first forms — Experimenta

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Dominic Redfern
first forms

Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung & Wurundjeri Country
Macedon Ranges, VIC, Australia


first forms is a multi-screen installation exploring cyanobacteria, the single-celled life form that created the conditions for complex life to arise on earth 800 million years ago.

Redfern’s practice is engaged with urban waterways, and the investigation of the relationship between human and non-human histories. Continuing to work with water but taking a deep dive into pre-history, first forms stretches  beyond human life and toward the history of all multi-celled life forms. Cyanobacteria, when left to their own devices, slowly build-up sedimentary forms known as stromatolites – often referred to as ‘living fossils’. Formerly covering large areas of the planet, with the rise of grazing herbivores who devoured  cyanobacteria, they have become restricted to highly saline environments beyond the threat of predators. Australia, is one of the few places on earth where stromatolites can still be seen in the environment.

The installation combines location recordings of the stromatolites of Lake Thetis and Shark Bay, Western Australia with a cosmological soundtrack that places these unique creatures at the centre of life. The footage climbs up the wall from the gallery floor, displayed across a series of six screens. The multiple screens are suggestive of stepping-stones, or building blocks, harking to the evolutionary processes essential to the formation of multi-celled organisms. Collectively, they act as pieces to the puzzle to explain life’s originary source. first forms presents an animated and tangible account of the pre-Cambrian stirrings of biological life on this planet, while offering us insights into the simple beauty of this very rare environment.

The artist acknowledges the support from: University of Western Australia Western Australian Department of Mines

The Artist
Dominic Redfern

Dominic Redfern’s video practice addresses the entangled relationships between natural and social histories.