I make works that raise questions, rather than providing answers. I hope for the audience of my work to discover something within the experience that sparks a deeper hunger for inquiry. I am also interested in discovering possible ways to evoke empathy for the ‘more than human’.
I’m Selena de Carvalho, I’m a 36 year old artist, maker, designer and risk taker. I’m based in Longley, a small village 20k out of Hobart. I live here with my two kids aged 14 and 10. We’ve been in this house for nearly a decade, and it’s a place that holds a lot of stories, secrets and solace. I can walk down to the river in summer for a dip, or run around the field in winter under the moonlight, and on Sundays I can hear the cover bands at the pub wafting up the hill (= love + hate). When I think of this place, I think of a line from a Jolie Holland song, ‘you move through places and places move through you’. That’s how I feel about Longley, and subsequently how my identity is affected though living here.
My work responds to the environment of this remote island, but is simultaneously tapped into a broader ecological/ social narrative. The longer I live in Tasmania, and the more that I travel and return, my perspective expands to fully appreciate the unique and privileged lifestyle I can afford here. The accessibility I have to the bush, the delicious air and water are some of the main informants for my work. Here I can afford the time to make mistakes, explore ridiculous ideas, go walking for days, sink into the quiet of a mossy hilltop or venture to remote graveyards looking for orchids… there is an ease and a rhythm to Tasmania that I can’t envisage finding elsewhere.
I’m a cross disciplinary artist, which means that I work with a range of media and mediums, from video and installation to print, sculpture or performance. Sometimes I might make something which includes bespoke electronic systems or public engagement, other times I will realise an idea using some burnt tree stumps and wire.
Last year I was the recipient of the prestigious Shenberg Arts Fellowship for my work Ecological Haunts (ii) which came with $35 000 prize money and has enabled me to invest in equipment and time. The award has also given me a confidence boost, proving, I guess, that the work was connecting to people in a meaningful way. Ecological Haunts (ii) is a participatory installation that includes samples of moss, melted snow and soil collected as ‘witnesses’ to destruction from mine sites and forests scheduled to be logged. These witnesses form an electrical circuit so that when an audience member touches them their body completes the circuit and triggers a 5 channel audio portrait of an ancient tree. This interactive sound component is accompanied by sculpture and video.
I am most interested in human interaction with the environment. This broad statement leads me on all sorts of research trips and creative tasks that I set for myself in response to these ideas. For example, my kids and I recently went hiking in the Pyrenees, looking at the plants species that are said to be climbing the mountains as the climate increases. I see my practice as a vehicle to synthesise my experiences of the world into spaces for poetic contemplation.
Fundamentally I am the site for my practice, and while I make work for others to experience and engage with, I am the one most affected.
Photography by Amy Brown. Photos supplied by Selena de Carvalho.