writings about

Some extracts and links to writings about the artist…

Thinking like a fossil: Encounters with Perdita Phillips’ problematica (2020)

A significant commissioned essay by Amy Cutler about geologically themed projects from 2018-2020.

…in Phillips’ booklet of thrombolites, pseudo-fossils and quorum sensing, these tracings explode out of any over-arching museological or scientific fidelity. She creates propositions which pull always toward the invisible outsides of any disciplined act of remembrance.

-ing (2017)

An essay on the -ing project about carrying and weeding that was undertaken as part of the know thy neighbour project by Spaced.

Deliberately, however slowly, Phillips’ projects such as –ing cultivate a sense of belonging and caring. –ing inspires awareness of natural networks and systems beneath our individual and collective ecological footprint. –ing interrogates what sustainability is by returning to the hard questions we face in entangled times. The –ing project is equally about actions, states, and occurrences — of perception and movement — of walking, wading, watching, wondering, weeding, worrying and wording: small collective actions of community-based caring amount to environmental stewardship.

– collaboration is airborne – (2014)

– collaboration is airborne – catalogue response by the ((pollen)) project for the InConversation catalogue

Where all mattering is collaboration, the important question is no longer: is this a collaboration? but rather: what does this collaboration do? What is at stake? What proliferates, and what disappears? Within the flips and the folds, pollen collaborations also insist that difference still matters.

Neimanis, A., & ((pollen)) collaborators. (2014). – collaboration is airborne –. In L. Adams, R. Newman-Storen, & C. Kueh (Eds.), InConversation (pp. 65-70). Mt Lawley: Edith Cowan University.

Judges’ Comments, 2014 City of Joondaulp Community Invitational Art Award

The Another Time Table artwork was overall runner up.

This is a cohesive and thought provoking work which has been beautifully executed. In some ways the materials reference the mould-making process through the use of gauze and bandages; these are also reminiscent of bodily injury and of discarded materials, connecting the work to the body and human activity, and serving as a reminder that we are linked to the natural world. There is a sense of playfulness and quaintness in this artwork, which is underpinned with serious intent, making this consistent with the artist’s wider artistic practice.

Canopy (2014)

Wilson, L. (24-25 May). Tensions between use and conservation of the land: Mundaring art show ventures into forest, Review, A A A Weekend, The West Australian, p. 125.

A mention in a review by Laetitia Wilson of the exhibition Canopy.

A work by Perdita Phillips features a booklet of photographs of the timber town of Pemberton with locations pictured in the past and re-photographed by Phillips in the present. Above this is a mixed media image of the giant karri log once displayed in Kings Park with onlookers dwarfed by its scale. With these juxtapositions, Phillips asks us to consider the passing of time and the contradiction of the celebration of the natural world in the face of its destruction.

Laetitia Wilson

Novel ecologies (2013)

Finnegan, A. Speculative ecologies: Ann Finnegan: Cross Art Projects, Novel Ecologies. RealTime, (119), 54.

Ann Finnegan’s review of Novel Ecologies in Realtime (external link)

…the work is titled “doing so that (tie a knot in it, the world is a handkerchief, a pile of promises).” The handkerchief gifts are embroidered in ‘penguin speech,’ an artistic envisioning of how penguins might negotiate this bargain—if they could.

In this respect Novel Ecologies shifts the emphasis from an anthropocentric worldview to one closer to Timothy Morton’s object-orientated ontology—non-human species and things. Philosophically, the shift can be traced to the reflections of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty: “thing-being” (Heidegger) and the reversal of the gaze such that ‘things’ are looking back at us (Merleau-Ponty). On behalf of the penguins you are invited to shift your role from viewer-archivist to humble addressee and contract, through acceptance of the gift, to reflect on their plight. Relational aesthetics and its contract of gifting or exchange—Bourriaud’s famous remark: the artwork is a handshake—extends that contract to the world of non-human beings. It’s a cannily inclusive strategy within ecosystemic thinking.

Ann Finnegan

Fairley, G. (14 October). Artful penguins in Sydney Harbour: Penguins, ultrasound drawings, Bengal tigers, and freeform video are the subject of an exhibition at Cross Art Projects. ArtsHub News

Gina Fairley’s short article in ArtsHub (external link)

There is a strong performative aspect to the work of each of the artists and while Phillips dons a scientists coat to chart her research, visitors are equally invited to play a role and enter into a contract with the penguins. In exchange they receive a Morse Code embroidered handkerchief, its message spelling out the question: “what does a penguin what?”’

