mejor con el mundo que nos rodea inmediatamente y qué podemos aprender de la pandemia global?

Caitlin dirigió una lectura de cartas y las mujeres conversaron, guiadas por las tres plantas (cardo común, roble costero y eucalipto azul del bosque), para llegar al corazón de la pregunta colectiva. Surgieron hilos, historias y más preguntas. Un mensaje clave que surgió es que no somos necesariamente custodios o guardianes de la tierra, sino parte de un patrón mucho más grande dentro del cual podemos experimentar turbulencias, dificultades y transformaciones. Cuando nos vemos como modelados, vemos recordatorios en todas partes de cómo estar en relación con el mundo, estar en un “flujo compartido”. Escucha al viento, a los ancestros. Respira con gratitud. ¿Podría el Eucalytpus salvar a la humanidad? La discusión completa se puede ver en el video de arriba.

A continuación se muestran las descripciones e imágenes de cada una de las cartas seleccionadas.


Cirsium vulgare // cardo común

Esta planta solitaria fue encontrada en la periferia del Bosque Karawatha. Para algunos se considera un signo de abandono, ya que prospera en terrenos fértiles que no han sido cuidados. Es una planta espinosa con un tallo erecto y una cabeza de flor morada que produce semillas transportadas por el viento. Para combinar con su largo tallo, el cardo tiene una raíz principal de hasta 70 cm de largo.

Vulgare’ en latín significa ‘común’ y sugiere algo indeseable sobre la planta. Está designada como maleza nociva en Australia y su manejo requiere un corte profundo de la raíz principal antes de la dispersión de la semilla. Para algunos, sin embargo, es un símbolo de nobleza o protección y para otros es una fuente de alimento altamente nutritiva. Como la planta tiene espinas para protegerla de los depredadores, el tallo, las hojas y las raíces primarias comestibles no necesitan amargor.

¿Hay alguna situación en tu vida en la que estés experimentando abandono? ¿Estás descuidando a personas o situaciones que consideras nutritivas? Al igual que las raíces del cardo, ¿eres capaz de aprovechar la fuente de este descuido? ¿Puedes considerar tu situación a través de una lente diferente? Puede descubrir un propósito oculto o una mayor conciencia de la necesidad de autoprotección.


Allocasuarina littoralis // sheoak negra

Casuarina se deriva de la palabra malaya ‘kasuari’ (casuario), que se refiere a la similitud del follaje de las plantas con las plumas de las aves. ‘Littoralis’ en latín significa ‘de la orilla’ y aunque este árbol se encuentra a lo largo de la costa, también crece bien en bosques secos como el bosque de Karawatha. De hecho, ‘Karawatha’ es una palabra aborigen que significa ‘lugar de pinos’ y se cree que Allocasurina littoralis, similar a un pino, influyó en la denominación de este lugar.

El sheoak negro es dioico, lo que significa que las flores masculinas y femeninas crecen en plantas separadas. En los meses de invierno, los árboles masculinos se vuelven dorados cuando están cargados de polen y los árboles femeninos dan frutos en forma de cono después de pequeñas flores rojas. El viento, la fuerza vital que no podemos ver, juega un papel crucial en la polinización. El viento está relacionado con el aire, la respiración y el espíritu; lo que mueve, rodea y penetra. Los indígenas australianos consideran el silbido del viento a través de las hojas como voces de antepasados ​​y espíritus que nos rodean.

Las hojas de aguja caídas producen un mantillo espeso que inhibe el crecimiento de otras plantas debajo. Son estabilizadores del suelo con extensos sistemas de raíces y nódulos de raíces que albergan bacterias que convierten el nitrógeno atmosférico en nitrato, que actúa como fertilizante.


Eucalyptus leaf // hoja de goma

Las hojas son el principal órgano productor de alimentos de las plantas vasculares, convirtiendo la luz y el dióxido de carbono en carbohidratos que sustentan la vida. Las hojas de goma tienen sistemas intrincados de venas enredadas que transportan agua y carbohidratos. Esta hoja en particular comparte una nervadura central, la vena principal que soporta la estructura y función de la hoja.

