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Open Spatial Workshop (OSW) is a collaborative group comprising Terri Bird, Bianca Hester and Scott Mitchell. Since 2003 OSW has produced a broad range of work spanning sculpture, installation, curated events, publications and video production. OSW’s activities are framed by an ongoing interest in physical forces and how the temporalities of these forces are registered. Projects emerge from exploratory workshops focused on our collective interest in the forces of formation involving the social, political, geologic and economic that are registered variously across material events. Past projects have explored the dynamics and vitality of matter and the complex threads that connect biological, material and geophysical processes to anthropogenic activity—charting a ‘geo-social’ field formed through interrelated processes of ‘metabolism’ and ‘extinguishment’. From this research, we investigate connections between sculptural and geological processes through material experimentation.

In 2017 OSW staged a major project Converging in Time at MUMA Melbourne, that comprised an exhibition, bus tour and publication, which explored connections between materiality, the shaping of territories and the complex politics inscribed in place. This exploration was framed through research into the Natural Sciences Collection at Museum Victoria, employing a selection of specimens to explore entanglements between geology, geography, colonisation and resource extraction across the South Eastern region of the Australian continent.

Our current project, titled Metabolic Scales, is a long term investigationinto banded iron formations that both comprise and are extracted from the Pilbara region of Western Australia. These formations were deposited 2.5 billion years ago when cyanobacteria, one of the earliest forms of life, converted sunlight and carbon dioxide into oxygen resulting in the precipitation of dissolved iron from the Earth’s oceans. Known as the ‘Great Oxidation Event’, this biologically driven transformation of Earth’s oceans and atmosphere produced an oxygen rich environment capable of supporting multicellular life. It is these complex interrelations, between biological and geological forces, and their interconnections with social and political states of affairs that forms the basis of our current research. These interrelations are evident in banded iron formations and the fossil records of the Pilbara, as well as within living stromatolite formations in Western Australia, and the communities that live and work in these regions.

We are concerned with thinking—practising in modes otherwise to an anthropocentric perspective that positions the nonhuman as resource. We employ art as a platform to examine how an attentiveness towards geological processes coupled with an ethics of production attuned to deep-time, can reconfigure understandings of possible futures.