Stephens said, ‘Both she and Robert Zhao Renhui are interested in the codes, the protocols, the note taking, the expedition reports, the storage and the collating.’

She added, ‘They work in very poetic rather than didactic ways, but they also have a sense of urgency about their questions.’

Gina Fairley

fast|slow|complex (2013)

Barrett-Lennard, J. (2014) Working it out along the way… fast|slow|complex. Fremantle: Lethologica Press.

Major catalogue essay on Perdita’s art practice to 2013

The move that Perdita Phillips has made in fast|slow|complex is not just one from remote spaces to familiar, personal territories but from the solitary to the social. In moving from the non-urban territory of earlier projects into the urban space of city life Phillips is not making a move from nature to culture—and she actively rejects a strict dichotomy between them, emphasising instead a boundary space of great potential which at its best is resilient, changeable and alive. Her move is away from binary relationships, including one in which nature is defined in contrast to the human and urban, and as having the qualities of goodness and innocence lacking in our urban environments. It is in cities and similar human centres that the threats of environmental collapse and degradation can be most clearly seen. It is here and in the spaces of the everyday, not just those of dramatic disaster, that Phillips suggests humans need to confront the risks and dangers we have made for ourselves and our planet. We must embrace a paradox: accept fate and act, in our present, to change the past of our future.

John Barrett-Lennard

Yonder (2012)

Wilson, L. Over & down yonder & beyond. Laetitia Wilson: Yonder, PICA. RealTime(112), 44.

A mention in a Realtime review by Laetitia Wilson of the exhibition Yonder curated by Jasmin Stephens.

Many of the works literally, if not metaphorically, extend beyond their physical manifestation in the gallery space into the world at large. Using the symbol of the shy albatross, Perdita Phillips presents Shy (dissolution + exchange) (2012-13), a work in the classic genre of mail art to picture the slow attenuation of a photocopy of said bird as it is repeatedly copied at numerous global locations around the southern rim. Phillips reels in collaborators worldwide, the resulting A4 sheets forming a grid on the wall: wedged within them is a monitor with an animation detailing the slow degradation of the image. In this work, the art is a stand-in traveller for the artist who stays at home, imagining the far flung places the albatross roams—from across the road to Africa and back home again.

Laetitia Wilson

Billyacatting (2012)

This small work won an $1000 Acquisitive Award at the Minnawarra Art Award: the judges’ brief feedback:

The work was a beautifully textured suggestion of the relationship between the domestic and the natural.

Wallpaper group show (2010)

Schwarz, N. Wallpaper. Artlink, 30(3), 100 (external link)

Schwarz discusses the ink on wallpaper work nachi falls (tourist version) (2010)

Recently returned from Sweden, where she visited Linnaeus’ house papered with handpainted botanical images from a book, and intrigued by James Elkins’ ‘Pictures and Tears: How a painting can make you cry’ Perdita Phillips explores Stendhal’s syndrome in relation to a famous Shinto painting of a woman on a balcony overlooking Nachi Falls. Phillips’ ink painting on the sized reverse side of the wallpaper is a cascading torrent, with a female observer who seems to be at one with the water.

Nien Schwarz

The Yellow Vest Sydrome (2009)

A short description of the artists’s work in this 2009 show from the catalogue

…The geologist’s affiliation to the land is recorded by Perdita Phillips, who previously worked as an environmental officer on mine sites, in her suite of photographs which closely observe the tools. apparel and protocols of her friend and former work colleague, Alvin D’Almeida. Her accompanying video, herethere (above and below), suggests the capacity of the earth to absorb our forays into its interior. The artist becomes a diminutive figure against the backdrop of this ancient Kimberley escarpment.

Smith, N. (2009). The Yellow Vest Syndrome: recent West Australian art Artlink, 29(2), 84-85. (external link)

Two paragraphs from a review of the exhibition in Artlink.

…Perdita Phillips’ practice of walking in country is represented in her film ‘herethere’ above and below which documents her traversing a steep incline of red rocky earth in the Kimberley. Her figure, clothed in a white lab coat, purposefully walks up and back down, the rise. Screened on a small DVD player placed high on the wall, both the location and the activity (Phillips’ face is out of view until the end of the loop), are positioned as just out of reach for the viewer. The reduction of scale causes the vista to be dwarfed, the detail lost in swathes of colour that appear near-abstracted. In this way landscape, and her relationship with it, are inaccessible. We must rely on our imagination – neatly pointing to the way in which we construct landscape.

