Day Ten – Filling in


Work again intervened and this is the first chance I have had to post this entry in the blog.  This is me on the last day at Hill End, filling in.  It was perhaps the hardest day of work, because I had to finish by the end of the day.  It was my only 12 hour day.  It was also a little easier because there was no work with the crow bar, no climbing in and out, no pulling buckets of dirt up.  It was just me shovelling dirt into the hole.


I tried to put the dirt back in the order that it came out.  This was mostly because I want to be able to restore the lawn to its pre-hole condition and I thought ending up with a lot of clay on the top would make this difficult.  Again ignorance.  Of course my efforts to separate the various layers of dirt were relatively futile and in the end it was a pretty confused endeavour.  Still, it gave me something to structure the work on.  What did become evident very early on was that I would have a lot more dirt to put into the hole than what I took out of it.  This left me with a rather large mound of excess clay and topsoil that wouldn’t fit back into the hole that it came out of,  because it was no longer compacted after being broken up and removed.


This picture doesn’t show very well the height of the mound around the hole but it is a considerable excess.  While I don’t consider myself an “environmental” artist as such, my concern for the environment and those values I hold in relationship to it make it imperative that I restore it to a condition comparable to that in which I found it.  Unlike certain resources extraction companies, this phase of the work is not done as a generally resisted obligation to be met with the minimum conditions of responsibility.  It is done with all the creative motivation that I could bring to any work, and upon successful completion brings the sense of gratification that I pursue in the making of any object of beauty or verisimilitude.  I am going to have to wait for this soil to settle first, then I will fill it in with the preserved topsoil and after that I will reseed the lawn.  I can’t wait to see this site looking as though I had never been here.

Before I go, I discovered that my little project had been picked up by a gold mining forum and it generated quite a discussion.  It gives the project yet another dimension:


Day 9 Hits bottom


So the digging has stopped.  The hole will go no further down.  The work is done.  I know, Im as surprised as anyone.  As any artist will tell you, its not the making of a work that is difficult, but knowing when it is finished.  As is common with works that belong to the traditions that this hole belongs to, it is usual to seek some external index or parameter that will determine the length or breadth or depth of what you are doing.  This parameter usually involves maths or numbers or formulae, and originally I was thinking I would peg the depth of the hole to the 8 hour work day, the 5 day work week which would bind the work to considerations of labor and the regimentation of time.  But because paid work intervened and I spent nearly half of my residency in Sydney doing actual work for actual money, this index was impossible.  I was thinking of just finishing the work on the 30th when the residency finished, which was pretty desperate and arbitrary really.  On Sunday the 25th, I climbed into the hole thinking I would dig for my usual five hours morning shift before emerging to the luncheon we were having to celebrate the work.  The personal issues I have mentioned earlier, had on that morning condensed into a particularly painful mood that made the work far more difficult than the resistance of the earth.   The joy,  optimism, and good humor that had motivated this project was gone.  It was finished.   This then became the measure of my making, giving me the external parameter that could determine the limit of the work.

1471140_553542521387488_2118411246_n hole-for-hill-end-day-9I want to  thank all of my friends who travelled out from Sydney, Dubbo, Kandos and Hill End to see the work.  It was a great luncheon and I enjoyed it immensely.   I was happy that you were able to experience the hole in all of its being there.  Tomorrow I will fill the hole in and clean up Haeflinger’s cottage and go home.  I will probably make a post about that too.



Day 8


Here I am at the end of day 8 at 3 metres.  I had a kinda shit day and so I worked an extra hour, just cause I didn’t want to have to go back to the world where people could give me bad news.  I’ve been having a bit of a shit month really, and much of what I have been thinking while I dig has been the petty ins and outs of these conflicts that reach me even here in this hole.  At these times the hole becomes a kind of echo chamber.  As I ring the earth with the crow bar, striking it loose, I think all those thoughts you have when your life is in conflict.  He said.  She said. Blah Blah.  Around and around, the hammer ringing on the earth, the mind coiled for some kind of combat, rehearsing endlessly the battle that will never play.  At the end of the day, I  sank down in the silence of the hole, indulging in the act of not climbing out, the moment suspended by the fact that I didn’t have to admit to myself that it would end. Ultimately though, the flies, encouraged by my stillness and silence, descended on me with their angry flight and drove me back into the world.


I thought a close up would help.  I think I look a little bit like Encino Man, except I just dug myself up.


Day 6


I’ve fallen behind a day.  I had to do some work on a marketing strategy for an art festival that is eating my life, and after that all I could handle was a half a bottle of wine and a soft pillow.  Have I mentioned, the bed at Haeflinger’s is awesome. The hole is 2.4 metres deep at this point.  You can see I’m using buckets and ropes which haven’t slowed me down too much because the ground has become surprisingly soft.  Is it possible that I am digging in lime?  Its grey/white and very powdery.  I’ll post a pick tomorrow.


You know, I thought this blog was going to be full of deep thoughts and stuff.  You think a lot when you are in a hole; your body has been kinda set on automatic, your mind detaches and goes all sorts of lovely places.  I used to wash dishes for a living.  I spent more of my life as a dishwasher than in any other profession.  It was the same thing.  You set your body into its program and you could dream all the way through it.  But,  it turns out that what you think in the hole, stays in the hole.  When I sit down to blog, I can’t remember  any of it.  I can remember really enjoying the feeling of having the earth all around me. there.


