Stephen Birch, Josie Cavallaro, Beta Geyer, Sarah Goffman, Billy Gruner, Bronia Iwanczak, Philipa Veitch

curated by Philipa Veitch

Tin Sheds Gallery

October 25 – November 15  2003


Philipa Veitch, Newborn, acrylic housepaint on brick wall, lightboxes, duratrans (images taken of Iguazu Falls, Brazil in 2001), monitor, Umatic recording finished on VHS of living microorganisms collected from various marine and freshwater sites around Sydney, filmed using a Zeis Axiomat microscope and 3chip video camera, Dimensions variable, 2003


Philipa Veitch, Newborn, acrylic housepaint on brick wall, lightboxes, duratrans (images taken of Iguazu Falls, Brazil in 2001), monitor, Umatic recording finished on VHS of living microorganisms collected from various marine and freshwater sites around Sydney, filmed using a Zeis Axiomat microscope and 3chip video camera, Dimensions variable, 2003


A Habitat for Evolution

“As you know, human beings are highly developed land animals composed completely of ingredients from the sea, from blood to bones to plasma. Not only was the first life sea crystals, but subsequent life has continued to depend on the sea….The exterior secretory glands are the reinforcements of the sea for the hard-put skin. Tears are the sea of our eyes. And so in the final analysis our emotions… are merely the sea’s struggle in self defence against the land. We may consequently consider that the goal toward which living creatures strived in crawling up from the sea to land also no longer exists…Man is liberated from the natural state. Should he not then logically reconstruct himself? If he did, the circle of struggle and evolution would close. Soon the time will come when he returns to the sea which is his home, not as a slave but as a master.”    Kobo Abe, Inter Ice Age 4, (1958)

“…we are merely highly advanced fishes.” John A. Long, The Rise of Fishes, 500 Million Years of Evolution (1995)

The oceans and seas of the world did not appear until many millions of years after the Earth was formed. 450 billion years ago, the planet was a molten lava ball, burning with heat from its radioactive core, rent by massive volcanic eruptions and bombarded by meteorites that were swirling around the still-forming solar system. Another 1 billion years later, as the earths surface began to cool, the clouds of steam filling the atmosphere finally began to condense. A torrential rain fell for perhaps a 100 thousand years without cease, washing soils and salts from the mountains and creating hot, shallow, mineral rich oceans.

Life started in the early oceans.   The number of lagoons and shallows, alternately covered and uncovered by the ebb and flow of the seas, was very great, because the tides were gigantic – the Moon had begun to spiral away from the Earth, but it was still three times closer that at present.   The greenhouse effect   was substantial and more than compensated for the fainter brightness of the sun during the first billions of years, making the first oceans first very hot and then very warm. For about 3 billion years, the ponds, lakes and shallow seas of the primordial earth evolved and sheltered the earliest forms of unicellular life. These bacteria multiplied wherever there was water, the most successful and abundant eventually even modifying the atmosphere into that which we breathe today, but all dry land remained sterile and desert like.   Around 410 million years ago, numerous species of green algae progressively adapted to dryer and dryer environments in response to receding sea levels. These organisms evolved quickly to become marshy plants, mosses, horsetails and later ferns and then cycads, resulting in the eventual explosion of vegetation over all the landforms. The amphibians and consortia of creatures adapted to breathe air followed soon after, but even the most terrestrial organisms retained or indeed internalised, as all living creatures do now, their initial dependence on water. The embryonic stages of all living organisms take place in the protected, hydrated environment of an egg sack or womb, while living cells collectively preserve the water, carbon and hydrogen rich conditions of their origin, meaning that the mass of even adult humans is still made up of over 70 per cent water. Despite massive glaciations, vast fluctuations in global temperature, continental drift, the odd asteroid bombardment and consequent mass extinctions, this micro and macro symbiosis has enabled the biota to expand to almost all corners of the earth. (Lynn Margulis)

Marineland will consider the role of water in human evolution, population expansion and our place in the matrix of water dependant biota. Fossil evidence is now leading many scientists to believe that water played a crucial role in the development of human bipedalism and language, arguing that our ancestors flourished and evolved in the wet gallery forests, mangroves and estuarine areas of north / eastern Africa. The aquatic ape hypothesis proposes that a group of apes, stranded somewhere along the coast of Africa during the late Miocene or early Pliocene epochs, were driven by predators and the search for food to enter the water, an environment for which they were poorly adapted. This radical situation resulted in heavy evolutionary pressure for morphological and behavioral changes from ape to man within a relatively short period of time. According to proponents of this theory, bipedalism may have developed as our pro-hominid ancestors waded through streams and coastal areas in the search for food, as do living primates such as the proboscis   monkey, while the development of their ability to voluntarily hold their breath when diving under water may have facilitated the evolution of human speech. Tool use may have developed out of the necessity to crack open shellfish, while the marine diet itself would have contributed in turn to the rapid increase in brain size. Lack of body hair or fur, the presence of insulating subcutaneous fat, and an atrophied sense of smell among many other human physical characteristics, have all been atributed to an evolution that took place in warm and wet conditions, rather than the hot and dry environment of the savannah.  Water helped distribute humans across the planet, along seashores, lakes and riverbanks. This would have accounted for the pre-historic peopling of most of the old world, from Africa to Europe and the mainland of Asia and possibly also Australia. At some stages and in some places, humans learned to cross the water, even without land bridges. The Lapita people that originated in Melanesia are now considered by some to have developed the first highly sophisticated ocean going vessels, capable of transporting large numbers of people and even livestock as they populated the far flung islands of the Pacific.

Informed by this sample of current views on biological and technological evolution on earth, Marineland will investigate the ways in which our social, psychic and built environments have been influenced by our evolution within the hydrosphere. Marineland will explore the evolution of the dynamic systems of the terrestrial / marine interface, deconstructing our ambivalent relationship to the organisms, geographies and climates of the marine environment, the artists in Marineland hope to unravel some of the possibilities that may lie within an oceanic existence.

Philipa Veitch, October 2003