attenuated ground – the slow seismogenic zone (2021)

Slow Moving Waters. TarraWarra Biennial 2021. Curated by Nina Miall

materials: double bass, toffee, seismometer, wooden table, tactile transducers, form ply, plaster, surface vibration speakers, polished concrete, powdered core sample, powdered gold leaf, Ficus coranata plant, Rhizobox, soil

Photo credits: Andrew Curtis and Lucy Bleach

Comprising three related sculptures, attenuated ground (the slow seismogenic zone) responds to the geologic phenomena of slow earthquakes, which produce a delayed, imperceptible rupture over extended periods—a process referred to by the artist as ‘a poetry of collapse’. A double bass, the largest and lowest-pitched string instrument in the symphony orchestra, is embalmed in toffee, its form gradually revealed as the toffee liquefies onto a plaster bed below. Excited by tactile transducers, the exposed strings of the double bass transfer the infrasonic pulse of slow earthquake events. Picked up by a seismometer embedded in the toffee, the tone of their vibrations shifts subtly. As the instrument ‘plays’ the sustained release of seismic energy, it makes visible and audible subterranean processes which we rarely witness directly.
On an adjacent wall, a polished concrete slab, fractured through a process of seismic simulation, continues Bleach’s enquiry into the slow upheaval of geological activity. The slab’s network of cracks has been intricately sutured by the artist according to the principles of the Japanese art of kintsugi, using a powdered core sample extracted from the slow seismogenic subduction zone in the Japan Trench, illuminated with gold. In a nearby window, a Ficus coronata, an endemic species of fig tree found near TarraWarra Estate, grows in a Rhizobox. Laying bare the plant’s extraordinary vascular root system, the Rhizobox reveals channels of communication between the tree’s superterranean and subterranean spheres. Sharing material, formal and conceptual correspondences, the three resonant forms of Bleach’s installation reflect on sustained vibration, slow states of transition and delicate acts of repair. Together they compel a reimagining of our relationship to our increasingly unstable environment.

Slow Moving Waters catalogue extract. Curator Nina Miall.