Black Box Festival
of Living and Dying Art

by Kyle Bush


Australia is a vast country with a relatively small population. The creation of ghost towns is a common by-product of urbanisation, greatly exacerbated by the parasitic nature of the extractive industries in remote sites. Big Bell is a ghost town coupled with a large abandoned open pit gold mine, 550kms from Perth.
Acid mine drainage (AMD) and acid rock drainage (ARD) are two environmentally harmful conditions which are common at abandoned mine sites, often acidifying local fresh water sources, in turn poisoning local marine and terrestrial ecologies. Natural attenuation of AMD/ARD has been observed on sites where waste rock heaps are compacted, limiting the flow of water and oxygen. Another technique - the permeable reactive barrier (PRB) – is a deep trench filled with material which selectively neutralises acidic elements in ground water as it flows through naturally.

1. Black Box Festival year 15 – aerial view | Kyle Bush

Often the lifecycle of certain industrial activities persists in different forms beyond those initially intended. Black Box Festival of Living and Dying Art aims to catlayse, reveal and observe the industrial afterlife. The repurposed mine site will become the final resting place of a range of decommissioned and repurposed industrial equipment: aircraft, centre pivot irrigation infrastructure, and construction waste materials. Installed artworks will remain in-situ, exposed to the elements, and will undergo a process of degradation that is accelerated depending on the degree of groundwater contamination present in its immediate surrounds.
Over many years a spatially linked set of individual Black Box Festival sites incrementally envelope the abandoned mine. A PRB is installed at each location during a festival, eventually isolating the source of groundwater contamination. Each year event stages are positioned atop each waste rock heap so that gradual and persistent compaction of the surface layer is affected. Over time the active toxic elements are contained within each heap, effectively neutralising its damaging effects. Festival infrastructure becomes ecological observation infrastructure powered by the wind and the sun, measuring groundwater contamination on site.

2. Repurposed Centre Point Irrigation Arms become dynamic festival infrastructure | Kyle Bush

3. Installations decay at different rates, depending on their proximity to AMD/ARD chemicals | Kyle Bush

Black Box is a cultural vehicle for the celebration of the leftover spaces of urbanisation, a catalyst for the natural attenuation of AMD/ARD impacts, and a testing facility for the new methods of active remediation.


Kyle Bush↩