James Newitt (b. 1981, Hobart) is one of the most exciting artists to have emerged in Tasmania over the past decade. His work has garnered a national and international reputation for its poetic approach to documentary practice, and his extended engagement with issues of political and social significance. If They Fall is an example of what Newitt describes as a ‘situational aesthetics’ – a process whereby he embeds himself within certain places or situations for a period of time and documents the people and events he finds there.
This is the first High Definition Video artwork to enter the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery collection.
In this work, Newitt spent four months in the Florentine forest, an area of ongoing conflict between forest industry workers and protesters. His footage of workers and activists is interspersed with footage of the processes of tree-felling or burning, and other images suggestive of the consequences of logging. Newitt describes his approach as a “meditation on environmental conflict seen through the strategies of the communities implicated”. The result is not so much a political statement but more an account of an in-depth engagement with a set of circumstances in a given time and place.
The issue of logging in Tasmania’s old-growth forests has been integral to the culture and identity of Tasmania, spawning a major protest movement over the past 30 years. Newitt’s response to this issue takes its place within a broader history of Tasmanian artists whose work deals with relationships between humans and the natural environment and perspectives on the wilderness areas of our state. The Florentine, in particular, has had a resonance for Tasmanian artists as a landscape that has shaped, and continues to shape our individual and collective identities.