The Unconformity Festival. Queenstown, Tasmania. 2018
A variation is a distinct form or version of something. It can represent a sequence of iterations where material (substance, concept or gesture) is expressed through altered forms. The change may be profound however the essence of the source remains embodied in the material.
An energetic field might afford a space to conjure, attune and absorb a semblance of something that is charged, that generates, that expends. Such a field is also temporal, where events may be simultaneous, transitional or precipitate lag.
Approximately 800,000 years ago an extra-terrestrial projectile, large enough to penetrate the earth-atmosphere system, struck the earth south of Queenstown. The force of such an impact would release approximately 20 megatons of energy into the atmosphere, ending a journey that may have started several billion years ago in the early Solar System.
Variations on an Energetic Field proposes a sequence of variations of energy across three sites: a succession of material, sonic and spatial lag, impact and transformation.
Variation 1: The Paragon Theatre Projection Rooms
How might an object simultaneously emit energy, attract and withdraw. How might an object’s arcane content remain opaque, seemingly still and silent, yet the tremor of its matter continues as a physical murmur, keeping the object moving and reverberating, resounding in a less solid state.
Darwin glass is an impact melt glass, found in proximity to Darwin crater. The glass ranges in colour from frothy pale green to dark green/black, representing a spectrum of melted country rock and extra-terrestrial material.
Obsidian is a dark volcanic glass that lacks a crystalline structure due to its fast formation from the earth’s mantle to the surface. Obsidian is metastable at the Earth’s surface; its unstable nature and incompatibility to external forces means that it harbours a propensity for entropy, and over time its glassy substance becomes fine-grained mineral crystals which are absorbed into surface material.
The ‘mirror’ consists of melted Darwin Glass and Obsidian. It is intended to be a silent object, which doesn’t reflect, rather absorbs and fuses the viewer with the deep interior of earth, the earth’s surface and cosmic space, proposing a conflation of present, geologic and solar system matter and time.
Installed on a tall tripod in the bush at night, an 8mm film camera faces down towards a circular mirror, which is placed on the forest floor, facing up towards and reflecting the canopy of trees and night sky. It is difficult for the camera to register and capture the reflection of the night’s blackness. A high lumens flash, lasting two and a half seconds (the time taken for the meteor to impact and vaporize), blasts the darkness. The captured footage remains a mystery until it is projected at slow speed, an invitation to witness the lag between event and afterimage.
Variation 2: The Empire Hotel Cellar
Europeans in Tasmania became aware of Darwin glass (and the hypothesis of a meteor impact) around 1905. The Empire Hotel was constructed in 1901. Sited in the Empire’s cellar are objects that reflect an imperial occupation; their material and form are simultaneously precarious, muted, encompassing or transitioning.
A tiered chandelier suspended in the centre of the keg room resides in a state of sustained phase transition. Its toffee prisms shift from a solid to liquid state at a varied rate, according to the degree in which the toffee has been cooked. The chandelier lamp flickers erratically, visually pulsing a signal captured from a meteor’s trajectory in space. The heat from the lamp accelerates the toffee’s transition.
A modest timber fireplace stands in the centre of the cellar. The hearth and mantle have been rammed with crushed local quartzite, so that the earth material fills, surrounds and consumes the form. Transducer speakers are attached to the earth material. The sonic signal of the meteor’s trajectory is transferred into the rammed form, the gritty material absorbing the vibration and silencing the sound.
Variation 3: Queenstown PCYC
The meaning of the word “ruin” has its origins in the Latin word “ruere”, which literally translates as “to fall”, and relates to the idea of fallen stones.
Hanging from the ceiling rafters of the PCYC are intermittent blocks of ice; their placement and manner of suspension echo the existing aerial gym equipment of trapeze and hand rings. Frozen into each block is a stratum of local rocks. As the ice melts the rocks fall into mild steel trays.
Variation 3 is a variation of John Cage’s One6 in collaboration with violinist Alethea Coombe.
During the course of the exhibition, Coombe performs Cage’s One6 composition, responding to the ice blocks’ transition. One6 belongs to a body of work in which Cage developed the time bracket technique, where the score consists of short fragments (frequently just one note, with or without dynamics) and indications, in minutes and seconds, of when the fragment should start and when it should end.
The performance is typically accompanied by a sound sculpture by Mineko Grimmer, which is comprised of ice with pebbles.
Variation 3 is a very Queenstown variation of the work, where the scale of ice, rocks, and acoustics are amplified and intensified.