On Sussex Inlet Beach
Walking on Sussex Inlet Beach is not only physical exercise, it is also an interesting exercise in appreciation or otherwise of the art of artistic intervention in nature. An unknown person or people have, at irregular intervals, created interventions in the sand dune / beach environment. Mostly at the high water line, at the edge of beach and start of dune, these assemblages make use of detritus washed up by the sea, driftwood, bamboo, seaweed, feathers and cuttlefish bone. They could be called environmental sculptures or art but who ever the maker, my surmise is that that person is not an artist as such, but is guided by an artistic intent; or to add a label, a “Naive Artist”.
The interventions are subject to the entropy of time, sea, wind and rain. Some have succumbed, and are now a random pile that could have easily been washed there by the last high tide. Some are simple, the 250cm high bamboo trunk, inverted into the sand so that the root bolus is now at the top, referencing an Easter Island Moai, a sentinel staring out to sea. Others are of complicated intertwined pieces driftwood, sometimes decorated with a feather or cuttlefish bone.
While art and an artist’s intervention in nature could be said to go back to the first time early humans drew on a cave wall with charcoal, another view could be that that act was also the first vandalism, just as Land Art as practised by artists such as Robert Smithson, “Spiral Jetty”, or James Turrell, “Roden Cater”, can also be viewed as an unnecessary intervention in nature. Andy Goldsworthy is, at least with his “in nature” ephemeral sculptures in which he works only with found natural material and his hands, is less interventionist; though his permanent works such as those held in various museums can involve the use of machinery
On the walks I contemplate just what effect art intervention in the beach environment has, maybe little if the works are temporary, with no added material, only natural materials from that site, subject to time and tide. Do they make other beach users more aware of the environment ? Or are these interventions just an example of human arrogance and the human propensity for domination of nature, unable to appreciate the beauty of natural landscapes and how the wind, rain and sea can form their own complex and beautiful environmental sculptures without any interventions from us ?
Max Dingle April 2020