Re:tracing Dietrich is a project in which I conducted artistic and scientific fieldwork in Central and Northern Queensland.
In February 2016 I retraced parts of the journey of Amalie Dietrich, a German Naturalist working in Queensland from 1863-1871. With the assistance of a Griffith University Honours College Summer Research Bursary I travelled for two weeks in a campervan I had turned into both a mobile laboratory and studio on wheels. I wanted to know: would it be possible for an amateur naturalist like myself to retrace parts of Dietrich’s journeys and discover new species of insects? What could a dual goal of scientific discovery and artistic speculative research yield as outcomes?
I travelled 2,500 kilometres on this trip to where Dietrich lived and collected in, including Mackay, Lake Elphinstone and Bowen. I was alone in the wildness. I taught myself to collect botanical and entomological specimens to professional scientific standards in the months prior to the trip. I set traps for insects that I made myself from curtain fabric and recycled plastics. I collected over 12,000 specimens, mainly flies. I picked up objects I connected with along the way. I worked everyday in 35+ degree heat. I got heatstroke. I learned a lot about myself. Back in the universities ecology lab in Brisbane I began the ongoing process of sorting and classifying the specimens. I documented my responses to the various experiences with photography, video and sound recordings. From this fieldwork I developed a range of artistic strategies, processes and artworks.