Erica Seccombe Vault Door, Millennium Seed Bank, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Wakehurst Place, Sussex, UK 2012, digital image, 44.4 x 65.5 cm, inkjet print on Canson rag, edition of five 2012.

Erica Seccombe Constructed landscape 2012 (detail) digital projection, dimensions variable, 3:52hrs. 

Erica Seccombe, (photo) Giant Redwood, Sierra Redwood Big Tree, Sequoiadendro Giganteum, (California) 1890, listed as a vulnerable species, Wakehurst Place, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2012). 

Erica Seccombe, (photo) view of the National Arboretum, 2012. 

Constructed Landscape

Constructed Landscape was inspired by exploring the giant trees in the forest on the Wakehurst reserve surrounding the MSB. It was there that I started to make connections with the National Arboretum in Canberra, a place where I frequently walk. In 2012 the arboretum was in its infancy, a landscape populated by patterned rows of spindly saplings in red plastic tubes. It occurred to me that in my life-time I may not live long enough to see some of these trees grow to their full maturity as they are at Wakehurst. For example, the Giant Sequoia, or Californian Red Wood is estimated to grow to 40 metres in 50 years, and can grow to a full height of 80 metres. Seeds take a short time to sprout, but to capture a time-lapse of these trees at the Canberra Arboretum growing to full height would take as long as a century.

As time is compressed into seconds in my time-lapse capture of seeds germinating, I was interested to see what would happen if I extended, or stretched the experience of time instead of accelerating it. I wanted to further explore the idea of the sensation of living in the moment, while thinking about the future. To do this I selected and compiled 300 photographs which I had taken of the Canberra Arboretum on my many visits. I organised them so that they were not sequential in the order of time they were taken, but sorted according to various positions and perspectives to give a sense that the viewer is taking a slow walk through the landscape. 

Animating the still images I used a filter to create the lengthiest transition possible from one single image to the next. I set a consistent tonal range of green across the whole work to limit variations in time and colour to create a sense of one single moment (not days, weeks or seasons). As the images slowly transition, the double exposures create new possibilities for interpreting the position and pattern of the saplings planted across the landscape.  The duration of the work lasts 3 hours and 52 minutes, far longer than an average person would spend watching a moving image in a gallery space. 

I had the opportunity to exhibit Constructed Landscape at ANCA Gallery in Dickson, ACT in October 2012. I ran the movie as a large, single, looped projection onto the gallery wall.  To further explore the concept of time in this piece, I contrasted the projection by placing on the adjacent wall a single printed photograph I had taken of the vault door at the MSB. Alongside the image I placed text explaining the location and purpose of the MSB, describing how, behind the vault door more, species of plants are located in one space than anywhere else on the planet. By juxtaposing the single image of the seed bank and the long movie sequence of an arboretum in its infancy I wanted to explore the correlation between the idea of the dormancy of seeds and future, or virtual landscapes that are beyond our imagination. The question I was asking was: what it will be like to live in the near future where the environment is predominantly reconstructed as the natural spaces on Earth are further reduced?


First exhibited in the exhibition Crossing the Rubicon, with Ellis Hutch @ ANCA Gallery Dickson, ACT. 24 Oct -  4 Nov 2012

Engaging with new technologies having studied traditional art media, Seccombe’s background in printmaking and Hutch’s training in sculpture provide them with points of reference and departure as they push into new areas of investigation in digital media and imaging. The exhibition Crossing the Rubicon will present work-in-progress installations of video, sound and animation charting key themes in the artists’ current research projects.

When Julius Cesar crossed the Rubicon River in 49 BC he made a pivotal decision. At that time the Rubicon marked a significant border, and to cross it with an army was considered an act of war. When Cesar marched his men across the river he marked a point of no return in his campaign for Rome. The event was so significant that the phrase ‘crossing the Rubicon’ is used today to refer to points of ‘no return’ literally and metaphorically.

Ellis Hutch and Erica Seccombe have adopted the phrase crossing the Rubicon in relation to their work as it reflects their interests in exploring subjects that grapple with the limits of human perception and scientific understanding, finding contemporary points of no return. 

For further readings and catalogue essays go to

Ellis Hutch, Tumbler site