Australia, for better or worse, has dug thousands of gaping holes in order to mine all kinds of minerals and rocks—and there are tens of thousands of them. According to Reclaim the Void, every one of these holes is an open wound and it’s time to seal, at least symbolically, one of these holes with a giant artwork expressing the story of country.
The idea of a large-scale ‘dot’ artwork to cover one of the many mining holes comes from the minds of Kado Muir, a Ngalia Custodian and co-founder of the Ngalia Heritage Research Council, and conceptual artist and creative director Vivienne Robertson.
“When we wound country, we wound ourselves, and end up with a scarred physical and cultural landscape,” they say. “This project carries the desire for healing country, healing community, and healing ourselves. It is about acknowledging the hurt and contributing to restoration.”
To cover a mining hole is no easy feat and to do so with just hand-made circular rugs seems like an impossible task. However, Robertson writes that Reclaim the Void is a project “informed by a vision and guiding principles” where the way forward has unfolded before them. From artist Lucy Ridsdale one day turning up with her hand-made rag rug to a project exhibition in partnership with the WA Museum planned for late 2023 or early 2024, this has been the case for Reclaim the Void.
On the logistical side of things, Reclaim the Void has already been in communication with a mining company regarding proposed sites as well as been in talks with an engineer who has come up with a number of ways to make this project a reality. Kingsley Dixon, director of the ARC Centre for Mine Site Restoration and WA Scientist of the Year (2016), is also part of the team and his expertise is being used wisely.
Central to the project is that the rugs are made with reclaimed fabric. In other words, rag rugs which is a big deal in a country that dumps 500,000 tonnes of fabric and clothing every year. The rugs are being made at rug-making camps and retreats in Western Australia as well as being collected from communities all over Australia and around the world for this giant artwork.
Reclaim the Void is also developing a ‘rugalogue’. The rugalogue will catalogue each rug made and the stories, poems, images and words that the maker may choose to accompany their rug. This way, “the final artwork will include the tapestry of stories of all the people who have contributed to it, and will be a story in its own right, of our collective love, respect, and wish to care for country.”
Individual rugs will be stitched together in colour clusters in order to form one giant ‘dot’ artwork. For that to happen, rugs need to be made using one colour so that when seen from afar, they appear as one giant dot.
Although there are easier and quicker ways to seal a mining hole than with a patchwork of thousands of hand-made circular rugs, there is a certain reflective beauty and rhythm to doing it this way, says Robertson. It is slow but it is also caring, a practice full of love just like the sweater or scarf that someone special knitted for you.
“One way or another, guided by cultural protocols and the practical possibilities, the final artwork will be brought to life on the country for which it was created – a symbol of hope and healing.”
You can find out more about Reclaim the Void at their website here. And if you’re interested in weaving a rug yourself or with a group, you can find weaving a rug for country information on this page.