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 Sojourn in Espérance Bay « makeshift journal |

Eating with Intent

posted by on 2012.01.17, under PROJECTS, Sojourn in Espérance Bay, WRITING

Tessa Zettel
[Published in Das 500, December 2011]

In recent years, much of the work I’ve made in collaboration with Karl Khoe has been eaten. Not by us (the host rarely gets a chance), but by people who’ve been invited into an unusual space of exchange facilitated by the presence of food – dawn breakfast on a dry salt lake, nighttime afternoon tea in a 19th century basement, pikelets and sugarbag honey on the grass at Circular Quay. Of course all these situations have also produced conversation, often a particular kind of semi-directed discussion around where we are and by what circumstances we have arrived there. Food in this instance is an offering given to induce engagement; more than that, it is a point of entry into the parameters of the conversation: what do you need to sustain yourself, where can you find that in the place you’re in, what kinds of located knowledge have been overlooked or erased?

Earlier this month the place we were in was the dry salt lake, in Esperance, WA. Our journey there had something of Werner Herzog’s 1982 film Fitzcarraldo about it – weeks of persistent enquiry into the edibility of the landscape, in archives of photographs taken when the town was young (ladies with starched collars taking tea on the verandah, men picnicking with camel under the tasty mooja or Christmas tree), and negotiating to borrow articles of furniture and tableware that were once old grocer Daw’s or great-aunt Annie’s. Tramping over the salty mud with bentwood chairs and lace tablecloths and jars of pickled bloodroot or wattleseed-flecked madeleines, we were as knowingly out of place, and time, as those early settlers and indeed today’s residents whose food is trucked down from Perth. The meal itself, for guests who had given time to the foraging of its ingredients, was filmed as a series of frozen long-exposure poses, tablecloth flapping in the Esperance wind. In attendance were the feisty secretary of the wildflower society, the Indigenous pastor and community gardener, the renegade commercial plant hunter and the local high school art teacher. The imagined audience of their repast (alongside the more prosaic gallery-goer) was one Claude-Antoine-Gaspard Riche, naturalist with the d’Entrecasteaux expedition who found himself lost and disoriented on the shores of Pink Lake this very day 219 years ago, thirsty and hungry and surrounded by food he could not recognise.

On another level, the collaborative doing entailed by making and sharing food with such ad hoc and provisional participant ‘communities’ is a way of practicing practices that aren’t so familiar anymore, and that could perhaps be useful in the development of futuring (sustain-able) modes of living. Our first deployment of food preservation was Making Time (2010), an experimental gallery-kitchen at PICA where ideas drawn from design philosophy were swapped for help making street-gleaned mulberry jam. This came close on the heels of Gwago patabagun ___ We will eat presently (2010), a mobile pikelet cart with native bees producing honey to sweeten a program of site-based picnic discussions on the MCA’s front lawn. Most recently food and dialogue were key ingredients in The Delirious Bakery (2011), home to the Sweet Damper and Gossip Society whose weekly meetings teased out darker histories of how the Rocks have been lived, in relationship to broader geographies and timescales.

The trajectory of these projects – marking time to slow down and be attentive, accounting for pre-existing cultural knowledge – maps out a new kind of quality economy in which place, and our own (dis)placement within it, is a source of redirective potential. That is, by enacting other ways of feeding ourselves within specific micro-fabulist scenarios, we can begin to (bodily) reimagine our collective understanding of the worlds we inhabit, industrialised and elaborately designed but largely dysfunctional in any long-term sense, that in turn design our daily lives and the politicised spaces we eat in.



Sojourn in Esperance Bay was exhibited as part of the IASKA spaced: art out of place exhibition & symposium at Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth, 4 Feb – 11 Mar 2012.


Sojourn in Espérance Bay, Tessa Zettel & Karl Khoe, 2011. Production still.

Instant gallery open!

posted by on 2011.12.04, under MAKESHIFT NEWS, PROJECTS, Sojourn in Espérance Bay

Last night saw the opening of our little one-day exhibition in the old (1896) chemist’s building at Museum Park Period Village. Lots of good people came and looked and sampled the incr-edible spread put on by Tim and Dewi from the Cannery. Special thanks to Peter, Jason, Shannan and Mouse for being the frozen video stars, and to John Totterdell for his filming, editing and projector.

