This is an immersive performance and guests will have the opportunity to walk through the NIROX Winter Sculpture Fair up to a hillsite where they can view the live burn from safety. Sundowners will be available and after the performance the audience will walk back down the hill to a light meal and the opening of an exclusive solo show of Hannelie Coetzee works curated by Lizamore & Associates.
Projects like Locust & Grasshopper (2017) and Eland & Benko (2015) make scientific research accessible to the wider public in a user-friendly way. It develops mutual goals between disciplines that usually don’t overlap. This spark new ways to address problems. For the 2017 re-burn, government funded Working on Fire will perform the prescribed savanna burn of Locust & Grasshopper at sunset.. This palimpsestous layering of visuals and scientific purposes leads back into Coetzees creative and scientific process of collaborative art and research
About the Exhibition
Alongside this prescribed burn Coetzee will exhibit a range of artworks which are remnants of the various ecological projects which have inspired her. These artworks are responsive in nature and use found objects with more traditional art practices to fossilize her message around human relation to nature and its evolution. Where the scientific research and process is logistical, scientific and researched, Coetzee’s art making can become emotive and embody the human reaction to what she finds. Here she showcases artworks which speak to her practice over the years and how art can be used to interpret environmental issues.
This can be seen in the insect and plant paper pressings which show the duality of beauty and aggression within these ink pressings. The African Migratory Locust swarm which form part of the exhibition have been kindly donated by the University of the Witwatersrand APES Museum as a decommissioned swarming study which D.J. Nolte had been studying in the 1960 -70’s. Along with these pressings, Coetzee plans on creating a large scale sculptural work which will capture the intricate formation of the Locust swarm as they take flight.
This palimpsestous layering of visuals and scientific purposes leads back into Coetzee’s creative and scientific process of collaborative art and research.
What questions do we ask and what habitats do we leave behind? Coetzee poses these questions through the choice of artwork and scientific intervention which draws a parallel to how human behaviour differs and changes and what traces it leaves behind. As the scientific study meets the art, these often-conflicting schools of thought run parallel within the same site, providing a meeting of heads and hearts.
Coetzee selects her subject matter to not only expand and educate herself on these intricate elements of our environment but also to make these complex systems visible for the public.
Providing a sense of socio-environmental commentary on the Anthropocene Era (the geological age where human activity has visibly changed the environment) Coetzee argues that the drastic changes in our climate, in the name of ‘progress’/ development/ innovation, is at the expense of a sustainable ecological future therefore advocating for building more resilient systems approaches. Coetzee argues: “My approach to this controversial fact is that if we could change the weather, we should be able to figure out how to live appropriately with nature and adapt to it. This performative art intervention, and the many other projects I explore, use this premise with art as the tool for interpreting scientific research as it happens.
Coetzee is inspired by the idea that ‘emotion is the glue that makes reason stick’. With these multi-dimensional interventions and responsive artworks, Coetzee prods a growing audience who is learning as the scientists are discovering new knowledge, inspiring a sense of active citizenry.
Coetzee will also exhibit a series of images from the 2015 Eland and Benko burn.
About the scientific research
The 2015 –2016 research on the site tested whether small managed fires creates more diverse, more productive grassland communities by altering how antelope use the landscape. The 2017 burn will take this further by assessing the value of this habitat from many different perspectives. For years, the law in South Africa was that farmers should wait until the first rains before burning, and avoid annual burns (Scott 1971). “
We hope to use the science – art partnership to synthesise different perspectives on the same ecological phenomenon and engage the public more broadly to discuss how societal values influence conservation ideals and build consensus on appropriate land management" explains principal investigating scientist, Sally Archibald.
About the new Grasshopper study
In African grasslands with their abundance of large mammals many people forget about the smaller herbivores. Grasshoppers and termites can sometimes consume as much or more than these large mammals. Smaller animals like grasshoppers are also more dependent on particular habitats (or niches) and we suspect that there are particular grasshopper species which are adapted to and prefer the short-grazed patches that we have created, and that these habitats have value to a range of different organisms, not just Wildebeest and Blesbok. We will be testing this by systematically sampling Grasshopper communities in different habitats at NIROX, and monitoring how they respond to the fire artwork.