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Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?


as Gauguin put it in the title to his greatest painting.  Well,  I’ll try and give a quick summary of what we are doing here and what we hope to achieve.

This blog is an exploration of the work of the Australian agriculturalist and engineer P. A. (Percy) Yeomans but that is just the starting point.

yeomans book cover
Yeomans 1958 book The Challenge of Landscape was the second of his three books on farming and Keyline.

While exploring his work we will also explore the way cultural influence develops and cultural memes evolve and we will be chasing off after the many links that his work has to issues ranging from sustainable agriculture and climate change to the definition of art, from the eminently sensible to the hilariously crazy.

The project began with an invitation by curator Hannah Mathews to Lucas Ihlein to participate in an exhibition she is curating for ACCA called Neo-Con:

Neo-Con brings together a recent generation of Australian and international artists whose works are linked by a specific interest in the ideas, artists and artworks of the conceptual art movement of the 1960s and 70s. These artists’ relationships to this period are often activated by a direct engagement with material sourced from first wave conceptual art practices, including art works and events. Some of the artists focus on the legends and myths that have been built around this movement and its attendant claims of mysticism. While others are connected through their adaptation and continuation of key strategies initiated by the pioneers of conceptual art almost fifty years ago. In a contemporary situation where revisiting histories and rewriting stories is an everyday practice, and a work of possible and continuous reinvention, these artists have approached Conceptual Art with an energising sense of freedom.

Lucas approached me to do a collaborative version of an exhibition I had planned at the AGNSW in the mid 70s on the life and work of Yeomans, an exhibition that was canceled by the Trustees – but more about that later. We will be approaching the same material  in the form that would naturally be used now, a blog, some large prints in the gallery (done at Big Fag Press) and a number of events. We will probably also do a few things in other media as we get the urge.

milkwood website
We will be visiting Milkwood in a few months

We won’t be following too much of a structure, we’ll just blog on things as they occur and while addressing Hannah’s premises we hope to cover a wide range of material and also to bring in other people to talk about their work – some of the artists we’ll be looking at include Milkwood,

Artist as family
Artist As Family have been investigating the sustainable lifestyle in Daylesford, Victoria.

Artist As Family, the  Weedy Connection and hopefully a whole lot of other artists who are involved in creating the cultural change necessary for us to achieve sustainability will join in as well

Weedy Connection is part of Diego Bonetto's ongoing weed project


2 responses to “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”

  1. Lucas Ihlein Avatar
    Lucas Ihlein

    Thanks Ian.

    Yes, it’s exciting to finally start the YEOMANS PROJECT.

    My own interest: I’ve been wanting for a few years now to do some sort of collaborative thing with Ian. When Hannah invited me to take part in her exhibition at ACCA about “the legacy of Conceptual Art”, I realised the time had come.

    Essentially, this project gives Ian and I a chance to work together. We are an embodiment of the exhibition’s aim to bring together “conceptual art then and now”. Our collaboration will be an intergenerational “getting to know you”, as much as it will be about YEOMANS…

    I must say, my knowledge of YEOMANS and his work is almost nil. When I did a permaculture course with Milkwood last year, we did a bit of thinking about Yeomans’ keyline ploughing system. And I remember thinking that it was an amazingly simple and exciting innovation. I also keep hearing Yeomans mentioned on ABC radio, whenever discussions come up about dryland farming and water access (eg in relation to the recent water showdown around the Murray Darling). But that’s about it.

    So the Yeomans Project is my chance to move from Yeomans Novice to Yeomans Nerd. I’m sure Ian’s motivations are somewhat different. But that’s a start!

  2. Artist as Family Avatar
    Artist as Family

    Good to read Ian. We look forward to visiting the show just after Christmas. We wonder if Robert Smithson, Richard Long, Lucien den Arend et al ever read The Challenge of Landscape?

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