EARTH matters


The choice of Exhibition title:

This title reflects Ross’s concern about human caused planetary changes as impact the earth, including its atmosphere and natural systems (water ways, seas, land, air and climate). Climate and anthropocentric triggered changes represent matters of concern.

The changes to seasons, viability of species and enjoyment of place, all 'matter'. Not only to humankind, but equally to non-human entities. In an alternate context, legal cases argued are known as legal 'matters'.

The title Earth matters therefore has a dual purpose, with ‘matters’ to be understood through Ross’s double entendre intentions.

Background to the research:

Legal thinking about the laws that we now have, and the laws and systems that may be required for a future effected by climate altered realities, underpin Ross's creative research.

With a long-term background based in environmental law practice, Ross understands that laws are made to organise societies and to provide frameworks within which limitations and ramifications are understood. As a natural progression in governance, laws evolve over time to meet the changing needs of societies.

A starting point in her research was Ross's awareness that where lawmaking is laggard and obvious change is evident (as has until recently been the case in Australia, where climate change was not legislated for, but impacts were clearly extant), people resort to legal action. Societies rely on the rule of law to provide certainty.  In the awareness that law making and court processes are protracted, Ross made works as a more immediate means of climate change communication.  In making, Ross is attempting to raise collective consciousness about plastic pollution, sea level rise and the fact of trans-boundary connections across natural systems and geographic spaces. These problematics are exemplar of a broader and complicated climate changed world. These obvious aspects of climate change and the Anthropocene were employed by Ross as tropes to provoke awareness that lawmaking for the greater good may better address changing world circumstances through appropriate governance.

If we pause for thought, we realise that people living at the time of the Industrial Revolution (the mid-nineteenth century - a time when it is mooted that the Anthropocene commenced) would be astounded by the laws that exist today. A comparison in reading laws from these two periods quickly reveals altered philosophical bases, reflecting the cultures of the day). Looking forward to future life on earth, there is little doubt that we too would be surprised about systems and laws as will then prevail.

It is a premise of Ross's research that art has a role to play in climate change communication, especially in provoking critical thinking about the representational roles that the cultures of art and law each play in communal and individual consciousness and efficacy. Ross's research provides space for future scholars to creatively connect art and law in the field of climate change communication. For Ross, the purpose of making is not simply to discuss a problem, but to plant seeds of thinking about strategies of response and action.

Arts ability to carry narratives with potential to awaken understandings provides opportunity for Ross to engage audience.  By way of example of her thinking, it was in the earlier of the two periods now being compared that photographic processes such as those selected by Ross in Vanitas for a Changing World were emergent. Ross employs wet-plate collodion processes as a way of visually connecting the material presentation of human transience understood then - but now with the additional material presence of plastic items that are ubiquitous and health challenging to human and non-humans of the twenty-first century.

At the time of completing the writing of her exegesis for her creative thesis, a turning point for the global environment was achieved which is acknowledged. At the December 2022 Biodiversity Council of the Parties meeting in Montreal [known as UN Biodiversity COP 15], strategies for re-wilding and re-generation were provided for through an international, United Nations based agreement known as the '30 by 30' initiative. This move reflects a positive shift in policy thinking. The 30 by 30 initiative aims at co-operation across the signatory nation-states to be actioned through enactment of incremental nation-state legislation for the protection of 30% of the land and seas within sovereign state capabilities by the year 2030. In addition, in March 2023, a High Seas Treaty was endorsed by UN member nation-states enabling the establishment of vast Marine Protected Areas (MPA's) beyond the individual states jurisdictions. The latter reflects a new inroad for extra-territorial environmental protection: the global commons previously amounting to areas hitherto unprotected and effectively lawless.

These shifts in climate policy provide hope that in time, and with ongoing policy response and related action, injurious emissions may cease to rise.


Tricia Ross is the studio artist at studio bowden. The QR codes here provided can also be seen on Tricia's studio bowden web page within the 'news' section.