Desert Lake, General

Paruku Project. Art and Science in Aboriginal Australia Blog 15 November 2014

Paruku Project. Art and Science in Aboriginal Australia Blog 15, November 2014

DSC_5421lowresOne of the five major outcomes the Mulan community and Warruyanta Art Centre asked for from the Paruku Project was that their story should be taken to the world and this year we have achieved this through the Centre for Art + Environment exhibition which opened at the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, Nevada 21 June and runs through till 7 December 2014.

This exhibition is drawn from the Paruku Archive and Project collection given to the Nevada Museum of Art by Basil Mcilhagga, David Leece and Mandy Martin. David Taylor also donated one of his photographs. This exhibit was necessarily smaller than the Araluen Art Centre exhibit of Desert Lake in Alice Springs in February 2013 but no less impressive given its world context in a major museum.

Four of the Paruku project team, Jamie Brown, John Carty, Guy Fitzhardinge and I were invited to attend at speak at the 2014 Art + Environment Conference in October. Jamie was unable to attend but David Leece and Fran Murrell joined us as conference participants

We participated in a sequence of panels dealing with“Fieldworks” and I was asked to talk about “Painting for Protection” given that much of the conference had been devoted to art created around humans interacting with animal species. I spoke for 10 minutes and showed a short 2 minute excerpt of the Desert Lake film, as a way of introducing the project, my artwork and the other panellists . Guy Fitzhardinge talked about our Western tendencies to separate people and environments and how it is important to understand the deep connections the Wiradjuri people have to their landscape. John Carty addressed Glenn Albrecht’s concept of “Solastalgia” which is the psychological condition people who are constantly dealing with environmental change and trauma can develop and discussed how art responds to and can mitigate that condition. Our session generated many questions both during the panel and during the rest of the conference. The art+ environment 2014 conference program is available on and

This will be the final Paruku Project blog, (I think!). I believe that have delivered our 5 stated outcomes, (see Paruku Project Blog 1), some more effectively than others, due to the ongoing flux in desert communities and Mulan in no greater part than any other. Those outcomes were

  • Taking the Walmajarri story about Paruku to Australia and the world, through the CSIRO book, the blog, the DVD, the exhibitions in Alice Springs and Nevada Museum of Art and creating an archive in safe keeping at the Center for Art+ Environment Nevada Museum of Art.
  • Raising the Mulan communities’ sense of self-esteem and providing some training opportunities and income through sales of artworks, royalties from the book and artists and cultural fees, thereby helping the art centre get on its feet.
  • Achieving demonstrable environmental outcomes through the feral horse programme and by highlighting the importance and value of Scientists working with Indigenous Owners in their Traditional Country to further desert knowledge.
  • Achieving greater national and international understanding of how global drivers are modifying Indigenous Traditional Owners’ connection to Country in the Tanami Desert.
  • Creating a model which can be used by other communities facing similar environmental challenges which might be addressed through environmental art projects.

IMG_2993We leave the project now for posterity not only as a major book, Desert Lake. Art, Science and Stories from Paruku but as the DVD of the same name and the Project Blog, The full collection of Walmajarri paintings and print folio as well as works donated by David Taylor, David Leece and Mandy Martin, are now in the permanent collection of the Nevada Museum of Art and finally the archive of the Paruku Project is now held by the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art.

Many of you have become good friends and frequent correspondents and I thank you all for your ongoing involvement and interest and invaluable assistance.

Plans are afoot to take the model we developed at Paruku to Arnhemland and I hope to talk with those of you who are interested about this evolving scope and potential environmental art project in 2015.

With heartfelt thanks and good wishes, Mandy