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Wh-Eat is an installation designed as a collaboration with scientists and others who are working to combat the steadily advancing threat of secondary salinity in the Wheatbelt district of Western Australia. Without intervention the region's biodiversity and fresh water supplies will decline severely and agricultural and regional infrastructure will continue to erode. Resulting from decades of widespread land clearing, irrigation, and mono-agricultural practices, salinity is the greatest environmental threat facing Western Australia. There is no single or quick fix solution to this ecological crisis.Scientists are researching new hydrological and agricultural practices and are reintroducing species of plants that can grow in saline soil and combat rising water tables and levels of salinity. At the invitation of CSIRO Exhibitions of Science and Art during National Science Week 2001, I jumped at the opportunity to explore the dilemma in more detail.I contacted various organisations specialising in salinity including CALM, the State Salinity Council of WA, Agriculture WA, and various nurseries that are growing specific salt resistant plants, such as the oil mallee. The seminar "Dryland Salinity: where to from here?" organised by David Pannell and David Ferris from the University of Western Australia was highly informative.Wh-Eat is intended to provoke public awareness of salinity problems and solutions. Wheat plants, grain, soil, bread, salt, tree seedlings, deep rooted perennials and associated salinity web site links are all part of the work. In this sense, Wh-Eat is a visual, material, and conceptual translation of the research of scientists in Australia working to alleviate salinity.Outside the Fremantle Art Centre entrance, industrial bins painted in agricultural machinery colours of yellow and green contain earth, grain, and salt. The contents allude to a fraught relationship between mono-agriculture and salinisation of earth. Inside the Arts Centre, narrow troughs of fresh green wheat circumscribe the upper reaches of the main hallway. The hallway stairs are layered with galvanized watering cans (as an alias for a water table in transition) and the wheat dies off at the lower level only to be replaced by salted earth. At the end of the hallway, a long floor-to-ceiling wall of toasted bread slices towers above buckets crusted with crystallised salt and trays of fresh oil mallee seedlings. The hallway space between the watering cans and the wall of toast has bakers trolleys loaded with commercial plastic bread trays sprouting rows of wheat and oil mallee, western blue gum and other varieties of salt tolerant seedlings. The rows allude to alley farming and the regeneration of salt damaged land through the planting of salt-tolerant trees and deep rooted perennials. The plants are on loan from various nurseries.A catalogue essay about salinity and photographs of both destroyed land and regenerated land provided by the State Salinity Council gave context to the exhibition as did the poem "Pillars of Salt" by John Kinsella. The latter was written in white texter on the hallway windows and sought to establish a link between personal reflection and land.


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