Mouse played banjo blues in what also happens to have once been his great uncle’s chemist shop (!), Jason fronted up with a spectacular edible wildflower bouquet in a Xanthorrhoea (grass tree) stump, and we had visiting special guests from Perth, IASKA’s own Jan Teagle Kapetas and Marco Marcon.

Then this morning it was back in to open up for the Village markets, tucked in between the sausage man and the natural therapies ladies. A big day with an unending stream of curious visitors watching and wondering just what it was they were watching, and remembering times past and asking questions about other things too.

Jason and Minna of the Esperance Wildflower Society with his handiwork

Aforementioned sausage seller, pointing out edible root of fringe lily,
preserved in pink lake salt



More photos will be added to this post soon…

The shoot

posted by on 2011.12.01, under MAKESHIFT NEWS, PROJECTS, Sojourn in Espérance Bay

Managed to finally pull off a miraculous shoot this morning, 5am, after earlier attempts were scuppered by the notorious Esperance wind. Despite the south-westerlies having blown away all our water overnight (!?*!!), we set up and started filming alone, anticipating bail-outs given the other false starts and the early hour.

No shortage of cameras: Dewi’s very beautiful bellows camera, his Rolloflex, the Super 8, and John’s high-tech digital video camera. Oh and our digital SLR, taking the photo.

A little after 6am, Mouse, Shannan, Peter and Jason enter stage left, with banjo, guitar and edible seasonal bouquet, all dressed impeccably for a time-warped meal in a dry salt lake.

More afternoon tea than dinner, we had on hand pickled bloodroot, wattleseed & lavender madeleines, bush bananas, pickled nasturtium pods and roasted sandalwood nuts. Two hours later we have several minutes of live posed ‘photographs’ of a scene that would certainly have startled the decidedly peckish and dessicated Frenchman some 219 years ago.

00  oo

A pair of Cape Barren Geese! Definitely a good omen.


Reconnaisance & projections

posted by on 2011.11.30, under MAKESHIFT NEWS, PROJECTS, Sojourn in Espérance Bay

Preparations are all underway for Take 1 of the meal tomorrow. A key participant has had to unexpectedly decamp to Perth, so we’ll be staying on a bit longer and hopefully doing a second round in a week or so. Here’s what the lake looked like this evening…

Just about everything we’re using has been borrowed from people in town – tables, chairs, dogs, tea set, hats, parasol, trunks, super 8 cameras etc. Gathering such things in Esperance has been no mean feat, and only made possible by an inordinate amount of generosity and trust. We are very grateful and will feed you all with unusual treats.

There are however, a handful of items we’ve needed to acquire for the eventual exhibition at Fremantle Arts Centre. Here they are, arranged with the Cannery’s own 16mm projector, looking not too dissimilar to an earlier proposed install sketch (below):

Note here the (French) stereoscope incorporated into a Cape Barren Goose mask, a thaumatrope installed atop the seagrass plant stand, and a film projector on the side table, projecting the lake dining ‘scene’ in which these objects have featured.

In-progress exhibition at Museum Park Period Village

posted by on 2011.11.29, under MAKESHIFT NEWS, PROJECTS, Sojourn in Espérance Bay

Mt Ridley

posted by on 2011.11.27, under MAKESHIFT NEWS, PROJECTS, Sojourn in Espérance Bay

A trip to nearby Mt Ridley at the invitation of Peter Henson, Esperance Senior High School’s art teacher – whose year 10 class we spoke to last week – and who brought along to our Open Studio a couple of dried quandongs from these parts.

Sonny was keen to come along too and pick up some quandong seeds to try germinating for the community garden. They’re supposed to be eaten by an emu, but with google’s help and a little ingenuity and he’ll no doubt find a way.



Though quandongs were sparse and mostly dried up, we visited rock art sites in hollowed out boulders, cooked up some herring Coral’s husband had caught in the Bay the day before, and found a load of bain, coastal pigface (‘hottentot fig’) fruits. You peel back the skin and there’s a little squishy fig-like treat inside, looking uncannily like one of those old-fashioned English boiled sweets.


