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CoalFace

Out-of-Sync , Norie Neumark, Maria Miranda
2013

Artist Statement: During a month-long residency at The Library Artspace in Melbourne we came face-to-face with coal in a slow and meditative process of looking, listening and waiting to see what unfolded.

Throughout the month we blogged our experience and our process while making the work. We also took a road trip to the La Trobe valley to visit the three big brown coal power stations, Hazelwood, Loy Yang and Yallourn. Due to the paranoia of the coal industry it was very difficult to actually collect any coal – although we managed to find some eventually. The final installation was a spatial poem that included amongst other things coal, two- channel video taken of our street performances in Beijing and the Yallourn power station in Victoria, as well as video performances with coal and found video of Antonioni’s 1964 film Red Desert. Coal is a material that we are most familiar with in its transformed state – pollution. Yet coal is a fascinating, porous and diversiform material, itself transformed from ancient rain forests that covered vast areas of the world, particularly the east coast of Australia.

Background to the work: In December 2012, while on a residency in Beijing we experienced very thick and frightening air pollution, a real pea-souper. Overlooking our usual attention to daily weather reports, we fixated on the Air Quality Index or AQI. This little app on our smart phones told us what sort of air to expect each day, and this would determine what we would do, in fact if we would venture outside or not. The AQI swung wildly during the 21 days of our residency from 178 to over 400. At the same time the Melbourne AQI was 14. We discovered that the particulate PM2.5 that we experienced in Beijing was more than likely Australian coal, exported to China.