Being a part of how the questions are posed – Geography’s artist in resident Linda Tegg

Victorian College of the Arts alumna Linda Tegg has been appointed by the University of Melbourne as the School of Geography’s Artist in Residence. She explains why interdisciplinary collaborations – and an open mind – are so important.

Grasslands and building

The artist residency at the School of Geography is valuable because thinking across disciplines opens up possibilities for understanding that wouldn’t arise otherwise.

I’ve been attending fieldtrips, public lectures and talking with people about their ideas and research. I studied fine arts, so our methodologies are obviously quite different. It’s interesting to go on field trips to see, for example, data collection in action. How do geomorphologists choose what to measure when modelling a coastline in flux?

I’m quite open in terms of how I approach art making. If I’ve already sorted out a clear message there’s no drive for me to make the artwork. I’m always working on an area that I haven’t yet deciphered, something I’m curious about. I’m engaged with theory but I think that my work is underpinned mainly by embodied day-to-day experience – that’s where my work operates.

I’m interested in the ideas surrounding the Anthropocene, how we relate to it and the ways in which it’s been communicated to us – remote sensing technologies, scale, models … These representations can be quite alienating, I’m interested in the material and embodied practices behind them.

A lot of my work has been concerned with the more-than-human world, and that’s obviously a shared interest with researchers in the School of Geography. For my Grasslands project in 2014, I wanted to recreate the pre-settlement grassland that once stretched across Melbourne, in the State Library of Victoria forecourt. That involved a close collaboration with John Delpratt, a University of Melbourne horticulturalist and ecologist. Together we grew a lot of the plants and travelled around to remnant grassland sites to get a sense of the plant community that would have lived on the site.

At this early stage the School of Geography is quite flexible about this residency. It’s understood that I’ll give a public talk, and present works in progress throughout the year. The School of Geography has also partnered with the Ian Potter Museum of Art, so there is a possibility that my work may have a space in their exhibition program.

If I went in to this residency with clear ideas of what I’d make I might be really efficient, but it wouldn’t give me much space for transformation. I am more focussed on my approach. For now, I’m listening and learning. It will be interesting to see what my research culminates in.

Linda Tegg studied a Master of Fine Arts (Visual Art) and a Master of Fine Art (Research) at the Victorian College of the Arts.

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Joanne Patton

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