Falls Creek Residency - Day 3

As I delve deeper into the Environmental Humanities, reading work by Val Plumwood, Deborah Bird Rose, Kate Rigby, Tom van Dooren and others, I find it helpful in exploring my ideas about going beyond what might have been considered “Site Specific” art making to instead understand how I can focus part of my arts practice on how to collaborate with a living landscape of which we are a part.

Traditionally the word Nature has excluded humans, it has been seen as something separate from us, something untouched and “over there”.

Australian environmental philosopher Val Plumwood has called the nature/culture dualism “the foundational delusion of the West” and has argued that it is a “dangerous doctrine, strongly implicated in the environmental crisis.” [1]

If we consider that there is no divide between humans and nature, that humans are actually a part of nature, it offers possibilities for me in my arts practice to consider the collaboration with nature as possible. Collaboration rather than colonisation. Collaboration in order to allow emotional navigation of the environmental crisis of which Val Plumwood speaks.

Today when I was driving around exploring the area, looking for things that sparked my interest, I found myself on top of a mountain near a ski lift. The conditions were very windy and I started to notice soft tones sounding out across the mountain top. The wind was blowing across the structure at the top of the ski lift, across the various openings, a bit like a flute. I decided to brace myself against the strong winds for half an hour, while I put 4 x dpa 4060 microphones on various parts of the structure, each picking up a differently tuned tone. There is no further manipulation of the sound by me except for some lo pass filtering, slight eq, panning and some volume balance. All the sounds you can here were being payed by the wind on the instrument of the ski lift, while the vegetation surrounding it danced at the winds command.

I considered sampling these sounds and building up my own composition, but what’s the point when instead I can just listen to this music, written by this place, by an interaction of the natural elements; wind, the height of the mountain, the vegetation (or lack of) directing the winds flow and the infrastructure which was made in such a way that it allowed the tones to resonate. A site specific composition found whilst my curiosity was piqued for sites and sounds collaborated from this place.

Whenever I work with projections, which is just one part of my arts practice, it is often in remote locations, never in large cities on built infrastructure. I am not interested in casting images onto buildings, feeling that although they have intricate shapes, interesting crevices and the possibility to create breathtaking images, they are still similar in form to a tv screen. They are static and quite conventionally shaped and the possibility to colonise the surface is too easy.

I am intersting in working in collaboration with the active characteristics of place, shifting environmental conditions, flowing water, moving anomalies or places that highlight ecological degradation or even ecological success.

This type of work is often remote which means that I am sometimes on my own in isolated places with light and image making resources. I like to arrive before sunset to set up equipment, not because it’s easier to see but because I am able to experience the place from daylight through sunset into darkness. I get to be part of the change from light into dark and experiencing that change together with that place, seems important

I always find it an intimate experience, something I am only just starting to understand over the last couple of years. The deep and intimate connection that can be felt to a place, even in a short period of time, when your intention and process with that place is considered and ethical, allowing you to honour, understand and share its unique stories.

I like working with projections like this because it gives an opportunity for people to consider that place in a different way. It is a story telling mechanism and through that story we are able to explore complex issues around ecology as well as individual and collective experience. I rarely use tricks of animation, instead preferring slow reveals of images, where possible allowing the place itself to animate the images.

Tonight I experimented with projections onto a waterfall. It went well, some improvements can be made and it’s clear how to make them, so I look forward to maybe inviting an audience down here next week to responsd to this work after I spend some time developing it.

[1] Val Plumwood, “Nature in the Active Voice,” Australian Humanities Review 46, May (2009): 113-29.

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