Image: Meryl Streep as Bev Smiles in Maladaptation, previously Orlean in Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze’s film Adaptation (2002).
This two-part work called Maladaptation includes a 12-metre tapestry where Jenny Brown traces the alienating effects of capitalism that begins with Indigenous connection in a quote by academic Mary Graham: ‘I am located therefore I am.’ Successive tapestry panels track this increasing alienation through core world events that includes and extends Hannah Arendt’s discussion on this theme. The tapestry is further connected to corresponding laws and actions that have determined relationships with the environment, both protective and destructive. It sits in the hideout cave of activist-on-the-run Bev Smiles, now caught in Kaufman’s hyperreal Adaptation.
Bev is hiding out in the national park, responding to a history of Australian heroes who have had to choose this way of life to hide from the authorities, which is particularly relevant as Bev recently won her case against the NSW Police and the Wilpinjong Coal Mine that tested the new state anti-protest legislation.
The collaborative work also involves one of Australia’s leading botanists who directed a journey to a plant 600 kilometres away to collect a handful of pods from it that have now grown to around 60 manuka honey seedlings. Similar to Bev’s efforts against coalmining, this element explores the breaking of rules as part of citizen science as foundations for our new turning towards citizen governance to maintain and expand the commons. Here, the Kaufman plotline of the thief collecting orchids for his own obsession is replaced with Bev needing to collect them to protect species from the fracking, logging, mining and damming as business-as-usual in our national parks.
In Adaptation Cage succumbs to writing a formulaic blockbuster ending to his film that sells out on Streep’s character to depict a spiral down into drug-and-sex-crazed out-of-control criminality. Bev’s makeshift home includes some of the markers from the film that are now more readily being used by authorities to bring hyppereal stereotypes and scripting into our everyday lives. Active community members are being cast as criminals to make them ripe for removal or extradition without a blink of the public eye.
Honey production footage: Barbara Doran