Phillips’ corresponding photographic series depicts [a] geologist… conducting a survey at Wheelbarrow Creek. Segments of his figure are variously shown, in a structural breakdown of activity: his toolbelt and clothing (drill cotton), hands clasping flower sepals, doodling field markings in a notebook. We don’t see his face, are simply given these clues to …[the geologist’s] relationship with landscape, as observed by Phillips. Again, they don’t fall into any easy way of reading, further muddying our understanding by positioning landscape as mediated by interpretation.

Nyanda Smith

Birdlife (2008-2011)

Reviews of the birdlife writing and visual art collaborative project by Nyanda Smith and Perdita Phillips.

Ryan, J. C. (2012). Review of birdlife. Landscapes, 5(1), 119-121. (external link)

Structured by the twin themes of birds and lives (that is, their lives, our lives and the enduring connections between), birdlife goes beyond the literal, taxonomic portrayal of the ornithological—beyond natural history alone and ecological observation solely…

Binding birdlife together, Perdita Phillips’ artwork is deft and evocative. It ranges in form from watercolours, sketches and photographs of living birds in habitats to dead birds preserved in ornithological collections. Renderings of bird heads seem like the field drawings of a naturalist, while images of a domestic chook behind the steel bars of a cage are those taken by an animal ethicist. Images of two preserved birds labelled with specimen tags and bearing the scientific moniker Alcedo pusilla assert the ironies of the natural sciences and how taxonomic practices sometimes reduce lives to objects. Phillips’ photographic eye is astute, and captures a range of realities, from a window painting of Coolabah, the exquisite and delicate details of bird skeletons and the iridescent plumage which accompanies Farrell’s poem ‘bird eating a rainbow’. Her black and white photographs of plumage particularly interest me. Without colour, the feather patterns glow in an intriguing way.

What I appreciate most about birdlife is that one needn’t be an ornithologist or naturalist to appreciate it. birdlife does include some astute detail about actual birds in real places. Its chemistry lies, however, in its blending of perceptions of the natural world with broader avian metaphors; in the intersection of bird and human lives in urban, suburban and country areas; in its timeless theme of our longing for transcendence, as projected onto birds and carried out in their native places with the strangest of ironies. And within all this, a convincing conservation message resounds: we need to consider seriously the welfare of our feathered compatriots and their ecologies through various forms of expression and the complementary voices of artists and writers.

John Ryan

Artsource. (2011). Birdlife and Lethologica Press. Artsource Newsletter, Winter, 25. (external link)

Artwork and text are interspersed and given equal weighting in the book. ‘We wanted the book to dynamically explore art and text working together,’ explains Perdita. ‘We didn’t want the artwork to purely interpret the text, our vice versa, but for them to equally affect the readings of each other.’….’We hope that the book works as a beautifully produced object, that people can dip into and draw something different from, each time,’ says Nyanda.

Italiano, F. (2008). Birdlife. ArtSource Newsletter, Autumn, 5-6.

An article Interview by Francis Italiano as part of an Artsource newsletter about text and art.

In conversation, and in her practice, Perdy seems to hover momentarily, scrutinising subjects with her head cocked, before swooping in, swift and incisive. Meanwhile, Nyanda positively warbles with excitement about the “frisson between text and image”

…Much of Perdy’s practice draws from science, which has seen her attracted to photographing “intriguing but macabre” stuffed birds in museums – respectfully aware of what she calls the “folly of science” in representing ‘life’ through taxidermy. It was Perdy’s photograph of a stuffed owl with a dicky eye that hooked in poets Miles and Farrell when first approached.

Francis Italiano

The Sixth Shore (2009-)

The Sixth Shore Project was an investigation into the Lake Clifton Thrombolites to create a sound/GPS artwork.

Worden, S. (2013). The Earth Sciences and Creative Practice: Exploring Boundaries between Digital and Material Culture. In D. Harrison (Ed.), Digital Media and Technologies for Virtual Artistic Spaces (pp. 186-204). Hershey, Pennsylvania: IGI Global.

Contextualisation of the artist’s work by Suzette Worden.

The project builds a picture of the environment in layers, alluding to the immense geological timescale that can be discerned through studying the constituent parts of this landscape. The thrombolites are organisms have a lineage going back 3.5 billion years. For the Sixth Shore, multiple stories are woven together from the six themes: Shore 1: thrombolitic time; Shore 2: shifting shores: lake formation and seashore changes; Shore 3: cultivated landscapes: indigenous cultures; Shore 4: a time of clearing; Shore 5: bird migration and hooded plovers; and finally Shore 6: futures.

