Artist and alumnus Lisa Roet makes conservation larger than life

Artist and alumnus Lisa Roet makes conservation larger than life

A large-scale public artwork of iconic chimpanzee David Greybeard, made famous by scientist Dr Jane Goodall, is set to bring wildlife conservation to the fore in Melbourne this spring.

Created by artist and RMIT alumnus Lisa Roet, the nine by twelve metre inflatable sculpture of the chimpanzee, David Greybeard, will be installed at The Arts Centre in Melbourne in Spring 2020.

Handmade in Melbourne during lockdown, the work is supported by RMIT, Creative Victoria and the Jane Goodall Institute Australia, and commemorates the 60th anniversary of Goodall’s first research expedition.

The link between humans and animals has been a central focus in Roet’s work for over 30 years, with Goodall’s research a regular feature.

Roet said she hoped exploring habitat and species protection through large-scale public art would bring a new perspective to sustainability and act as a vehicle for change.

“As humans’ closest relative, the ape acts as a mirror in my work, reminding us of the necessity to re-evaluate our position within this increasingly urbanised world,” she said.

David Greybeard was the chimpanzee to whom Goodall dedicated her first ground-breaking research papers about emotion and communication in animals, and Roet’s artwork was designed to raise awareness of the conservation efforts of the Jane Goodall Institute.

Roet's nine metre high David Greybeard was made from a finely spun metallic material by Melbourne studio AIRENA. (Photos: John Gollings)

The exhibition of David Greybeard will be accompanied by a series of forums, the first of which will be convened by Grace Leone from RMIT’s Contemporary Art and Social Transformation group and held in Melbourne in late 2020.

Register to attend the forum


A global tour is scheduled to take place in 2021-22, travelling to major art events and conferences and bringing together key thinkers in public art, sustainable practice, conservation and design.

Roet also worked with RMIT to produce a report examining the carbon footprint of the travelling installation.

Michael Anderson, Utilities Manager in Property Services at RMIT, said looking at the carbon footprint of large public art works was a tangible way to start a conversation around sustainability.

“This report will provide insights into which decisions have the largest impact and inform how the industry more broadly can drive sustainability into supply chains,” he said.

Victorian Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley, said Creative Victoria was pleased to also be providing support to the project and that creativity had a powerful role to play in drawing attention to the issues of our times.

“More than just an iconic artwork that will take Victorian creativity across the globe, this project is using environmentally conscious techniques and will be a high-profile demonstration of the ways that art can have a significant impact and be kind to the earth,” he said.


Story: Grace Taylor


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