Joshua O. Smith

Lignite - 2020

Lignite examines ecology and place in the modern industrial landscape of the Latrobe Valley - a landscape which has been shaped by decades of environmental discourse and mistreatment due to the region’s extended coal mining history. The mining of brown coal (lignite) was the Latrobe Valley’s lifeblood for generations, though its production and consumption not only benefitted the local economy but also inevitably cost the stability of human health and the environment.

The project observes the manifestations of human activity within the landscape; often juxtaposing the forms of built and natural sceneries with observations of subtle intricacies - found amongst the Latrobe Valley’s lesser explored fringes. Lignite engages its subject matter with a rhetoric that looks at human accountability within the spaces we occupy.

Joshua’s work finds deeper contextualisation within the coal industry’s history of mine fires that have led to an increased risk of health-issues and mortality amongst the population - specifically, the Hazelwood fire of 2014. This fire burnt for over forty days and blanketed the region in a cloud of toxic smoke. Additionally, from the increasing redundancy of coal mining within the Latrobe Valley, emerged one of Victoria’s poorest socio-economic regions.