A new commission, installed
Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison
A Weight of Albatross
Maroondah City Council’s new library, cultural, knowledge and innovation centre Ringwood Town Square, Victoria
We’ve seen albatrosses come back with their belly full of food for their young. You think it’s going to be squid, but it’s plastic. That chick is going to starve and die.
— Sir David Attenborough (on plastic pollution)
Today, the first of July, marks the beginning of plastic awareness month, and as such it seems timely to reveal our recently installed commission, high up at Realm, A Weight of Albatross.
After the building had closed, with birds and crimps under wing, we tiptoed into Realm with Richard Holt, to install our work, our giant floating collage, A Weight of Albatross. We woke our rookery of albatross(es)* from their bubble wrap nests, and began threading the piece together, with a map for guidance, and by 11pm, our two stainless steel and fourteen frosted perspex birds were in place. (At last! All together! Up high! As one. Such a thrill.)
We relished the opportunity to create this work for Realm, figuring out how to balance our albatross, how to ensure the top two stainless steel birds remained perpendicular, and how to create movement. From deciding to coat with liquid copper the bits and bearings at the eleventh hour for a touch of hauled up from the ocean bed, barnacles and all, to installing it, after-hours on a Wednesday night, it was the stuff of our dreams.
We have enjoyed returning to Realm to see how they moved. And oh! how they spun! Electric blue appeared to skim the (balcony) horizon line. Lime zest waved back and forth, and Citrus replied. Through Azure, I spied Chilli red. When someone opened a door, they all fluttered. The goods lift: a mighty current. Whoosh! Yes! Phew. That's the ticket.
A Weight of Albatross, installed at Realm (Up! Up! Up they go time-lapse video courtesy of City of Maroondah)
A Weight of Albatross, ready
A Weight of Albatross, process
A Weight of Albatross, the beginning
A Weight of Albatross
Gracia Haby & Jennison
steel and acrylic
Albatross take flight above the Realm staircase. What at first glance appear as the directional strokes of feathers, resolve as a tangle of shapes evocative of plastic debris ingestion. Almost every bird in seabird populations in southern Australia, South Africa, and South America — where coastlines are closest to loosely-concentrated collections of ocean debris in the southern Pacific, southern Atlantic and Indian Oceans — has ingested plastics. Bird populations, and related biodiversity, are at risk of the impacts of waste plastics on marine environments.
On one level A Weight of Albatross represents the magnificence of these wonderful birds. But the artwork also poses serious questions about how we value and protect our natural heritage for future generations.
Join the challenge and ‘Choose To Refuse’ single-use plastic during July.
Imagine a world without plastic waste. That’s our mission — to build a global movement that dramatically reduces plastic use and improves recycling, worldwide.
— Plastic Free July
* The most common collective noun for a group of albatross is a rookery, but a weight is also accepted, and though the OED preferences albatrosses as the plural, Collins and Merriam-Webster are happy to fly with albatross. So a weight it is, A Weight of Albatross, because it sounds more poetic to our ears.
Included in our weight you will find a Wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans), Southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora), Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis), Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris), Shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta), Grey-headed albatross (Thalassarche chrysostoma), Indian yellow-nosed albatross (Thalassarche carteri), Sooty albatross (Phoebetria fusca), and a Buller’s albatross (Thalassarche bulleri).
Image credit: Light-mantled Sooty Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata), photographed by Vincent Legendre