Jennie Feyen: ‘As an artist I feel passionate about the way in which people share a connection with nature and the role that individuals take to either study and protect the environment or mistreat and destroy it. As a result I feel driven to create work that focuses on the people who take action to learn about and protect our planet, in particularly the ocean. My objective for Culture at Work is to create an art-science hybrid film that presents the ocean as a sophisticated life force and incorporate the scientific findings of Sydney-based researchers in marine ecology and coastal urbanisation.’
I was raised in a family that values and engages with world cinema, so picking up a camera and exploring visual storytelling was very natural territory. I have focused my energy on creating a diverse body of work consisting of short films, documentaries, interviews, video installations and projection artwork, all of which explore different themes unified by the moving image. As an artist I feel passionate about the way in which people share a connection with nature and the role that individuals take to either study and protect the environment or mistreat and destroy it.
Beneath The Surface is an art-science documentary that focuses on the ocean, which I’ve always had a romantic relationship with. I’ve spent most of my life living close to large bodies of water: the river Thames in Essex, England; Kujiyama Beach, Hitachi, Japan; and beaches in Perth and Sydney, Australia. I moved to Sydney in 2014 and decided to actively engage with a community group called Responsible Runners, to pick up rubbish at Balmoral Beach. It was a rewarding experience, however the type of rubbish we found made me question the type of relationship the general public has with the ocean. This led to the realisation that I knew very little about the type of marine life that exists here or the kind of projects that are being run to protect our marine environment.
I used my Culture at Work residency to explore Sydney’s identity as a coastal city and show my respect to scientists and researchers devoted to understanding and helping our marine life. Over six weeks I contacted various researchers, which led to unique filming opportunities. At University of New South Wales (UNSW), I followed Dr Katherine Dafforn, Dr Ana Bugnot and PhD student Shinjiro Ushiama in partnership with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage as they deployed 3D-printed sea tiles across various foreshores to accelerate urban marine renewal in Sydney Harbour. I also documented UNSW PhD student Janine Ledet as she experimented with macro-algae and epifaunal invertebrate communities under climate change impacts, ocean acidification and heat stress, at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science.
I also invited researchers to provide their own images and videos and am very grateful for their contributions. From the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) I received diverse media from the Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster group: Dr Penelope Ajani provided stunning images of diatoms; Associate Professor Martina Doblin provided videos of lobster phyllosoma (larvae) and a gorgeous shot of ocean ripples; and PhD student Samantha Gohen and collaborator Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Matthew Nitschke provided stunning underwater footage of Sydney Harbour corals. From Macquarie University (Department of Environmental Science) I received fascinating images of an experiment involving mangrove crabs in Botany Bay from Dr Jeff Kelleway and his students Alex Cook, Katrina Jones, Jarrod McDonald and Emma Petrolo.
I am also thankful to marine ecologist Rebecca Morris at the University of Sydney for introducing her eco-engineering project involving concrete flowerpots along Sydney Harbour seawalls, which I filmed by getting in the water myself (my most intrepid filmmaking experience to date).
Overall, this residency enabled me to build a deeper relationship with Sydney and appreciate the work of scientists and researchers that might go unnoticed. I hope it may do the same for you.