Looking back on what we have lost

• Freo artist Sandy McKendrick is going a little wild this weekend, along with the rest of Fremantle as its Easter Street Arts Festival returns after a two-year Covid absence.

SANDY McKENDRICK’S installation Observing Stone displays the eyes of animals that lived and sometimes disappeared from Fremantle.

“When I was asked to develop something to do with extinct and endangered animals, I looked at where we live because Fremantle is built on and with the limestone,” McKendrick said. 

“I thought about what creatures make up the limestone … I looked right back to the pre-historic times even before the limestone existed on our coast.”

She discovered much of the limestone is the skeletal remains of reefs and aquatic animals.

McKendrick also investigated the animals who lived on the limestone, such as birds and kangaroos.

“Where High Street is used to be a swamp land,” she says. “I was thinking about what kind of animals existed there, the whales and fish that go past on the coast and the creatures that lived in the bays around Fremantle.”

McKendrick takes her own photos while snorkelling, but tapped into vets working with native animals to expand her portfolio of eye portraits.

“They organised these amazing meetings for me with reptile handlers who brought in dugites and skinks and lizards for me to photograph,” she says. 

“So, I have amazing insight into all these beautiful animals that you don’t normally get to touch and handle or be close to safely.”

With the artwork being installed in the Whalers Tunnel, McKendrick said she also wanted to pay respects to the Indigenous Australians incarcerated above.

“The Whalers Tunnel was built by First Nations people who lived in the Round House at the time, all the prisoners,” she says. 

“I’ve also included eyes of First Nations people because they were part of the life that was forced off the land and yet they’re the ones that built and dug that tunnel. I thought that was interesting history and really important to acknowledge.”

Using old lenses from stage lights, McKendrick gets the eyes to glow through the solid glass.


“I kept the lenses for a project just like this, so when this came up, I thought ‘oh my god, I can focus on the animals’ eyes’. On the back, flat side of the glass lens, I’ve glued two images of the actual eye, one with transparency and one with tracing paper. It was fiddly, and it’s taken a few months.

“Over the last two years I have been recording sounds of the bush, birds and other animals,” McKendrick said.

“I worked with a whale research boat called Whale Song and they allowed me to use sounds of the whales.”

Sound studio Envelope Audio created a soundscape with McKendrick’s recordings which plays through speakers in the tunnel.

Observing Stone
Whalers Tunnel, Fremantle
Saturday April 16: 10am-7pm
Sunday/Monday: 7am-7pm Free

Leave a Reply