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Finding a process

Posted by Alex Mickle

After my initial visit to meet with Rio Tinto staff at Paraburdoo and then thinking alot about how to engage a bunch of miners in creating a sculpture, I feel strongly that we should use those same processes used to extract iron ore at the Paraburdoo mine, to create the sculpture itself. This way we can make use of many of the skills and processes that already exist on that mine site. And in doing so, we can directly involve many different work crews. I can see how this would involve teams from environment, safety, maintenance, engineering, logistics, earth movers/drivers and blast crews.

Finding a process

I believe we will make an artwork that is going to enthuse, inspire and get the town talking. My feeling is that this won't happen if we simply design and fabricate a traditional sculpture – even if we can use Rio Tinto's facilities and staff to do it.

So in thinking about the most effective process, I'm thinking we need to blow things up!

Explosives in Art

After getting home from my first trip to Paraburdoo, I spent a bit of time researching using explosives to make art and sculpture. There is some precedent for this in Western Australia, although not on the scale we are talking about and not in a partnership between a large resources company and a community arts initiative. Robert Juniper was blowing up steel plate in the '70s and using the resulting forms to make artworks.

A small bit of this kind of work has also been done in New Mexico, and there is a Portugese artist making murals using explosives right now. His work is beautiful and the way it has been documented is stunning. You can watch a video of his work in the Vimeo below. Be sure to watch is on full screen! 

I think that if we can explore adapting blasting processes to create curves and shapes in steel that can be used as component pieces, or reconfigured to use within the construction of the sculpture, we'd have something really new and exciting.

Desert Flower

I also came away from my recent Paraburdoo trip with a half-formed image that came up when I was speaking to Jeremy Comer, Rio Tinto's Paraburdoo Site Environmental Advisor. He mentioned a plant that only grew on the shade side of some of the ranges there – Aluta quadrata, member of the Myrtaceae family. It is unique to this area – found nowhere else in the world – and has quite a beautiful flower.

I love the idea that we might look at making something delicate and beautiful using such full-on equipment and processes. And I think that others will get it too.

This is certainly a fairly unexplored way of working, which is what excites me, and what I believe will make for great artwork. It involves experimentation which can only happen on site and, as such, is a process that is developed by the worforce with the match in their hand ... so to speak.

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