Los árboles de eucalipto extraen una gran cantidad de agua del suelo y las hojas juegan un papel importante en el ascenso del agua y la liberan a la atmósfera a través de pequeños poros que se abren y cierran. Esto es ventajoso para la planta y el entorno que la rodea debido a su efecto refrescante. Las hojas de eucalipto también tienen la capacidad de evitar que se sequen al exponer solo sus bordes a los rayos del sol. Las hojas pueden representar la conexión de todos los seres del universo debido a que su gran número crece a partir de una fuente compartida. Las venas entrelazadas de esta hoja en particular también sugieren relaciones que se construyen sobre una base sólida de colaboración y comunicación. ¿Cómo regulas tu propia energía en relación con tu entorno y los demás? ¿Se beneficiaría su situación de seguir la corriente o de adoptar ajustes suaves para conservar mejor su energía?

Dr. CF Black (Gold Coast, Australia) es un exploradora intelectual y escritora. Su formación intelectual incluye un doctorado en derecho de la Universidad de Griffith, su ascendencia aborigen australiana y australiana, y viajes por la América nativa y otros mundos indígenas. Su escritura académica incluye Un Mosaico del Pensamiento Legal Indígena: Cuentos Legendarios y Otros Escritos (Routledge, 2017). La investigación y los viajes han dado forma a su comprensión de cómo interactuar con los seres vegetales y otros seres de la Tierra de manera legal. Actualmente, Black está desarrollando cursos en línea para compartir este conocimiento con el público en general. También es artista y autora de cuentos y actualmente está desarrollando su primera obra: “El asesinato del alma de una nación”.

Caitlin Franzmann (Brisbane, Australia) es una artista que crea instalaciones, performances y obras de práctica social que se centran en el conocimiento basado en el lugar y la clarividencia. Su trabajo ha aparecido en exposiciones en todo el mundo, incluida la Galería Nacional de Victoria, Naarm/Melbourne; Instituto de Arte Moderno, Brisbane; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Sydney; y el Centro de Arte de Kioto, entre otros. Originalmente formada como planificadora urbana, completó su Licenciatura en Bellas Artes en Queensland College of Art en 2012.

Amaara Raheem (Black Range, Australia) es una artista de danza australiana nacida en Sri Lanka que vivió en Londres durante quince años. Ahora tiene su sede tanto en Naarm/Melbourne como en la región de Victoria (Black Range) y está co-creando un centro residencial para prácticas reparadoras y especulativas que investigan la falta de definición entre la vida, el arte y el clima. Actualmente completando un doctorado dirigido por la práctica en la Escuela de Arquitectura y Diseño Urbano de la Universidad RMIT, la práctica de Amaara cruza intencionalmente fronteras culturales, espaciales, disciplinarias, geográficas, lingüísticas y cósmicas.

Hydrofeminist METitations # 1: Eastern Australia


Hydrofeminist METitations is a listening series brought to you by Ensayos as a part of their digital residency at the New Museum. 

Episode 1: Eastern Australia

Act 1:  Sarita Gálvez offers reflections on water and soil care drawn from ‘Creekulum’ (curriculum of the creek), an environmental education program that connects the community of Moreland Primary School with the Merri Merri Creek in Naarm/Melbourne. Working in collaboration with Traditional Custodians, Creekulum foregrounds the vast richness of Wurundjeri knowledge and ways of living. The program also brings artists and scientists to the school, the local community house, and the creek, to work and learn with young people. 

Sarita developed Creekulum with Wurundjeri Tribe Land Council, Scale Free Network, Merri Creek Management Committee, and Moreland Primary School, with the participation of educator Meg Petrie, weaver Adrienne Kneebone, and Slow Art Collective. Wurundjeri elders Uncle Dave Wandin and Uncle Bill Nicholson gave Sarita and her sons Sam and Nawel permission to share cultural knowledge. To learn more about cultural burning visit Firesticks Alliance.

Act 2: The Bringers of the Viral Red Dust is a story by Dr. C.F. Black set in Guanaba Indigenous Protected Area, in Yugambeh region of Australia’s Gold Coast. Guanaba is part of the traditional lands of Christine’s matrilineal clan, the Kombumerri.  It is an important habitat for rarely-seen small marsupials called potoroos, numbats and quolls, whose survival remains under threat from feral cats, wild dogs and encroaching human settlement. 

The story was written in 2009, the year of the H1N1 pandemic and a massive red dust storm that covered Australia’s east coast. During that time, a small band of potoroos was discovered in Guanaba . In the story, dust has a consciousness and personality, and a virus moves through the land without regard for human actions.

