Metabolic Scales (1)

Terri Bird (Artist), Bianca Hester (Artist), Scott Mitchell (Artist)

Research output: Non-textual formAudio / Visual RecordingResearch


Presented for the first time in 'Earthen', Metabolic Scales examines the biological, geological, and economic entanglements bound up in banded iron formations found on the unceded lands of the Nyamal, Kariyarra, Banjima, and Yindjibarndi, in the Pilbara region, Western Australia.

The work presents the material record of transformations dating back more than 3 billion years when oxygen was released into the Earth’s Ocean through the microbial metabolisms of stromatolites. Amongst the first forms of life, stromatolites are microbialites constructed by colonies of microorganisms, such as cyanobacteria. The world’s oldest examples of fossil stromatolites are located near Marble Bar on unceded Nyamal land.

The slow build-up of oxygen in the ocean caused iron rich minerals to precipitate out of solution forming layers on the deep seafloor. The iron ore extracted today, found in banded iron formations, resulted from the coupling of these microbial and mineralogical processes.

In a nonlinear sequence of newly created imagery and text, layered with found footage, Metabolic Scales seeks to unfold the complex biogeochemical interactions that take place in the heterogeneous environments where geology meets life. It points to how the politics of life are conditioned and constrained by the dynamics of these interactions, and how our rapidly collapsing future should be understood in relation to Earth’s deep material histories.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationPaddington NSW Australia
PublisherCement Fondu
Size12:25 minutes
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventBetter Nature - Earthen - Cement Fondu, Paddington, Australia
Duration: 13 Oct 20233 Dec 2023


  • Banded iron formation
  • Economic and social entanglements
  • Iron ore

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