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April 1, 2023

Dahlsen sculpture rooted

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A Monumental Artwork by artist John Dahlsen, which caused controversy in its location on Byron's beachfront, will be removed due to an infestation of borer and wood rot. Photo Jeff Dawson
The Monumental Environmental Artwork by artist John Dahlsen, which caused controversy in its location on Byron’s beachfront, will be removed because of an infestation of borer and wood rot. Photo Jeff Dawson

Chris Dobney

A sculpture by prominent Byron Shire artist John Dahlsen is to be removed from its controversial foreshore location because Byron Shire Council says it is being destroyed by insect pests.

Titled Monumental Environmental Artwork, the sculpture comprises the modified trunk and root ball of a large camphor laurel tree.

It was given to the council by the artist on a five-year loan after the artsCape foreshore art festival folded in 2012.

Council later spent some $10,000 to protect the artwork from possible vandalism following public protests about its location in Apex Park at Byron Bay’s Main Beach.

But the work is now suffering from a different type of vandalism: wood-boring weevils and fungi associated with wood rot.

According to the council’s director of infrastructure services, Phil Holloway, the decay has caused sculpture has become unsafe and it needs to be removed.

‘Treating the sculpture at the site was believed not possible because of the prominent beachfront position and the possible need for fumigation,’ he said.

Mr Dahlsen won a Swell sculpture festival prize for environmental art at Currumbin as well as the People’s Choice Award at artsCape in 2012.

But it was not everybody’s choice and a petition to have it removed, containing 232 signatures, was tabled at a Byron Shire Council meeting in May 2012.

Council simply ‘noted’ the petition, however, and fenced the artwork in place.

Cartoon by Alex Mankiewicz
Cartoon by Alex Mankiewicz

Byron mayor Simon Richardson thanked John Dahlsen for lending the sculpture.

‘The tree has created much dialogue for locals and visitors alike as they visit our popular Byron Bay beachfront,’ he said.

‘Beachgoers young and old are often seen walking around the tree, taking photos and learning about the complexities of what lay beneath the earth and gave the tree life. Not only is the piece visually stunning; the countless hours of handiwork and commitment can be seen in every crevice.

‘Public artwork can bring a space to life, or add a new dimension, and Council was proud to support John’s art piece as its first installation,’ Cr Richardson said.

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  1. Shame, but having something arty and unusual there is a good idea for Byron. Rather than tear down the fencing, let’s put something new there…

  2. The most inapropriate place for this to be locoated, more waste of money by Byron Shire Council. This is hardly an artwork. Nature is the artworker and we can see many uprooted trees in situ around the shire after any big blow! Thank goodness this is being removed. What happens to the $10,000 fence now?a

  3. Ugly looking thing anyway! What does it represent anway, a tree blown down in a hurricane? I thought they just cut them up and removed them.

  4. Hmm I smell a big fat pest here in the form of the original petitioners having another go. Why can’t it be treated?
    Has there been a second opinion? If all else fails, there are numbers of fine artists in Byron Shire who are capable of creating a work of significance to fill the space left. This might assuage the angst felt by those concerned about the cost of the protective fence.

  5. Seriously! has no one from the art community actually been in the local rainforest and seen what happens to wood when left to the elements…? Camphor is a softwood. it decays faster than any other Laureaceae…Surely the natural process of decay ought to be rationalised as part of the artistic process…As the sculpture is a “monumental environmental artwork” representing a storm blown tree [?] then its inevitable, irreversible degradation is part of the same statement of Nature as sculptor


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