Annette Nykiel, Downhole (2020), repurposed mineralogical sample bags and finger-plied string with metal, earth and plant pigments. Photo Annette Nykiel.
The lithic thinking of plant miners
The floristic region of South Western Australia is a biodiversity hotspot on some of the most nutrient depleted soils over some of the oldest rocks in the world. Western Australia is also in/famous for its exploitation of mineral wealth. Even the plants form industrial conglomerates to mine, transport and refine minerals. The phytotarium concept developed by William Verboom and John Pate (Verboom & Pate 2006), demonstrates that the Eucalypt woodlands and Proteaceae rich heathland ecologies bioengineer their soils and geomorphology to their advantage. The plants and their microbial companions chemically change the soil profiles to form clays and ferricretes and concentrate metallic elements. This enhances their survival by monopolising water and nutrients, influencing the nature of the ecosystem and driving local evolutionary changes.
The trees and shrubs do the heavy lifting and transporting, while the rhizosphere microbiota process and precipitate out the minerals. The understory generally benefits from the mining. Everyone is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep and keeping trespassers and poachers at bay. Like most miners, they enjoy drinking sessions on long summer evenings and a great view over a verdant landscape. Some are keen gardeners with cultivated gardens or monoculture plantings, others do not get on with their neighbours and will not tolerate the neighbour’s trees. Most have friends and family to support and pay taxes for community upkeep.
Artist-researcher, Annette Nykiel PhD, wonders about the interdependence of ecological systems, including her own, in heathlands and woodlands. She uses gathered natural materials and cloth with a history to relate to the materiality of non-urban spaces while wandering amongst semi-urban and regional areas as a geoscientist, artsworker and fibre/textile artist.