Issue 6
Tuesday, 26 April 2016
Charles Darwin University
Environmental artist John Dahlsen's
Environmental artist John Dahlsen's "Primary Digital Prints". This is a portion of the work

Artist draws attention to plight of planet

By Patrick Nelson

Charles Darwin University PhD candidate and visual arts lecturer John Dahlsen says the field of environmental art is a powerful device for drawing attention to the plight of the planet.

Internationally renowned for his work in environmental art, Mr Dahlsen said the things that people discarded had given him an abundance of materials for his practice over the past 20 years.

“I use recycled or discarded materials to create works that send unsubtle messages about the delicate and diabolical situation that humanity has made of the natural environment,” Mr Dahlsen said.

“Or in other words, I use what the mainstream might consider to be rubbish, to make statements about key environmental problems stemming from the wasteful condition of modern society.

“My creations are predominately assemblages, sculptures and installations made from washed-up plastics gathered from Australian beaches. But in essence they are a protest against the recklessness on the part of global tycoons and policymakers, who conveniently forget the consequences of economic rationalism.”

Five of Mr Dahlsen’s works are on display at Scrounged, an exhibition in Denver, USA. The exhibition celebrates Earth Day (April 22), which draws attention to protecting the environment.

“This was my way of emphasising aspects of human behaviour that is bringing about destruction of the natural world.”

Mr Dahlsen has also used his voice to draw attention to the plight of artists in times of economic crisis.

In a chapter in the just-published book “Global South Ethnographies”, he tells how the global financial crisis eight years ago devastated the art careers of many, including himself.

“Overnight my markets dried up and my income vanished,” he said.

“But in emerging from the crisis some years later, I found my practice and resulting artwork would be a direct statement about the economic and social conditions forced upon me by circumstances beyond my control.

“It is important that the interests of people on the fringes who wish to tell their unique truths are safeguarded during times of economic crisis,” he said.