The first parts of the story in this Act is performed by Dr C.F. Black, Amaara Raheem and Caitlin Franzmann. The entire story is available in her book A Mosaic of Indigenous Legal Thought: Legendary Tales and Other Writings (Routledge, 2016). 

Act 3: Ensayos sit in a majestic mangrove tree on Canaipa Island in Quandamooka Country for a somatic exercise in Mangrove Tuning. This practice is inspired by the composer Pauline Oliveros pursuit of sonic meditation through deep listening. 

The mangrove sounds are responded to in this piece by Caitlin Franzmann, Christy Gast, Sharon Jewell, Carla Macchiavello and Camila Marambio. 

Act 4: Ensayistas, spent time on Yunbenun, also known as Magnetic Island, with marine biologist Dr. Lynne van Herwerden. Lynne studies the impact of microplastics on the marine food web in the Great Barrier Reef. The copepod, a microscopic zooplankton, is in grave danger and life in the ocean depends on its survival. More than anything, Lynne wants everyone to know and care about this. She shared a copy of her findings and asked Ensayos how artists might be intermediaries. After closely reading her research papers, visiting her laboratory and interviewing her to get to the heart of the message, Ensayos found the weight and complexity of the issues difficult to navigate. With dark humour and a playful curiosity, they turned the research into the Copepod Song. 

The Copepod Song is co-written by Christy Gast, Camila Marambio and Caitlin Franzmann.  It is rehearsed in this episode by Sarita Gálvez, Bryan Phillips and their sons, Sam and Nawel.  


About Hydrofeminist METitations

Gender studies scholar Astrida Neimanis coined the term “hydrofeminism” to bring together feminist, queer, and ecological sensibilities.* In her words, hydrofeminism begins “one’s ethics and politics from the realization that we are mostly made of water…refusing a separation between nature and culture, between an environment ‘out there’ and a human subject ‘in here.’”

When Ensayos collaborated with Neimanis in 2017, Camila Marambio formulated “METitation” to emphasize Ensayos’ material-somatic research that considers molecular and global relationships in the physical world.** MET is an acronym for Mechanical Electrical Transduction, a sensory mechanism through which cells convert mechanical stimuli into electro-chemical activity. MET accounts for senses of hearing, balance, and touch; hair cells in the inner ear convert the stimuli of drum vibrations, water dropping in the sink, a crashing wave, and voice into electro-chemical signals received by the brain. This transformation is the sense of hearing.

*Astrida Neimanis, “Hydrofeminism: or on Becoming a Body of Water,” in Undutiful Daughters: New Directions in Feminist Thought and Practice, ed. Henriette Dr. Gunkel, Chrysanthi Nigianni, and Fanny Dr. Soderback (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

**“Hydrofeminist METitaions” was first used by Ensayos to describe a live sounding experiment performed by Neimanis, Marambio, Sarita Gálvez, and Karolin Tampere and presented as part of the Liquid Architecture program, “Negative Volumes: Body Languages” held at West Space, Naarm/Melbourne, on October 14th, 2017. 


Episode 1 was created by Caitlin Franzmann, Sarita Gálvez, and Dr. C.F. Black, with Dr. Lynne van Herwerden, Amaara Raheem, Carla Macchiavello, Sharon Jewell, Bryan Phillips, Sam and Nawel Phillips, Ariel Bustamante, Pablo Thiermann, Catalina Jaramillo, Camila Marambio and Christy Gast. Music is by Vera Dvale. 

This episode sound recordings by Mike Koenig and Daniel Simion.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

When Documents Travel and Bodies Remain – Ensayo # 5



December 17 – 19, 2018


Ukika, Isla Navarino


With USB in hand, we winged south from Punta Arenas, across Magellan Strait and Beagle Channel, to Port Williams on Navarino Island. Our main purpose was to meet and stay with the Yaghan community – descendants of the sea-faring people that travelled the waters and settled the islands of southern Tierra del Fuego over 10,000 years ago (well before names of colonial explorers were imprinted on the landscape).

Our USB contained digital copies of journal entries, letters and photographs that documented the journey of Walter Baldwin Spencer and Jean Hamilton, who sailed together to Tierra del Fuego from the UK in early 1929. Jean Hamilton was a librarian and anthropologist. Walter Baldwin Spencer was her lover. He was a biologist and anthropologist best known for his work with Frances Gillen, studying the Indigenous people of Central Australia and Northern Territory. He is considered a pioneer of anthropological ‘field-work’ – an intensive method of going, staying, listening and observing. Today, we must consider his work with a heightened awareness of the colonial context, paternalistic attitudes and problematic Darwinian theory on which it was based.

