Tamborine Mountain is a small inhabited plateau in South East Queensland, Australia.
Its rich biodiversity is on a par with that of nearby World Heritage-listed areas.
One small place on earth… is an artist’s unique attempt to create a record of biodiversity on digital video.
Since 1998 Peter Kuttner has been filming the natural life of the mountain. He has also recorded what local people feel about the place and its wildlife.
South East Queensland is Australia’s fastest-growing region. Kuttner says the mountain’s outstanding biodiversity is threatened by development and climate change. He wants to celebrate it, before it’s lost or diminished, and record it for posterity.
The Archive features thousands of shots of rainforest, fungi, orchids, scenery, birds, reptiles, insects, marsupials, national parks, panoramic views, gardens, the weather and more, plus hours of interviews with 39 local people ranging in age from 11 to 80 talking about the rich natural life of the mountain and its impact on their lives. It includes many hours of footage of the rainforest at night.
The Archive is on 18 DVDs with a running time of 24.5 hours.It is edited from 130 hours of camera original footage, including nearly an hour of aerial shots. The paper edit, from film diary to final script corrections, runs to well over 1,000 pages.In July 2008, March 2010 and March 2013 The Archive was lodged with the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra.
Kuttner estimates that he has spent nearly $100,000 of his own money on the project.
Peter Kuttner was born in London in 1941. He was educated at Bradford Grammar School and studied architecture at Manchester University, but left the course to attend Hornsey College of Art, graduating with a BA in 1967. Jonathan Miller was one of his teachers.
Kuttner was part of the avantgarde art scene in swinging 60s London. He belonged to a group of radical artists who acquired the name Whsht. They rejected the gallery system because they felt it was too elitist and turned art into a commodity. Instead they took their art to the people through multi-media events, street theatre and performance art.
At Art College, Kuttner was a member of the Light/Sound Workshop which pioneered light projection for set designs, notably for a Sir Frederick Ashton ballet at Covent Garden and for rock concerts, inspiring the then unheralded Pink Floyd, who sometimes provided the sound for the Workshop’s experiments. He helped organise a major exhibition and conference honouring the work of famed American designer Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome.
Kuttner organised and participated in a series of multi-media events in the Middle Earth Club in Covent Garden. He also organised street theatre events, culminating in a day of street theatre at a dozen locations in central London. Notoriously he once spent a day in a zoo cage exhibited as Homo sapiens. This received worldwide publicity. At this time he became friends with the legendary theatre director Joan Littlewood.
Using a special effects crew from the film industry Kuttner created Pyromagic, staging a number of major firework displays with a difference, including one accompanying the Grateful Dead at a large pop festival in the north of England.
Edible Rainbow, which involved preparing and presenting meals of coloured food at art centres, festivals and public galleries in the UK, Europe the US and Israel, established Kuttner’s reputation. His events were filmed by UK, US and European television networks and widely covered in newspaper and magazine articles and in books on contemporary art in the UK, Europe and Japan – although some items he sent for an art exhibition in Buenos Aires were impounded by the Argentine authorities and never returned!
In 1970 he was invited by the distinguished Swiss artist Herbert Distel to contribute to his Museum of Drawers, which is exhibited at the Kunsthaus in Zurich.
He was a visiting teacher and lecturer at art and architecture schools in the UK, Europe, USA, Israel, India and for the British Council.
His ‘Food of the Future’ exhibition, about feeding the world’s population, was a radical project which did not eventuate and he came to feel he’d reached a dead end with his ventures in art. He needed to devote himself to being with the renowned spiritual teacher, Barry Long, whom he had first met in 1968.
In 1987 Kuttner moved to Tamborine Mountain in Australia and eventually became an environmental activist because the natural beauty of his new home was under constant threat from development.
Since August 2006, he has been an occasional contributor to the Brisbane Institute’s online journal, The Brisbane Line.
Kuttner says his One small place on earth… video archive project on Tamborine Mountain’s biodiversity, is his most ambitious, demanding and creatively rewarding artwork. It includes unique and extensive footage of the wholly different world of the rainforest at night. He claims that he has encountered nothing in art as avant-garde as the biodiversity on Tamborine Mountain.
His website www.biodiversity.com.au created in 2005, has been captured for Australia’s national web archive and became a Content Partner of the prestigious Encyclopaedia of Life (EOL), based at the Smithsonian Institution, in 2010. The published archive, 2005, 2010 and 2012 on 18 DVDs, is in the collection of Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive.
In 2012, Kuttner was awarded a RADF grant to put the archive’s complete unedited footage onto data files (with corresponding DVDs and digitised content information) for preservation by the State Library of Queensland; which work he successfully completed.
In recent years Kuttner has been interviewed via emails and in meetings in London, by PhD researchers interested in Whsht’s contribution to British performance art in the ’60s and ‘70s and in the Light/Sound Workshop.
Kuttner once shared a flat with Roger Waters and Nick Mason of the Pink Floyd and taught Helen Mirrenhow to play frisbee.
Photo: Paul Guy from Quest Newspapers