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Unsustainable Thirst artwork

Unsustainable Thirst artwork

The Unsustainable Thirst artwork comprises three salt-encrusted cups and saucers arranged on top of a salt-encrusted pillar. Salts of various colours and textures fill each cup. The work was created by Frank Thirion as part of his work at the Australian National University's environmental studio.

Frank describes the work as being about colonisation, power and ecological change in rural Australia. Each salt-encrusted cup and saucer represents a different moment in Australian rural history.

The first colonial-style cup and saucer refers to discussions that might have taken place over cups of tea in the early years of Australian colonisation; conversations about securing fertile lands and the necessary displacement of Aboriginal clans. This cup is filled with edible table salt harvested by Sunsalt Pty Ltd from evaporation ponds in the Riverland.

The second cup and saucer might be a century old, and suggests conversations held over cups of tea about ecological changes unfolding in response to the imposition of European farming practices. Coarse grains of cooking salt fill this cup.

The third cup and saucer, of a modern style, refers to contemporary discussions in Parliament House and across the continent about the phenomenon of salinisation and how we might respond to it. The inedible bath salts in this cup suggest the ways settler activities have undermined the ability of the land to nourish human and other life. The title of the installation refers to such deleterious changes and suggests a metaphorical process whereby the drinking of salty water cannot quench thirst. Instead, the drinker is pushed to consume more.

When exhibited at the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery in 2003, Frank found that people liked the poetic nature of the work, and felt the narrative of ecological change and ongoing discussions conveyed by the installation reflected the various ways people in rural Australia are responding creatively and positively to salinisation.

Three salt-encrusted cups
Photo: George Main.
Salt-encrusted cup
Photo: George Main.
Salt-encrusted cup
Photo: George Main.