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Climbing the landscape: Mt Arapiles - explorations in place and the printed image

posted on 27.02.2017, 01:34 by Hillebrand, Bridget
This research explores my engagement as a rock climber with the landscape of Mt Arapiles in Western Victoria, a site of personal and cultural significance. As a climber my experience and perception of place is informed by cultural, kinaesthetic and corporeal knowledge. My visual art research explores the relationship between the physicality of both making printed images and climbing, as a response to the corporeal dimension of the experience of place. Traces of a climber’s actions are also incorporated into written representations of place. Climbers mark place and claim ownership of their climbs by writing about their experiences. Climbing discourses mediate the exploration of the landscape and its written and pictorial representation. Words render the formerly invisible nuances of a rock face, visible and real, and present the promise of an unexplored climbing route. My art practice also researches specific texts, guide books, climbing magazines and club newsletters that reference the language, systems and structures through which the climbing fraternity constructs its vernacular landscape. I have documented conversations, conducted and recorded field surveys and have discovered unpublished primary resources. These materials provide evidence that climbers share a common understanding and a particular reading of the landscape. I developed art works that incorporate tactile surfaces in response to these texts to explore, via the studio research, a climber’s intimate knowledge of Mt Arapiles and their temporal and sensory encounter with the rock. I developed innovative printing techniques using raw materials sourced from Mt Arapiles which were then incorporated into art works as receptive elements signifying the ephemeral and unpredictable surfaces encountered while climbing. Investigating the interactive potential of tactile works led to and understanding of the phenomenological engagement of a viewer as they observe and engage with an art work. Challenging museum standards of conservation and traditional methods of viewing printed works I encouraged the viewer to touch the surface of the works. These innovations explore the potential of a new narrative that is constructed from the marks made by the viewer’s repetitive touching. In an investigation of rock climbing, printmaking and studio practice my research explores the ephemeral and tactile nature of art works as a viable alternative to traditional representations of landscape. This research questions the relationship we have with our surroundings and rethinks our presence within the landscape, by referencing climbing discourse and the haptic process by which climbers comprehend and experience place.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Marian Crawford

Additional supervisor 1

Caroline Durre

Additional supervisor 2

Michael Vale

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Fine Art


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture