Have you ever sat in a rainforest, in the dark heartland of a Pacific Island? Despite the vastness of ocean that is nearby, and all around, you are surrounded by the dense shady-cool dampness of ferns, palms, buttressed roots, swinging vines. Strange noises and half-glimpsed movements. Maybe you can still hear – or maybe you imagine – the hush of the sea, somewhere beyond the trees.
If you walked past houses made of palms with thatched roofs; or said hello to the local residents ambling down the road, slowly in the midday heat, as you passed by; or if you caught the whiff of a wood-fire; noticed a discarded bottle stuck on the outstretched branch of a tree; or saw the women in their bright-patterned dresses on your way here… You might also think about the other people who have sat in this place, who have lived here and been part of this forest, over thousands of years.
A friend of mine has spent an awful lot of time in the rainforests of a south-Pacific isle. And sometimes I’ve been there too. Trying to write down endless plant measurements in the rain, while my bottom gets numb, and I nibble a piece of baguette to keep awake. But I never got sick of it – the rainforest. The rising venerable trees; the earnest, stunted saplings, struggling upwards to the light; the spicy-damp-resinous smell of the leaf litter. I probably should have spent more time thinking about the people who had been there before. But the giant geckoes, raspberry bugs, tree poodles, thieving rats, and quiet yellow robins were a distraction. Plus some of the most diverse and amazing plantlife on earth. This is New Caledonia. If you like nature – especially plants – please get yourself there… and then marvel.
But otherwise, if you’re in Brisbane, get yourself along the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT8) at the Queensland Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art. There you will find the wonderful Ils vous regardent (They look at you) 2015, a mixed-media installation by Nicolas Molé of the Kanak people of France/New Caledonia.
Duck under the banyan tree, and enter the rainforest. Sit there a while, and watch. And perhaps you will be left wondering: What came first – the forest, the music, the people, or the dance?
The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT8) will be at the Queensland Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art until the 10th of April, 2016. Entry is FREE.