Mairin Briody

Special guest

I'm an artist living and working on stolen Wadawurrung country in the regional town of Ballarat, Victoria.

I spent a lot of time driving in early 2017 as I tried to get my infant baby to nap. I'd take the roads out into the surrounding farmland - try to get a glimpse of the horizon beyond the backyard fence. On these drives I found myself increasingly drawn to the wind farm close to my house.

It was a time when I was reflecting deeply on the state of the world - not uncommon for a new parent. But in early 2017 our climate policy had been (still is) stagnated for decades, public rhetoric was becoming yet more divisive and fearful, our major parties agendas only stretch as far as the next election cycle - and most maddening of all - Donald Trump had just been elected.

The road to the wind farm undulates until you see the arms of a turbine sweeping beyond a final hill. Once you're over that last crest, a field filled with dozens of turbines opens up. I would drive though that field and feel immediately calmed. Parked beneath them I would watch and breathe with their rhythm.

I started trying to figure out how to represent the wind turbines, around the same time I was reminded of Sonia Delaunay's "Prismes èlectrique" (Electric Prisms) from 1914. Delaunay's painting was inspired by the newly installed electric lampposts on the streets of Paris.

In 1914 the western world was in turmoil; like now the world was coming to terms with a society transformed by new technologies, global politics were precarious and Europe was on the precipice of the first World War. In the centre of all this Delaunay walked down a street in Paris and saw the promise of the future.

Looking at this painting from over a century ago, I saw not only a connection between the subject matter, nor just the historical similarities - but a connection between what I was trying to convey of what I see when I look at wind turbines.

What I see is the physical iteration of progress, a resonance of hope in the landscape. I see the future. Optimism.

Having a baby is an exercise in optimism; despite all the fears, all the dangers, all the unfathomable outcomes - I choose this. Optimism can sometimes feel like a radical act these days ... that is, until I'm at the foot of one of these turbines.

Every single one is a demonstration of optimism, a belief that we can do better, that there is a deep future ahead us and that people are planning for it.

Mairin Briody has been a guest on 1 episode.