Laying Low – Ensayo #6



November 29th – December 4th (Brisbane) and December 5th- December 15th (Minjerribah)


Ensayistas met in Meanjin (Brisbane, Australia), where the Australian research pod has been working with University of Queensland Art Museum (UQAM) to present our ongoing work highlighting the necessity of global peatland protection.

Ensayistas from Norway and Chile joined the Australian pod to celebrate the gifts of scent that contributed to the multisensory experience of Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol the Chilean Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale. These scents, along with sound and text works, were re-presented in the UQAM exhibition ‘Oceanic Thinking’, charting the interconnected and diverse ecosystems of each research pods local peatlands. As these two exhibitions were coming to a close, we performed an ‘open ending’ through word play, peatland sounds, poetry, a letter, a score, a poster – SMELL YOUR BOG, SMELL MY BOG, BOG IS GOOD.

Before heading to Minjerribah for a 10-day collective residency, we met with UQ researchers Nisha Mohamed Ramdzan and Jennifer Cooling to view peat cores and pollen samples from Minjerribah peatlands and learn about their palynology research (study of pollen and spores) on the unique subtropical sand island and further afield in Tasmania and Indonesia. We were also lucky to catch a whiff of Pink Manor Decant Club’s Smell Library at Wreckers ArtSpace – a perfect place to inspire our olfactory explorations.

On the mainland, before getting on the ferry, we met with Tania Kromoloff and Una Sandeman from Australian Conservation Foundation Community Bayside. They guided us on a walk along the bayside to show us the potential detrimental impacts of the Toondah Harbour development proposal that spans over 40 hectares of ramsar protected mudflats. The proposal is currently undergoing a Federal level Environmental Impact Assessment process for which they have received over 25,000 submissions.

Our first week on Minjerribah involved some important introductions to places, creatures and stories that inspired the Australian gift of scent. We swam, wrote poetry, made drawings of peatland beings we encountered, shared meals, pitter pattered around the edges of the patterned fens and attuned with a lagoon thought to be 200,000 years old. We continued to play with words and language, learning through etymology about evolving perceptions of peatlands as dangerous and dark – posing a threat of getting ‘bogged down’.

It wasn’t until fellow Ensayista and ecologist, Renee Rossini, joined us in the second week that we allowed ourselves more intimacy with the peat formations that, until then, seemed distant. Our bodies floating in the seemingly bottomless black pool surrounded by spongey organic walls offered new insights about the subtropical sand island fens. Through immersion into textures, temperature, movement, and scent we began to grasp the hydrological, chemical and biological processes at play.

In the second week, we participated in The Clam’s Kiss | Sogi a le faisua: Summer Workshop at Moreton Bay Research Station organized by UQ Art Museum. We were fortunate to experience a welcome to country by Aunty Margaret Kucirek at Lake Bummeria. Sonja Carmichael introduced the group to changing emphasis of North Stradbroke Island Museum to acknowledge its location on unceded Quandamooka lands and to properly engage with, document and display the 25,000 years + of Quandamooka history, colonisation and the complex shared history of less than 200 years of living together on Minjerribah. Leecee and Freja Carmichael presented their curatorial and artistic projects that are deeply embedded in their Quandamooka Country and culture. Renee Rossini guided low tide walks across the saltmarshes. For the workshop closing, we re-performed ‘open ending’.

We co-dreamed future possibilities, some already becoming reality.


Because the gift of scent is a gift that keeps on giving.

Because open endings are uncertain and therefore full of possibilities.

Because we want to get down into the bog. Because connecting with knowledge held in the archives of peat brings us closer to the archives within our own bodies.

Because its ok to lay low. Even better to lay low together.


Caitlin Franzmann, Camila Marambio, Freja Carmichael, Karolin Tampere, Leecee Carmichael, Renee Rossini, Simon Daniel Tegnander Wenzel and Sonja Carmichael


Thanks to an invitation to be part of Blue Assembly at the University of Queensland Art Museum by curator Peta Rake and ongoing support of the UQAM team, including education manager, Jacquie Chlander and curatorial assistant, Isabella Baker. Thanks to the generosity of the Franzmann family, especially Peter and Kathy. Thanks to the hospitality of the Carmichaels whose strong and soft ways teach us how to lay low and be proud.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. Additional support has been provided by OCA Office of Contemporary Art Norway.

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