Image: Meryl Streep as Bev Smiles in Maladaptation, previously Orlean in Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze’s film Adaptation (2002).

Maladaptation presents activist-on-the-run Bev Smiles as the Meryl Streep character in Kaufman’s film Adaptation. Bev recently won her case against the NSW Police and the Wilpinjong Coal Mine that tested the new state anti-protest legislation. In one reading, Maladaptation points to the way that hyppereal stereotypes and plotlines are being extended into our everyday lives to frame the type of active citizenship required today as criminality, as part of making anyone vulnerable to removal or extradition without a blink of the public eye.

Nicholas Cage plays the central screenwriter character in Adaptation and he succumbs to writing a formulaic blockbuster ending to his film that sells out on Streep’s character. She  spirals down into a drug-and-sex-crazed out-of-control criminal and Bev eventually spills into her hysterical state. However, unlike Streep, Bev is not led from a detached personal existential crisis, but from her first hand experience of fracking, logging, mining and damming as business-as-usual in our national parks.

Bev also gets caught in roles of the film’s other two main characters where the Kaufman plotline of the thief collecting orchids for his own obsession is replaced with her collecting seeds to protect species. Bev hides out in Cage’s role in the national park from the thief and the authorities, retracing the history of Australian heroes who have had to choose this way of life to survive.

The gallery installation includes the manuka plant seedlings and related elements show my botanist directed journey to a plant 600 kilometres away that produces the best quality manuka honey in mainland Australia. The sixty plants grown from the seedpods collected will be distributed within seedsaving and native bee networks. Similar to Bev’s efforts against coalmining, this element explores the breaking of rules as citizen science to provide assistance to the maintenance and expansion of the commons.

Honey production footage: Barbara Doran