December 17, 2014


By S. Shakthidharan

Last week Yolngu woman and performer Rosealee Pearson, internationally renowned sound artist Leah Barclay and myself hung out in Bay 17 at Carriageworks, beginning production on our 24 FRAMES PER SECOND (24FPS) film Emergence. We were supported by volunteers Jehan Kanga and Lucy Mendelssohn (with baby Rena).
24FPS is a Carriageworks dance film initiative bringing together many different artists, dancers and filmmakers for a curatorial exhibition of dance film work in mid-2015.
I’m thrilled to be working with Rosie and Leah on this commission. The film will be surreal, abstract, intricate and powerful. It’s inspired by a creation story from Rosie’s family. The story tells of how the planet began as only salt water, of how the world we know was borne by two women, of how knowledge was stolen from them by the very men they created, and how those intricate ties within and between all of creation remain and are still sung about today.
The soundscape will be built by Leah entirely out of natural sounds and language: sounds and stories from Rosie’s family, field recordings from Arnhem Land, Sydney and other environments around the country. The visual-scape will be built through a series of dream-like, provoking images – each a combination of filmed movement and subtly animated backgrounds – giving the effect of a story that takes place deep within us rather than around us – in that space where dreams and fears and other primal instincts are born. The work will be projected at large scale in 2015, perhaps on the huge walls on the exterior of the Carriageworks building.
Emergence is part of a larger, multi-year, international initiative titled Myth. Myth looks to reconnect audiences into their intimate connection with the natural world. It will be implemented over many years in partnership with CuriousWorks and the Streaming Museum, a New York based organisation that curates work for the biggest outdoor screens in the world, including those in Times Square. Rosie, Leah and I will be taking an extended version of Emergence to Paris in December 2015, to be screened alongside the UN Climate Change Conference – which will be a fascinating journey indeed.
Since the Myth works will be displayed on large outdoor screens or surfaces, with access only to mobile phone streaming apps or localised speakers for sound, the visuals will contain no dialogue. Story and concept will be delivered to audiences through images and soundscape. While there are many brilliant cinematographers to analyse and be inspired by in terms of building this kind of work, there is also another field of art worth referencing in this context: image based theatre.
I have long been inspired by the directors that can create images in theatre that are not only beautiful or spectacular, but sear themselves into your psyche. Their images reach a place that language cannot: somewhere primal and profound. My favourite of these directors is Romeo Castellucci – and in September this year I was able to spend time with Romeo and his team as part of my professional development program as Associate Artist.
Witnessing and dissecting the power of image based theatre during my time with Castellucci and company, I felt even more confident that this kind of work would perfectly suit Myth. I saw how we might be better positioned to use sound and image, rather than language, to express the incredibly sophisticated world views of cultures that exist outside of the mainstream.



Furthermore, we could reach a more global audience with this kind of work, which was appropriate to the global partnerships we had on board. Spending time with artists like Castellucci unlocked my own ideas in this field, and gave me the confidence and understanding necessary to create similarly ambitious work in my own practice.
In fact one of the best things about the Associate Artist position is its three year tenure. Over the last two years I have been able to engage in both professional and creative developments through the support of the position, and engender a kind of positive feedback loop between the two.
For example, in 2013 I travelled to Manchester International Arts Festival, which had in that year many shows playing with the form of the popular live music concert. This has long been an artistic interest of mine, and seeing so many different artists take on this challenge without fear was crucial in unlocking my own ideas on the form. The CuriousWorks / Carriageworks co-presentation of Rizzy’s 18th Birthday Party – on multiple screens, with the musicians in the middle of an audience in the round – was heavily inspired by that visit to Manchester.
Upon reflection, what is happening here is the coming together of different kinds of innovation. Through my role as Artistic Director at CuriousWorks we have built, over many years of hard, practical work, a particular model of respectfully working with marginalised communities to create excellent art. In my visits overseas I have been able to see from the inside these other models of creating art, built over many years of hard work by some of the most ground-breaking artists in the world.
The Associate Artist position enables me to properly consider and reflect on what it means to bring these different, innovative models together to push forward my own practice, and the work we do at CuriousWorks. For that I am very grateful, and very excited to continue into 2015. We have some very exciting things planned for next year – so watch this space!
IMAGE: from Rizzy’s 18th Birthday, courtesy of S. Shaktidharan