Mt Barker Visitors Centre Genestreams Songlines Sculpture Proposal

Proposal: There are 4 consecutive projects that we are offering to engage with in your community. Each step is a project in itself and is not reliant on the further steps to be an effective tool in promoting the region. Please read the summary of the four projects below to understand what we are offering to your community.

Step 1 – The SciArt Project: The first project shares the stories of conservation and science in the region through contemporary interactive field naturalist art. As seen on many previous projects on this website the field naturalist artwork would document the ecological connectivity, geology and deep time history of the region. The project will select 15 regional species to scientifically illustrate. Focus is given to threatened species, endemic species and species of cultural significance. When completed the art and research would be presented on the SciArt website. The art created from this project is used in step 2.

Step 2 – The Genestreams Project: The second step of development focuses on researching the deep time shared ancestry of the selected 15 species from step 1 plus the humans. This research results in the generation of a 3d digital model of an evolutionary tree which can be generated as an Augmented Reality Genestreams Sculpture experience. The art from step 1 is placed on the internal frames of the model. The external frames are left empty for step 3.

Step 3 – The Songlines Project: The 3rd step project can only move forward with the support from the traditional owners of the region. If there is support from the traditional owners of the region for us to undertake step 3 it will then become an opportunity for Aboriginal artists of the region to have digital images of their artwork exhibited on the external frames of the 3d digital model that was created in step 2. The outcome will be an Augmented Reality Genestreams Songlines Sculpture and, a digital image that we call a Genestreams Songlines Mural which features all participating artists work. The Aboriginal artists keep their original artworks.

Step 4 – The Genestreams Songlines Sculpture Installation Project: In step 4 the Augmented Reality Genestreams Songlines Sculpture of step 3 could be developed into a physical 3 meter high Genestreams Songlines Sculpture for the community. When the 4 steps are combined the completed project aims to connect public art with online learning and teaching through conservation science and culture, driving innovation, increasing tourism and diversifying the economy.

Perspectives on the Genestreams Songlines Sculptures from the projects founders Aunty Carol Pettersen & Ben Beeton

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 connects to an artwork on the ecology, geology and deep time history of the region.  This is a Genestreams Sculpture.

Aunty Carol Pettersen OAM JP: “The purpose of our Genestreams Songlines Sculptures is to create learn-scape environments focused on growing and caring for a green and connected future. Featuring Aboriginal and field naturalist artworks we aim to participate in the growing conservation initiative referred to as two-way science. Our vision is that a combination of actual and Augmented Reality sculptures will form a National tourism trail which will increase an awareness of the spiritual relevance of the Songlines, ecological restoration, cultural restoration, and, how through deep time all species are connected. In a map of our Aboriginal Songlines of the Southwest by Dr Noel Nannup the red lines are our traditional walk trails. For thousands of years, our First Nations Peoples have foot printed all across this continent through our Songlines, to guide our celestial and land-based journeys. These song maps connect land features to guide our passage across country maintaining clan identities and connections to place and purpose including trading routes and communication for cultural connections, both inter-regionally and nationally. A Song-Line may be viewed as a means of navigating through and surviving within the Genestreams. We achieved this by connecting with other species through our totemic system. The present cultural and ecological situation is fragmentation, through the monetization of ecological destruction. The proven solution is cultural and ecological restoration by growing connectivity through community and personal participation which leads to ownership. We increase connectivity awareness that inspires action through online and on-country visual literacy tools which help build our preferred future to leave as a legacy for our children”.

Ben Beeton: “As we are all custodians of the living end of the Tree of Life, our role is to keep the Genestreams of country flowing through time by engaging in land care restoration at scale to reconnect the natural systems which protect our endangered species. The sculptures are based on an interactive phylogenetic tree, that I designed at ANU. By visualising where in the geological time scale species within the same ecosystem shared common ancestry and then by recounting the recent story of each species and planning out recovery programs for natural systems into the future the objective of the project was to assist communities to comprehend and bring natural systems back into balance. In partnership with Gondwanalink and GeoParks and with support from Bush Heritage we work with communities, conservation organizations and ecotourism across Australia to create networks of Genestreams Songlines Sculptures. The Augmented Reality Genestreams Songlines Sculpture may be displayed in multiple locations across the planet to promote ecology and culture. A Genestream is a story of heredity flowing through space-time within the Tree of Life, a Genestream is the sum total of a species ancestral gene pools. From a source of shared ancestry every species has its own unique Genestream story. Nature is the sum total of its Genestreams. When a species’ Genestream stops flowing that species becomes extinct. Genestreams Songlines Sculpture offers a new way for people to adopt totem species and engage in caring for country”.

These two films provide an overview of our project

Presentation given at FACET’s “The Art of Tour Guiding Conference”


Genestreams Songlines Sculptures 4 Steps in Development

Step 1 – The SciArt Project

Step 1 – This is a SciArt project focusing on broadening an awareness of the ecology, geology and deep time history of the region through a contemporary field naturalist artwork which is displayed on a SciArt webpage with accompanying film clips and other resource material that inspired the artwork. This project has a strong conservation message. It is presented as a visual literacy resource tool about the region as may be seen in other listed SciArt projects on this website and the SciArt for schools initiative.

Bunya Mountains Genestreams Artwork featuring the volcanic history of the east coast volcanism

The first step project explores and document the ecology, geology and conservation actions that are taking place in the region. Through consultation we will select 16 species (including humans) that are important to the region and illustrate them with particular focus on threatened species, endemic species and species of cultural significance. We will then create an artwork about the ecology, geology and deep time history of the region which is designed to be displayed both as a feature artwork on a SciArt visual literacy webpage and as the internal artwork within a potential Genestreams Songlines Sculpture for the region. To undertake this first stage of the project Ben Beeton (SciArtist) and Mali Moir (Scientific Illustrator) will seek to visit the region and stay for a time to familiarize ourselves with the conservation work taking place and document and illustrate it. Once this foundational documentation and illustration work is complete we will create a SciArt visual literacy webpage for the project to share the stories of conservation in the region and feature the field naturalist artwork that the experience has inspired. To promote the region the webpage will be listed on sciart.com.au/projects/.