Day 5


So I finally got some bracing up.  I still need to corner brace it.  The rock and quartz I found yesterday has given way to a soft, almost powdery clay that comes up easily.  I am tired now, I realise and this hasn’t sped my progress at all.  As you can see from the picture, I can no longer throw the dirt from the hole but have to climb up and pull it out by the bucketful.  Again, this is slow and the effort of dragging my fat arse in and out of the hole is contributing to my fatigue.  Perhaps its just what my fat arse needs.


When I started this project, I joked that this was the dumbest idea I’ve ever had.  I was offered a month stress and obligation free, to sit in beautiful Hill End and drink red wine and make or think about art and I decided to commit myself to digging a hole 8 hours in the day, five days in the week.  Now that I am here, I realise I’m not quite as dumb as I thought.  I know what great idleness is like, and given as much of it as I was offered, I could see myself at a point of desperation here, going for endless walks, reading 6 books at once (I brought 10), desperately seeking the company of any other human beings, spending hours on facebook and the internet.  I know the feeling, and I am glad I do not have to suffer it.  I come home exhausted, shower and change, fix a meal (which is invariably fantastic, even if it is out of a can), drink three beers and collapse.  Awesome.  I was thinking someone should open a chain of forced labour holiday camps for people tired of sitting at desks during their working lives.  Just another thought.


In over my head

hill-end-day-4-12-2So I’ve finally dug a hole deeper than I am tall.  This hole can now completely contain me.  It is appropriate then that I should at last publish the long promised interior shots, since this is what I will be seeing so much of over the next few days.  I’m beginning to wonder if I will need to get light in here pretty soon.

hill-end-day-4-9I also started to hit rock.  Nothing heavy yet, a friable red and a yellow stone  that I think is just compressed clay, and a bit of quartz.  Finding the quartz is exciting and has given my endeavour a new energy, having broken the monotony of digging layer after layer of clay.  Each clink of the crow bar means that there is something beautiful to dig up.  I am also able to flatter myself that I am looking at this quartz in the same way that the original gold miners would have.  Pulling it from the earth and cleaning off the dirt, it promises me the unknown and the possible.  It has made my work far easier, investing it with desire.  I even worked late this afternoon, trying to clear a big bit of quartz.  A painter friend of mine once told me that what he sought most was the moment he looked up from the canvas and his cigarette was out and his coffee was cold and it four hours had disappeared.  This is beginning to feel like making art.


Now that the hole is as deep as it is, I will have to consider a better method for getting in and out.  I have tied foot loops into a rope and can slowly climb in and out, but soon I will not be able to throw the dirt out of the hole with a shovel.  I will need to use a bucket system soon.  It which will mean a lot of climbing up and down.  I will need to look into either buying or making a rope ladder.  It is raining as I write this.  I hope it clears up by the time I need to start work.




Hole Sweet Hole

hill-end-day-3-15I’ve been in Sydney for the last ten days, performing alienated labour.  It has been a great frustration to be away from the hole for so long, especially after the good start I had made, and knowing how limited my time here in the end will be. I was able to get some supplies as you can see, including some very fashionable hazard tape that not only prevents small children from falling into the hole, it also embellishes it quite effectively.  I  got some rope because I will have to find ways to climb out of the hole, but this stuff isn’t very good and I might have to devise a rope ladder.  I also got some wood in order to build bracing when the hole gets deeper.   The hole is now 1.5 by 1.5 wide and 1.4 m deep.  I wasn’t able to make any progress going down today as I spent all the time digging out the step ledges I had on two sides.  I got rained out in the afternoon so, again I am frustrated, but quite comfy and drinking a glass of wine.  I know I promised people a photograph from inside the hole, but that will have to wait till tomorrow.  I thought it was more urgent that you got to see some of the awesome fauna that was attracted to the hole.


Check out this bad boy.  There was a whole family of these guys in the hole when I got in there this morning.


and this gentleman has been hanging out in the hole since the first day.  Anyone know what kind of bird this is?


Day 2

hill-end-day-2This is the end of day 2.  It comes up to my shoulder.  I am having trouble climbing in and out, even though you can see I have carved a step into it.  I will have to get a ladder, safety tape and stakes, a tarp against rain (that is clay and I don’t think it will drain), a bucket and rope (look into a pully system), and if I don’t hit rock soon, I will probably want to investigate the need to brace the walls.

Next time I’ll take a photo inside it.  It looks a bit like a Euan McLeod landscape, the color of the clay and the chiselled cliffs in ascending strata.  It occurred to me that if I actually found gold, it would ruin my artwork.  Here’s hoping.


Day 1

cropped-hill-end-day-one-69.jpgSo this is my first day digging a hole in Hill End.  My first post is going to have to be a quick one as it took me a long time to work out the WordPress software to get it to some kind of decent state and now I don’t have any time for the post.  This, my friends, is a hole.  I dug it.  I know, its beautiful, I’m very proud.  I’m also a little proud that I have gotten so far on the first day.  I reckon this hole is around a meter deep and 1.5 square.  I’m also very surprised that it is square.  I thought it was going to be a circle, but nope.  It’s a square.  So that’s it for the first day.  I’ve got to get back to digging and I can’t sit around on the computer looking up facebook and blogging about the hole.  If you get a chance have a read of the ‘about’ page cause I wrote something there.  I’ll let you know if I find any gold… or art.