While realising Spencer’s dream to follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, the pair eventually found themselves on Navarino Island, conducting anthropological field-work with the ‘almost extinct Yaghan tribe’ (1). Hearing word of Juanna, an ‘old Yaghan woman who spoke English’ (2) , they travelled to Hoste Island to seek her assistance. As the winter snow descended, Spencer became ill and was not able to leave the island. He died of heart failure in a storm bound hut, on 14 July 1929.

Aside from her own writing, there is little historical account of Jean Hamilton’s field-work, of her rapport with the Yaghan ‘witches’, or of the treacherous five-day journey she undertook following Spencer’s death to return his body and ‘precious museum material’ (3) to the mainland.  As was common at this time, these Yaghan belongings were later donated to Museums, namely the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, UK and the Melbourne Museum in Victoria, Australia.

Museums across the world are rethinking their collections and, in this spirit, the Melbourne Museum allowed Camila Marambio access to their Yaghan collection, which she photographed and planned to share with the community at Ukika village on Navarino during her next visit to Tierra del Fuego and Cabo de Hornos. So, one December morning in 2018 we met with elders of the Yaghan community (thanks to Alberto Serrano, director of the Museo Martin Gusinde). We shared with them news of the collection and projected Spencer’s photographs of his journey. Memories were engaged, words spoken, places and people named, silence kept. Camila spoke of her position as honorary associate at Melbourne Museum, leaving an open invitation for conversations to continue regarding the Yaghan belongings and Spencer’s documents that travelled to the UK, whilst his body remained in Punta Arenas.

Three days in Ukika was not long, but enough time to sit in gentle conversation with elders, catch up with an old Becoming Beaver friend and dwell with the seaside, the moss and the forests and winds of Bandera Hill. We sniffed for a scent of Maku Kipa (Firebush Woman). We visited Omora Ethnobotanical Park, and left questioning the benefits of ecotourism. Does ‘tourism with a hand lens’ contribute to conservation of the region or is it another narrative inscribed onto the landscape that leaves little room for acts of awe or going off track? How can a Coastal Curriculum allow for multi-dimensional narratives of place and po-ethical acts to seep into each other and permeate beings? In practice, the answer is constantly evolving.


Because stories are important, particularly the ones we are unaware of. Because we need to question who is telling whose story. Because when one is granted a privilege, that person is also granted a power to transform history, to do justice to the untold version of it.

Because Spencer’s need to record what he observed in the interests of expanding knowledge and capturing what would soon be ‘lost’, is a need that remains present in much scientific and social research and needs to be questioned.

Because photographs and cultural objects are mute. In their muteness, they allow interpretation, but it matters who speaks of them. What words would the living Yaghan community speak of these belongings that lie out of sight in climate-controlled museum basements?

Because the Yaghan culture is alive. It’s alive in Martin Calderon’s boat building and the days he spends on the water, navigating memories. It’s alive in Julia Gonzalez’s baskets woven in rush gathered from the marshes. Its alive in the stories and traditional language of Christina Calderon who shares with those who take time to ask. It’s alive in David Alday and the political work he does as president of the community. It’s alive in Veronica and Violeta Balfor’s patching of their family tree. It’s alive in all the young people that live in Ukika and their brothers and sisters that live abroad too, all Yaghans.

Because if museums are daring, they can be ‘borderlands’ where the neat separation of cultures, and of the past and present, is disrupted. (4)


Caitlin Franzmann (Artist) and Camila Marambio (Curator), with the participation of Alberto Serrano, Martin Calderon, Julia Gonzalez, Violeta Balfor, Veronica Balfor, Cristina Calderon and the current President of the Yaghan community David Alday.


Thanks to Ana María Yaconi, Ivette Martínez, the Museo Antropológico Martín Gusinde, the Melbourne Museum and Rebecca Carland.

  1. J (1930) ‘AMONG THE FUEGIANS.’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 June, p. 11.
  2. J (1930) ‘AMONG THE FUEGIANS.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 5 July, p. 7.
  3. Hamilton, J 1930 ‘AMONG THE FUEGIANS.’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 July, p.
  4. G 2015 Light in the Dark Luz En Lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality. Duke University Press, Durham and London.