In a quiet moment sitting amongst the huge rocks at the top of the hill, we talked about the mooradji, ‘little people’ spirits that only show themselves to children, are playful and easily distracted. Peter says he’s heard of these at the school.

En route, little pink lakes are everywhere.


Observatory Island

posted by on 2011.11.26, under MAKESHIFT NEWS, PROJECTS, Sojourn in Espérance Bay

Earlier this week we were taken out in a fishing boat with Paul, his daughter Lisa and dog Max, to scope Observatory Island, where Riche and the rest of the Recherche first took anchor and made their way ashore. This is an uncommonly sheltered spot in a fairly perilous archipelago, and it’s a wonder they found it in one piece.

Paul has very high-tech equipment on his boat, which tells him where and how deep shoals of sardines are. We spied a huge sea eagle’s nest and some dolphins, and also shot our first reel of super 8 film on a camera borrowed from Phil, a local painter and sculptor. The whir of the film was almost tactile, and we have absolutely no idea how it will turn out.


dolphins underfoot / Passing the port


Widgiemooltha, Norseman and surrounds

posted by on 2011.11.21, under MAKESHIFT NEWS, PROJECTS, Sojourn in Espérance Bay

Over the weekend Sonny took us all on a trip out around Norseman, where he grew up and his community now owns tracts of land. The road out took us past mountains of soon-to-be-well-travelled wheat and tiny leftover towns.

First stop was Bromus Dam (below), for a cut lunch with Dewi’s homemade bread and to check the quandong and sandalwood trees around the dam … no fruit at this time, and nuts perhaps already collected by others, but the tiny quandong flowers are surprisingly tasty.

spiny bush used medicinally*

Then it was on towards Dundas Rocks. On the way Sonny stopped to dig up some Tjunga Tjunga, little spindly yam-like roots underneath an almost invisible vine often found around a certain kind of very straight tree.


At Dundas Rocks we made a fire for some damper and tea. Sonny produced from his shirt pocket one wriggling bardi he’d found inside a tree, and roasted this along with another he’d brought as back up, which we shared as a nutty little entree.



This was where we camped for the night, convening in Norseman the next morning.

Saturday saw us trooping out to Widgiemooltha, for toasted sandwiches at the roadhouse, another dam surrounded by flowering bush tomatoes …

… and a wander around the now mostly abandoned Tjirntu Para Para (Sunrise) Mission, where Sonny went to school, got married, and eventually became manager. In its day it was quite something, up to eighty kids at a time, big vegetable gardens, chickens, sheep… and a particularly inept Dutchman whose capers brought no end of consternation from the local boys who knew exactly what they were doing.


After lunch we drove out to some known bush banana vines, past deserted streets that used to be busily lived-in and a boarded-up pub whose old publican/grocer was once notorious for jacking up the accounts when Aboriginal men went to settle, and adding the weight of his hefty arm to purchases by ‘New Australians’. Ah, the cheeky larrikin!

Only two little lonely bush bananas at the moment, but lots of flowers promising a good haul next year.


After a winding detour in search of Cave Hill (which we didn’t find, distracted by bright red sandalwood nuts) we headed back to Norseman for a cup of tea.


Trees and dirt and lonely men in the bush shimmering time lapse


… and onwards to Esperance, past another salt lake sunset.



* later the sausage seller at the village markets tells me he comes here regularly to chew on a branch from this very bush, ‘makes the skin cancers drop clean off!’

note from Sonny

posted by on 2011.11.17, under MAKESHIFT NEWS, PROJECTS, Sojourn in Espérance Bay

Through the looking glass

posted by on 2011.11.16, under MAKESHIFT NEWS, PROJECTS, Sojourn in Espérance Bay

Had a most fruitful visit from Esperance’s own unofficial digital archivist Neville Mulgat this week, who recently found himself in possession of a cache of incredible glass negatives – hundreds and hundreds of them, neatly stacked in their original boxes. They’ve come from the Daw family and are on their way to the Museum, most having been taken in and around Esperance by the son, Len Daw, not long after the turn of the century. While some have clearly seen better days, the family scenes and relationships they depict still leap off the emulsion into the room, bringing with them other, lost, ways of dressing, of speaking, of making one’s way in the world, of being at home and out of place, in this place.


Neville has already whipped through the scanning and digitising:


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