Sometimes the best of plans get turned over to work on a more flexible blank canvas. So it was for the installation of Eye of the Corvus.
On Day 1 of install, I walked into the space in the Western Plains Cultural Centre with the plan I’d drawn up months ago sitting on top of the install toolbox. After some consideration of it as we stood in the space, curator Kent Buchanan made a suggestion to move the walls back into one large rectangular space. Over the next few days, even those ‘internal’ walls disappeared, leaving one large space.
As we waited for the projectors to arrive at the end of Day 1, we reached the point of turning the plan over ready to start from scratch. Those projectors would determine the rest.
Days 2 to 4 were about staying flexible — testing ideas, moving walls, extending the projection surface, layering sound, testing volumes, rearranging thoughts about the concept and intent. The input of a curator is critical to exhibitions like Eye of the Corvus. There has to be an understanding between artist and curator, and trust. At no point was the installation plan redrawn, which gave us the freedom to simply do what worked best in the space.
Days 3 to 5 had my tech support Adam Clark join us in the space to start working out the logistics of the motion sensors and soundboards. At one point he had his 3D printer operating on site custom building components as needed as he started lining up lasers and plugging the soundboards into speakers.
Eye of the Corvus is a work of layers of visuals and sound – multiple layers of sound, some ambient and some generated by movement through the space. The relationship between each component of the work has to be assessed as a whole.
Making decisions to move two of the videos into a smaller, secondary space required the creation of a new multi-track soundscape for the main space, put together in the space so I could hear how it worked with the narratives and soundtracks of the dust storm and snow storm videos, and how it sat under the motion-sensored sounds.
Late on Day 5, the vinyls were being put up by Kent and we’d reached a point where we were ready to open, except for some last minute adjustments to the motion sensors. It had been a long week and at times frustrating. There were some long nights, re-editing videos and soundtracks, rendering video overnight, wording catalogue and vinyl text and keeping the socials going. I didn’t sleep much through the week, waking up pre-dawn with a head full of thoughts and to-do lists. There was also the opening to prepare for with a curve ball or two thrown in for good measure. And I was working on having a big opening, which meant on top of the Cultural Centre’s usual promotions, I was doing ‘my thing’ (which is what I do in my ‘other’ life anyway).
On opening day, I had organised for some of my crowdfunding donors to have a preview an hour before the event. Arriving a little earlier to check the work, I discovered the VR headset had discharged overnight and as well as the motion sensors still needing a re-alignment, the projectors had moved ever so slightly as well. It was a bit of a scramble to get it all sorted, but we got there.
By 2pm on Saturday, 14 December the majority of the 110+ crowd had arrived at the gallery, and shortly after the formalities started. I’ll stress, Eye of the Corvus is not a work to be experienced in a crowd, but that’s what you get at big openings. Thankfully, many people were delighted enough to tell me they’d come back when it was quieter.
Unfortunately for the gallery staff, technical shows like this require a bit more maintenance. Over 6 weeks many things can go wrong. Our biggest challenge is probably keeping the VR headsets operating. Using Oculus Go headsets hasn’t been a foolproof or necessarily easy way of presenting immersive video, no matter how engaging the content. The other issue is potentially something in the motion sensor setup failing. When you work in digital media, you know these are some of the limitations of creatively challenging work.
Eye of the Corvus: Messenger of Truth is at the Western Plains Cultural Centre until 2 February 2020.
Read the opening speech here