Environmental interpretation and installation work

Since I moved to the coast I became aware of the intrusive nature of signage. Most public signage: bisects the horizon or dominates the view; is square; tends to be placed high up on poles so that most folk (especially children) can barely read it; tends to be dictatorial & negative, listing all the donts' without connecting the intended audience to either the reasons WHY or to the actual environment itself.
I create interpretive signage that: is pictorial; depicts and directly relates to the immediate surroundings; links any requests to probable consequences; is situated closer to the ground; is oval, or at least curvy (as in, not square!), and says 'please' and 'thank you' a lot.



It is important to include (via consultation with community elders) local Indigenous (Ngarrindjeri) place and plant names, as well as Indigenous cultural information. A common mistake is to refer to ulture and people in the past tense! Update, people! Some signage projects have been specifically for this purpose, such as signage for the South metropolitan coast walk designed on behalf of the Kaurna community in Adelaide, and for the Ramindjeri/Ngarrindjeri community on the South Coast and Lower Murray.
In addition I create ephemeral artworks in the landscape using whatever is at hand, sometimes reworking material and returning it to the site. I am particularly intrigued by 'middens'. Essentially rubbish dumps accumulated by discarded household and farming materials and items since colonisation. I have debated with myself the culture-politics of moving such material around, but since it is from my own culture and recent enough to not be regarded as of archeological significance I have chosen to proceed. Here are some of the results. You be the judge!

My most recent sign, depicting the temperate ocean environment of our local coast, with particular attention to shells. Steel sign base by Chris Murphy of Bluetemper Ironworks, Middleton, South Australia.


This installation or 3 dimensional drawing is deliberately intended to be low key, if not hard to find! It is something of a contemporary archaeological site using limestone and burnt fire rocks (from surfer's campsites!); Phasianella shells from a far West coast beach (inferring trading, or movement of material from elsewhere), and fragments of glass from old bottle dumps found in ancient dunes. The glass fragments represent a 'whitefella' midden.

"Campfire/Midden #1". Engraved glass, limestone and shells.

This circle contains a spiral. A symbol recognised by many many cultures. In my cultural tradition it describes the movement of the stars and planets across the heavens, and thus also the endless cycle of seasons; of passing and of renewal. Therefore I am suggesting the possibility and the reality of cultural, spiritual and emotional common ground.
The words engraved on the coloured glass are randomly selected from the famous poem by Dorothea MacKellar, "I love a sun burnt country". This poem describes Australian landscape and both accepts and embraces it for what it is. Which is where we begin in our quest to belong.

"Campfire/Midden #2". Engraved beer bottle glass, shells and limestone.

The broken glass here is from old brown 'longneck' beer bottles and is engraved with a stanza from the poem "Past carin'" by Henry Lawson, which describes the despair of the 'man on the land' in the wake of drought and rural hardship. This site represents a campsite or a fire where one might be invited to sit, drink, and commiserate! In this version of the installation, you arrived at this circle first and then a trail of coloured shells led you to the next. As if you were being invited to walk respectfully and gently through a delicate garden, which is what the Australian Bush truly is.
I had not intended one site to be 'male' and the other 'female', nor necessarily to imbue one with pessimism and the other with optimism. But that is how it turned out, since I had decided before hand to let the land tell me what to do.
This reminded me that it is more often the male view and version of history and events that are more often recorded and 'upfront', while female culture is more hidden and therefore, perhaps, protected.

"Campfire/Midden #2" Detail

This photo by Cameron Robbins.

"It aint easy being green I"






"Midden/Portal I" Cast iron farm gate, shells and crockery fragments


"Midden/Portal II" Steel gate, aluminium wire and engraved glass


Detail from Midden/Portal II


Dune Sign for Tokuremoar reserve (the last piece of paperbark swamp on the Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia).



Overview sign for Tokuremoar reserve.


Sign set into granite boulder, Bashams Beach Regional Park. This sign deals more specifically with birdlife.
Although initial approval by elders consulted in the mid nineties allowed for this method of display, the NRA told us that Ngarrindjeri find the setting of signage into boulders culturally offensive, as granite holds an important part of the creation story for this area. Thus we are in the process of removing such signs, overturning the boulders, and possibly re setting signage into wooden log seats.


Similar sign above Horseshoe Bay, Port Elliot, this time giving shipwreck information. This bay was a port for tall ships for a brief period during the 19th century, but the number of wrecks (7 I think) caused this idea to be abandoned. The fact that ONLY 7 ships were wrecked in this mind-bogglingly dangerous location is testimony to the incredible sailing skills of the time!


Generic beach & dunecare sign for carpark areas along the South Coast. I was duty bound to include the "don'ts", but also added reasons for the rules; plus respectful, friendly language, in order to inspire co-operation rather than rebellion!


Handpainted sign at Hindmarsh River estuary, Victor Harbor; explaining how an estuary system works; showing the extent & impact of urban development; & giving natural history information.


Handpainted sign giving info about the original farming family in the area, the Bashams, after whom the park & adjacent beach is named, set into restored farm building in Bashams Beach Regional Park.


Sign created in consultation with the indigenous cutodians of the Adelaide coast, the Kaurna people. Here it is shown in situ at Hallett Cove. The image is printed on to an easily replaced vinyl sticker, attached to a marine grade steel plate. This is in the shape of a traditional Kaurna shield, which is presented horizontally, in the "welcome" position.


Digital image of the original painting before text was added.


One of three main interpretive signs for the Marion Coast walk. This one deals specifically with vegetation. Again, vinyl sticker on steel.