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Biological, geological, temporal

Despite what you might think, Steven Siegel (renowned land artist, you may have heard of him) does not think of himself as an eco artist.

Steven explains “I don’t make art because I’m political I make art because I’m interested in aesthetics. However, if one is an observer of the world the content of your work naturally reflects what’s going on in the world”.

So he is an artist that is political and thinks about the state of the world, and how can you not, the environment.

“If you took away the politics and social meaning I would still get up and make art. The primary motivator is to feast my eyes on something. If you took away the visual part, and all that was left was the politics, I’d say forget it.”

Excerpt of 'Biography' by Steven Siegel photo by Doug Baz

Detail of 'Biography' by Steven Siegel photo by Doug Baz

Another reason for the eco interpretation is that Steven employs truckloads of reused materials to make his work. It’s there, it’s free, it makes sense.

Steven has made two installations in the NewActon precinct (where we are) that act as a link between the Nishi building (the building we’re in…) and the greater Canberra (the city we’re in…) landscape… If you’ve ever been here you’ll know that Canberra is all about the bush, the lake, the mountains.

Siegal has named his first piece ‘Carbon’. It is a huge feathered tentacle structure that has attached itself to the façade of the Nishi building. I say attached because Seigel has developed a modular system, out of masses of shredded tyres, and that system has grown organically where it wanted to grow – creeping in and out of the building’s blackbutt lattice. This beast is biological.

“Steven, what is the relationship of the piece with the building?” (Er yeah, I’m going try and seem smart whilst interviewing one of the world’s most renowned land artists). “I don’t get that literal. It is what it is. I don’t make art that’s about. It’s for you to determine whether it’s a statement”. (Oh…) Right, well to me it’s a Yara-ma-yha-who ready to invade if we keep fucking this up. (As an average Australian I have an eco-footprint of 6.4 hectaaaares, his chances of invasion are looking good…). To me, this is a cautionary and complex piece of work.

Carbon by Steven Siegel photo by Lee Grant

In comparison, Steven’s second piece is a skip in the park. A nice little (yeah, not) paper installation made using two years worth of collected Canberra Times newspapers. Steven is used to making these peaceful installations in beautiful old forests surrounded by the resources that made the paper, that fit into the landscape and look like ancient rock shelves. This one is aptly named ‘Paper’. This piece is geological.

Paper by Steven Siegel photo by Lee Grant

Steven’s real love is his studio work –incredible ongoing bodies of work like his ‘Biography’ and ‘Wonderful Life’. The 48th piece of ‘Wonderful Life’ hangs in the Mosaic room at Hotel Hotel, she is called ‘Xenia’.

He has been working on ‘Biography’ for over four years and it is currently 40 metres long, built in sections that fit together. Some of the sections have been sold and Steven can’t say whether it will ever be seen all together. This piece is temporal.

“You are very fortunate if you get to be almost 60 and you feel like you’ve only just started”.

Xenia by Steven Siegel

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