Inherent in the progression through the six stages is a sense of historical change and, through knowledge and experience the power to see a viable future that is not disconnected from a history that embraces far more than a human timescale. …Extended further, the performative role in art has a hybrid space where the visual and textual products can feed into cultural politics and/or social intervention.

This digitally enabled work creates links between the environment and experience through sound narrative and supports a multisensory richness. This includes a slippage between the virtual and the real that is mirrored by links between the social and the geological. More importantly, the work makes the connections and links visible and accessible, and consequently the methodological concerns of art practice also become visible… A study of these ‘translations’ to and from the material world to digital spaces has opened up ways of providing a critique of new media works in the context of a broader historical perspective, including ecology and the body in space.

Suzette Worden

Dixon, D., Hawkins, H., & Straughan, E. (2012). Of human birds and living rocks: Remaking aesthetics for post-human worlds. Dialogues in Human Geography, 2(3), 249-270. doi: 10.1177/2043820612468692 http://dhg.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/2/3/249

With commentary on Green Grey or Dull Silver and The Sixth Shore.

…whilst she takes on board the scientific method of bird behaviouralists, and indeed her findings contribute to this body of research, there is nonetheless a remaking of the relation between observer and observed, human and bird… Whilst deploying the same experimental procedures, Phillips, however, effectively ‘makes art’ by remaking the relations that bind her to her subjects. Specifically, this is accomplished via an emphasis upon a cross-species ‘expressivity’, made possible by a shared capacity for sense making…

…Within this soundscape, Phillips creates ‘a spiral of tiny sounds, a descent into geological past and tiny pinprick sounds like the multitudinous field of microbes’ (2009: 4). These, she writes, help us to access a ‘vast panorama extending from the beginnings of life itself to the present day …opening us out onto scales beyond our senses, a window onto the sublime’ (Phillips, 2009: 4).

Dixon, Hawkins & Straughan

Jokiranta, Miyuki. (2012). Permeate: Perdita Phillips [interview with the artist]. Off track, ABC Radio National, Sunday 8 April Available from http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/offtrack/permeate3a-perdita-phillips/3932726


Perdita Phillips’ segment on Lake Clifton came across as a clear and concise description of a complex situation. I look forward to experiencing her on-site audio project ‘The Sixth Shore’. It sounds like a synthesis of imagination, art and technical skills which could effectively, enjoyably raise community awareness of this significant lake and its thrombolites.

Annamaria Weldon

I know the Lake Clifton thrombolites and this is a timely and wonderful project designed to alert us all to the hazards our fragile environment here in WA face. We need different ways of understanding these complex issues and I am delighted that this project combines art and science in a good cause. Fantastic!

Sue Grey-Smith

Isn’t it great how art can cast our attention towards aspects of life and the world that we might not be aware of. The sculptures out at Lake Ballard are another example of the way art can encourage us to look at the natural environment in a new way. The sounds, smells, colours and light at Lake Clifton are brought into focus through this wonderful work by Perdita. How articulate she is!

Alasdair Wardle

Some words about The Sixth Shore by journalism student Anne Fullerton in 2009: Journalism student Anne Fullerton’s text contains a short interview with the artist.

wonder, curiosity, truth, belief (2008)

Bovell, P. (2008). Wonder, Curiosity, Truth, Belief. In The Cosmology Gallery: Unity through diversity in a vast and awe inspiring universe (pp. 4-7). Gingin, W.A.: Gravity Discovery Centre Foundation.

An extract from the 2008 Multicultural Cosmologies catalogue essay by Penny Bovell for the exhibition in the Cosmology Gallery at the Gravity Discovery Centre in Gingin.

An artist’s intention might be to provoke a sense of wonder rather than search for a particular truth or follow a belief… both [art and science] fields rely on experimentation to forge new ways of explaining things about the world. Nevertheless art and science differ fundamentally because (I believe) art tends to extrapolate wonder whilst science pushes beyond it. Through experimentation, science proves or disproves belief systems whilst art seeks an aesthetic response that remains open-ended… Perdita Phillips’ digital photographs Night Visions are of a field trip and attempts to merger scientific and artistic methodologies…The cross-overs and connections between the different artworks about the creation of the universe and our place within it evoke unity through diversity far greater, or more powerfully than individual artworks, cultures or fields of knowledge could possibly do.

Artists explode myth work is good for you (1992)

A few sentences about Salary back in 1992

Art of Graduating (1991)

Two sentences on graduation work from the local rag!