Testing, tweaking, retesting — that’s what the final weeks before install are all about. There’s no one right way to do things, but testing and working to a plan is essential.
Two weeks out from installation week is when you really start the countdown clock. That’s when the whiteboard comes out and all the different elements of the work are broken down into a list of things that must be completed and by when. Watching the blue line of video renders becomes the occupational hazard as it keeps you on the job around the clock, even using Adobe’s Media Encoder — you’re always ‘checking in’.
At some point, you need to create space to see the work more clearly.
It’s at this point the doubts start creeping in. In your head, you know exactly what this work needs to look and feel like. However when you’re working across multiple spaces, testing elements in isolation it’s hard to tell if it’s really working as it should. Then there’s that whole thing of being too close to things.
At some point, you need to create space to see the work more clearly. I’d done that with one of the projection videos, which had been niggling at me for the fact it was so much shorter in length than the other videos. I hadn’t looked at it for about 6 weeks when I finally came back to it in recent days. It did get an overhaul, done with fresh eyes.
There are always niggles and one other major one had been the inability to secure an Indigenous story of the ‘crow’. I’d recorded an Icelandic folk tale during my residency that had worked its way into the soundtracks, but even though I’d spent some time on the Australian cultural research earlier in the pre-production stages of the project, I’d come up empty. It wasn’t until the exhibition curator suggested contacting Dubbo-based Wiradjuri elder, Diane McNaboe — known for her work on Wiradjuri language — that it looked like I might finally bring the cultural elements of the work full circle. Aunty Di was incredibly generous at very short notice in spending time with me to talk through the crow stories, their significance and what we might learn from the species and other animals who are inherently connected to Country.
There are four key technical elements to Eye of the Corvus as an exhibition — the four projection videos, two looping soundtracks that now include the Icelandic and Wiradjuri raven stories, motion-sensor sound, and VR video — all designed to work together in the one space. I’ve been working with local Makers Place coordinator and go-to techie, Adam Clark on developing the soundboards and housing for the motion sensor components. He’s been working out the most reliable and efficient way to achieve my vision for interaction in the space. I need thank Adam for sticking with me over the past 12 months. I do consider him a fellow creative and he’s been a great sounding board for some of the tech issues I’ve had.
With so much technology it can be easy to get lost in the big picture of what the project was setting out to do. In this case, it is to present the landscapes of Australia and Iceland from the perspective of corvids (ravens and crows) — using my observations of their behaviour and movement to inform my use of cameras and sound recordings. The work is designed to bring you into their world in a relatively abstract way, which is a slightly uncomfortable place to be at times. It’s been ambitious, problematic and by no means offers the ‘perfect solution’ to gaining the viewpoint of another species. What I do hope though, is it offers the opportunity for a rethink, a conversation, a consideration of ‘what if’.
When asked about any quotes I might like to include in the exhibition signage, I looked over my interviews, essays and notes over the past two years, eventually arriving back at something I’d noted when reading UK author Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks during my time in Iceland.
We have come to forget our minds are shaped by bodily experience of being in the world — its spaces, textures, sounds, smells and habits — as well as by genetic traits we inherit and ideologies we absorb.
If I can recreate just a little bit of that world inside the for walls of the gallery space that invites the viewer in, my job has been done. Meanwhile, with install set to start four and a half days out from opening, it’s back to testing, tweaking and retesting.