Living with the enemy

Mac Donald, Terri (2013) Living with the enemy. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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This research encompasses seemingly divergent disciplines, including scientific ethics, social science studies, environmental history, public policy and creative arts. It finds that, where there has been a vacuum that cannot be addressed through the established methodology of mainstream research frameworks, the use of practice based research has provided an alternative pathway for the exploration and resolution of research questions, expanding existing knowledge and developing new research pathways. This has necessitated the development of new skills and knowledge to resolve problems and more effectively integrate the theoretical and practical elements of the project. Ultimately, this research proposes a revised visual methodology via integrating visuacy into social research while, from a practice base, it has both rediscovered and reinterpreted a traditional medium.

Hence, visual strategies are employed in order to probe societal perceptions of ubiquitous, introduced species that engender strong, albeit divergent, emotional reactions. The research also reviews the influence perceptions have on environmental management and public policy, and questions the validity of these perceptions in relation to scientific fact. It also examines why some species are vilified, while others (often far more destructive) are ignored, or even encouraged.

The methodology focuses on a selection of four introduced, ubiquitous species endemic in suburban areas of the Townsville/Thuringowa region. These are the feral/stray cat, the Common Indian Mynah bird, the Asian house gecko and the Cane Toad. In order to both evaluate and challenge popular perceptions of these species, artworks that both reflect and contest common perceptions of the selected subjects (through a visual framework that presents the four subjects in both objective and subjective styles) are exhibited for public review and reaction.

The objective works emphasise the aesthetics of biology and form through the style of natural history illustration, with reference to the great illustrators of the 17ᵗʰ – 19ᵗʰ centuries. In contrast, the subjective works are derived from the encounters that people have had with these species, presenting them in a style of heightened narrative. Perspectives are slightly surreal, underpinning the emotional underpinning of the entire experience.

The artworks were exhibited at Perc Tucker Regional Gallery in 2004. Visitor reactions to the works were recorded via the Visitor book in the gallery; these were analysed to provide feedback on the extent to which the artworks had achieved their aim of both representing, and challenging, perceptions of the subjects.

In terms of art practice, the practical works also provided an opportunity for experimentation with a variety of media and techniques. The artworks were in a variety of media, with paintings (in watercolour, gouache), fine art prints (lithographs and etchings) and drawings. Of these, the most notable works proved to be those on vellum. Once a traditional support of natural history artists and derived from animal skin, it is now a medium rarely used except by a few specialist artists (mostly in botanical illustration). No contemporary zoological artists were found to work on vellum although, historically, it was once popular. Used extensively throughout the exhibition, this research determined the most appropriate applications and techniques for working on vellum as well as the types of vellum best suited to painting.

In applying visual methodologies, this research provides an alternative pathway for research via a creative arts framework (in this case, the application of visuacy). Specifically, the research questions the impact of public perceptions on environmental management and public policy through alternative methodologies. It also advances current knowledge and understanding of creative arts practice. Finally, while this study draws upon new and established theories within the cognitive sciences regarding advocacy of the use of visual methodologies, it also ensures that the visual works retain both authenticity and purpose, and are not minor elements within a broader research framework, but provide the mechanism by which research questions may be both asked and answered.

Item ID: 40606
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: animals in art; art; arts; Asian house geckos; Australian art; Australian artists; bufo marinus; cane toads; common Indian mynahs; creative arts; environmental sciences; exhibitions; feral cats; geckos; mynahs; opinions; paintings; Perc Tucker Gallery; perspectives; pests; Queensland; society; sociological studies; Townsville Region
Date Deposited: 01 Oct 2015 01:48
FoR Codes: 19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1999 Other Studies in Creative Arts and Writing > 199999 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing not elsewhere classified @ 34%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160899 Sociology not elsewhere classified @ 33%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050299 Environmental Science and Management not elsewhere classified @ 33%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970119 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 50%
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