Genestreams Songlines Sculptures Background

Background: The Genestreams Songlines Sculptures originates in the 1990s when Nyoongar Man, Dr Noel Nannup, began creating a map of the ‘Traditional Aboriginal Songlines of Australia’. Songlines describe the features and directions of travel, which were included in a song and had to be memorized and sung for the traveler to know the route to their destination.

More recently, various collaborators have worked to ‘layer’ the Songlines of a particular community with deep understanding of evolutionary processes, localized geology, biodiversity and natural history. A specific program by Artist Ben Beeton extended over 15 years, involved a number of Artist Residencies, and  public art projects that unite traditional knowledge with western science – referred to as SciArt (www.sciart.com.au). Through this process Ben Beeton developed the notion of Genestreams. A Genestream is described as the sum total of a species gene pool, linking species through space and time. When a genestream stops flowing it means the species is extinct.  If it continues to flow it will eventually become a new species. The sum total of all Genestreams is referred to as ‘The Tree of Life’.

Dr Noel Nannup and Aunty Carol Pettersen at the Twin Creeks Genestreams Songlines Sculpture.

Through the initiative of Aunty Carol Pettersen and Ben Beeton the essence of this approach has been brought together in public art sculptures, called Tree of Life – Genestreams Songlines Sculptures. The first of these was part-funded by the Regional Economic Development Fund. It was created at Twin Creeks Community Conservation Reserve (near the ancient Porongurup Range) in partnership with Friends of the Porongurups and Gondwana Link.

The Genestreams Songlines Sculpture consists of two sculptures that operate as one.

  1. The outside of the sculpture features the work of Aboriginal artists of the region.  This is the Songlines Sculpture.
  2. The inside of the sculpture is a phylogenetic tree of selected regional species, which speaks of the ecology, geology and deep time history of the region.  This is a Genestreams Sculpture.

The Tree of Life – Genestreams Songlines Sculptures may be installed as actual physical sculptures or as augmented reality sculptures viewed through a phone or ipad. In either case they will be connected to online learning and teaching tools focusing on broadening an awareness of ecological restoration.

Twin Creeks Physical Sculpture, Mount Magnet Augmented Reality Sculpture

Mount Magnet Augmented Reality sculpture with some of the contributing artists

A collaboration has formed to develop further sculptures – involving Noongar leaders Aunty Carol Pettersen and Dr. Noel Nannup.

“This project has the potential to promote local talents, educate about ecology, understanding of First Nations Peoples connection with land and country along with providing a common community communication stream. It also brings out the strengths in the community, it unites a community, it is a social asset and it is tourist attraction. It influences a shift in paradigms on all levels. It certainly provides a medium for Reconciliation as defined by the Federal Reconciliation policy”. Carol Pettersen

The Genestreams Songlines Sculpture depicts species as upright totems that users can interact with through the artwork and, potentially, through a virtual and augmented reality experience. It is possible that an augmented reality experience could be developed to enhance visitors experience of the Genestreams Songlines Sculptures.

The baseplate of the Genestreams Songlines Sculpture depicts a ‘phylogenetic tree’ which grows through a diagram of the geological time scale indicating the connections and common ancestry of 16 selected local species. This also directs users to the relevant (totems) associated artworks. The 16 species are selected in consultation with the local indigenous community and local field naturalists. Special consideration is given to threatened species. Selecting totem species and creating the art for a Genestreams Songlines artwork is the first stage of the project via a consultation process which may at times include an Artists in Residence program.

Aunty Carol Petersen’s vision is for Genestreams Songlines Sculptures to function as a trail that promotes songlines, local conservation efforts, create community cohesion and celebrate the regions natural assets. Neighboring communities would work together to create networks of Genestreams Songlines Sculptures that celebrate their indigenous culture and the similarities and differences in their ecology and geology.

“This project has the potential to promote local talents, educate about ecology, understanding of First Nations Peoples connection with land and country along with providing a common community communication stream. It also brings out the strengths in the community, it unites a community, it is a social asset and it is tourist attraction. It influences a shift in paradigms on all levels. It certainly provides a medium for Reconciliation as defined by the Federal Reconciliation policy”. Carol Pettersen

The project team further describes the potential for the sculptures to incentivise local rock gardens, native botanic gardens, herbaria and florilegia, with ongoing community engagement programs to celebrate local flora, cultural connections and the genestreams.

Details of the internal art for the Twin Creeks Genestreams Songlines Sculpture

Genestreams Songlines Sculpture initiative in action

Example 1: The first Genestreams Songlines Sculpture was installed at Twin Creeks in south-western Australia. Twin Creeks Conservation Reserve is one of the few remaining protected bush properties in this agricultural region and is part of the Oyster Harbour Catchment Group/ Ranges Link Project. The Reserve is a mixture of remnant bush, revegetation and regrowth.  http://sciart.com.au/twin-creeks-genestreams-sculptures/


Example 2: The Shire of Mount Magnet engaged Ben Beeton and Mali Moir to undertake an Artists in Residence project to design and develop a Genestream Songlines Mural in collaboration with twelve local indigenous artists and three local non indigenous artists for the 2021 Astro Rocks Fest. This included consultation with elders and scientists, including from Geological Survey of Western Australia, to develop a broad understanding of the regions ecology, geology and deep time history which is shared on the SciArt webpage and films. The project was presented by Aunty Carol Pettersen and Ben Beeton at Astro Rocks Fest 2021. The artwork, research and films from the residency is featured on – http://sciart.com.au/mount-magnet-astro-rocks-fest-artist-residency/

Combination of the internal and external artwork for the Mount Magnet Genestreams Songlines Sculpture
Mount Magnet Genestreams Songlines Sculpture Mural

Mount Magnet Tree of Life – Genestreams Songlines Sculpture

Support Material

Augmented Reality Test Success

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