About Ben Beeton – “During the past 15 years I have completed over 35 artist residency projects in partnership with conservation and eco-tourism organizations focusing on the ecology, geology and deep time history of natural systems. I hold adjunct positions at the Australian National University and the University of Western Australia”.

About Mali Moir – “For the past 25 years I taught students in botanical and scientific art thru the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, I illustrated for the National Herbarium of Victoria and I was a museum expedition artist. I lead a 10 year group art project into arid Australia. I hold an adjunct position at the University of Western Australia”.

Mali Moir Artworks

The examples below are from recent Genestreams Songlines Sculptures.

Mount Magnet Genestreams Artwork featuring the movement of Australia’s ancient cratons over billions of years connected to the stories of the night sky.

Bunya Mountains Genestreams Artwork details
Bunya Mountains Genestreams Artwork details
Bunya Mountains Genestreams Artwork details
Bunya Mountains Genestreams Artwork details

Twin Creeks Genestreams Artwork

Twin Creeks Genestreams Artwork detail

Step 2 – The Genestreams Project

In step 2 we work with our collaborator Gary Muir of WOW Wilderness Tours to research the shared ancestry of the selected species. The information is presented as a ‘phylogenetic tree’ depicted on the base plate of the Genestreams Songlines Sculpture through a diagram of the geological time scale indicating the connections and common ancestry of 16 selected regional species (including the humans).

Phylogenetic tree of selected species for the Twin Creeks Genestreams Songlines Sculpture
Shared ancestry database by Gary Muir

Step 3 – The Songlines Project

Step 3 – This project invites participation from local Aboriginal artists with connections to the region to share their perspectives on connecting to country through their art. The artists keep their original artworks. The project seeks a digital image of the contributing artists work to place on the external frames of the 3d digital model generated in step 2. Through this process the Genestreams Sculpture of step 2 becomes a Genestreams Songlines Sculpture which may be displayed in Augmented Reality. This will become part of the growing nation wide tourism trail of the Genestreams Songlines Sculptures.

Mount Magnet Augmented Reality sculpture (proof of concept test) with some of the contributing artists
Augmented Reality Example

The examples below are of contributing Aboriginal artists work from recent Genestreams Songlines Sculptures projects.

Contributing Aboriginal Artists work for the Twin Creeks project
Contributing Aboriginal Artists work for the Mount Magnet project
Contributing Aboriginal Artists work for the Bunya Mountains project

With the consent of all contributing artists all the artworks may be arranged for webpage display as one mural artwork with the option of printing the work for public display. At Mount Magnet the Mount Magnet Genestreams Songlines Mural is on permanent display in the visitors center.

Mount Magnet Genestreams Songlines Mural

Mount Magnet’s Genestreams Songlines Mural on display at the Mount Magnet visitors center



Step 4 – The Genestreams Songlines Sculpture Installation Project

Step 4 – This project focuses on the installation of a real physical Genestreams Songlines Sculpture installed in a chosen location by the community. This will become part of the growing nation wide tourism trail of Genestreams Songlines Sculptures.

Dr Noel Nannup, Aunty Carol Pettersen, Mali Moir and Ben Beeton at the Twin Creeks Genestreams Songlines Sculpture.

“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


Project Background & Vision

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’. Over many years Ben developed Genestreams into a toolkit for modeling the Tree of Life in new and innovative ways. Ben worked at the Australian National University in the development of Genestreams virtual reality teaching tools.

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

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

Through a combination of real and Augmented Reality Genestreams Songlines Sculptures our vision is that the interconnected Genestreams Songlines Sculptures tourism trails will spread from the great south west across the whole of Australia, sharing the stories of connectivity between conservation, culture and science with the world. The sculptures have the potential to incentivize local rock gardens, native botanic gardens, herbaria and florilegia, with ongoing community engagement programs to celebrate local flora, cultural connections and the Genestreams.

Twin Creeks Physical Sculpture, Mount Magnet Augmented Reality Sculpture proof of concept test

The accompanying website with its Augmented Reality capacity will provide local artists, conservationists, elders and scientists with a platform to be heard, sharing knowledge and stories of local culture and environment. Genestreams Songlines Sculptures will be connected to online learning and teaching tools focusing on broadening an awareness of ecological and cultural restoration. The Augmented Reality Genestreams Songlines Sculpture may be displayed in multiple locations across the planet to promote the ecology and culture of the region.

concept image – The Genestreams Songlines Sculptures tourism trails may be reduced in size and be exhibited in public forums around the world.

Using the Genestreams Songlines Sculptures AR capacity we can achieve Gondwana Link and Pangea Link visualization tourism trails through the geology and paleo ecology of the ancient past.

A longer term goal is that each contributing project will become part of an online exhibition viewable in virtual reality promoting the unique cultural, ecological and geological stories of each contributing region.

exhibition concept image

Genestreams Songlines Sculpture initiative in action

Twin Creeks Genestreams Songlines Sculpture

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.  https://sciart.com.au/twin-creeks-genestreams-sculptures/

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


Mount Magnet Genestreams Songlines Sculpture AR

Mount Magnet Genestreams Songlines Sculpture in Augmented Reality

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. At this time we partnered with GeoParks WA to connect the public to a deeper awareness of the incredible geological history of the continent. The artwork, research and films from the residency is featured on – https://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


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