Ashburton Art Gallery
1 AUG -27 AUG 2021
DURATION is a series of film recordings of continuous observational vigils of natural life from my home, farm and environs in Canterbury. [9 x 8hr films] Observing nature is an essential task as a farmer, filmmaker, and artist. I spend duration watching/being with the creatures, insects, and plants that live out their days and nights, in the wilds, and on the farms – from Heathcote to Mt. Hutt and throughout the Canterbury plains.
“OUSIA [BEING] is like a river’s unending flow, its activities constantly changing and causes infinitely shifting so that almost nothing at all stands still.” Marcus Aurelius
A contemplative witness, without commentary or judgment – a meditation. To have soft eyes and soft heart upon the natural world. To not inject a perspective, impose a story or create a narrative upon the natural world. To not use music, create drama or incite emotion. To not impose a myth upon the collected images of nature through omission, selection or layering.
Kanohi kai matarae. I focus my gaze upon this matter, because it is what matters.
THANKS TO – Willowbank, Kirsty Willis, Full Circle Farm, Mosi Lau, Sarah Barlow-Lau, Flint & Asher Lau, Liam Craig, Krystal O’Gorman, Rebecca Collins, Martin Pfaff, Jacqui Barnes, Andrew Barnes AND Alan Leiftung and Ecotech Services, who advocate for the responsible management of electronic waste. All monitors used in this exhibition are recycled – There may be minor defects.
Any organism must be treated as-a-whole … an organism is not an algebraic sum, a linear function of its elements – but always more than that.”Alfred Korzybski
I have taken time to watch and film nine animals on the Canterbury Plains, from Heathcote to Highbank. Over an 8-hour duration I have recorded the experience of being-with and attending-to the spatial world of the chosen animal.
As a documentary film-maker, I have captured and edited many images of the natural world in order to fulfil a prescribed narrative based on subjective perception. In this work I resist the attempt to narrativise the natural world of the animal. I am not looking for an angle or a perfect moment to tell a particular story.
My aim is to ‘be with’ – to have soft eyes and a soft heart upon the animal. Yet, the machine is in-between and the relentless decision-making ‘act of filming’ continuously interrupt. This process towards a decision as I choose a space to attend becomes a formatory chaotic duration – like the workings of our own human consciousness, where our thoughts wander, with intrusions and rushings, until we settle on a train of thought.
The way we think, collectively and individually, is an area I am exploring, because it affects the way humans interact with the natural world and can have wonderful but also devastating results. While there can only ever be one direct experience, in a particular time and space, there can be an infinite number of reflections of it. The words and symbols we make signal the real power we have as humans – we are ‘time-binding’ creatures. Alfred Korzybski, a Polish holistic philiospher of semantics, coined the term ‘time-binders’ to describe the critical difference between humans and the rest of the natural world of plants and animals, wherein the human has the capacity “for accumulating racial [of the human race] experience, enlarging it, and transmitting it for future expansion.”1 Humans can reflect on the past, record the present and foment the future – thus creating cumulative knowledge. It is the place where we mythologise, fictionalise and rationalise. I can endlessly reflect upon my experiences, but I can only ever have one experience at a time.
My question is regarding the distance between the experience and the reflection – how far can one go from the moment in space with the natural world, before our interpretations of it become something other – something not quite true – even perhaps misleading or false? Korzybski claimed that “say whatever you choose about the object, and whatever you might say – is not it.”2
My desire is that we settle and give quiet attention to the spaces of the natural world before we foment the future, so we add to the human accumulation of knowledge a story from soft eyes and soft hearts. In this age of ecological crisis, it is more urgent than ever that we test the narratives humans have accumulated with direct experience of the natural world – to see if they stack up. Clearly, our current narratives are not working for the planet – but as participants in this intricate and responsive cosmos, our conscious reflections are important and needed more than ever to help enliven the whole.
1 Alfred Korzybski (1921), Manhood of Humanity: The Science and Art of Human Engineering, New York : E. P. Dutton & Company. p. 149
2 Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity. 1933; Lancaster (Penn.) 1941. p. 35