Metabolic Scales

Frist iteration of video work - Exhibited within Better Nature: Earthen
at Cement Fondu
14 October - 3 December 2023

HD video, sound. 12.25 mins
by Open Spatial Workshop

The first iteration of Metabolic Scales is exhibited within the exhibition titled Better Nature: Earthern, at Cement Fondu Gallery, Sydney 14th October - 3rd December 2023. Curated by Josephine Skinner.

Metabolic Scales examines the biological, geological, and economic entanglements bound up in banded iron formations found on the unceded lands of the Nyamal, Kariyarra, Banjima, and Yindjibarndi, in the Pilbara region, Western Australia. The work presents the material record of transformations dating back more than 3 billion years when oxygen was released into the Earth’s Ocean through the microbial metabolisms of stromatolites. Amongst the first forms of life, stromatolites are microbialites constructed by colonies of microorganisms, such as cyanobacteria. The world’s oldest examples of fossil stromatolites are located near Marble Bar on unceded Nyamal land. The slow build-up of oxygen in the ocean caused iron rich minerals to precipitate out of solution forming layers on the deep seafloor. The iron ore extracted today, found in banded iron formations, resulted from the coupling of these microbial and mineralogical processes.

In a nonlinear sequence of newly created imagery and text, layered with found footage, Metabolic Scales seeks to unfold the complex biogeochemical interactions that take place in the heterogeneous environments where geology meets life. It points to how the politics of life are conditioned and constrained by the dynamics of these interactions, and how our rapidly collapsing future should be understood in relation to Earth’s deep material histories.

Acknowledgements: Nyamal Aboriginal Cooperation, W.A. Geological Survey, Museum of W.A., Martin Van Kranendonk (UNSW), Sarah Wall (PICA), Josephine Skinner (Cement Fondu) and Edwin Sitt.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through Creative Australia, its principal arts investment and advisory body.