[ISEA2008] Paper: Su Ballard – Antipodean Media Ecologies: Journeys to Nowhere and Back

Abstract

“They discovered that there was another world on this planet, where the cloudy sky produced a milky green light that reflected off an icy ground, uniformly illuminating the air around them as if the landscape were glowing in the dark. It was a landscape without matter, only light. There was neither luminous source nor shadow, only reflection and incidence”  _The Association of Freed Times (AFT) 2005, 299.

“Now that the cloud was there, I began to doubt my memory, and to be uncertain whether it had been more than a blue line of distant vapour that had filled up the opening” _Butler 1985, 56.

In summer 2005 The Association of Freed Times (AFT) published an article in Artforum. “El Diaro del Fin del Mundo: A Journey That Wasn’t” described environmental damage to the Antarctic ice shelf and the subsequent mutations occurring within the Antarctic ecosystem. One of these mutants is rumoured to be a solitary albino penguin living on an uncharted island near Marguerite Bay. The article documents French artist Pierre Huyghe’s journey to find the island and its mysterious inhabitant, and forms the first part of an event that culminated in a musical on the Wollman ice rink in New York’s Central Park, where “in accordance with a principle of equivalence, a symphony orchestra ‘plays’ the form of this island” (Leydier 2006, 33). The expedition, film, installation, narrative and performance A Journey that Wasn’t documents European imaginings of elsewhere, while at the same time suspending relationships between fiction and reality. Questions remain over whether Huyghe and his team undertook the trip, and if so, what it was they found there. “Perhaps, they reasoned, desire itself might produce the island” (AFT 2005, 299).

In 2004 Australian artists David Haines and Joyce Hinterding undertook a residency in Dunedin New Zealand where they filmed source materials for their
installation Purple Rain. Purple Rain documents the destruction of a virtual (yet real) montage of New Zealand’s southern alps by analogue broadcast frequencies. The artists describe the effect as a “mountain falls through radio waves” (Haines and Hinterding 2003). In the installation large television antennas hang from the ceiling. Reading the electromagnetic energies passing through the space, the antennas generate waves of sound which motivate an avalanche on the projected mountain. In a literal correspondence, the sound both causes and prevents the snow to fall. The actual material disintegration of the image is dependant on the off screen radio energy. The mountain itself is also not present, but created though logarithms of data. This is no longer a specific mountain but a generated amalgam of digital memories of mountain-like forms. The visual image is nothing more than information made visible and set into motion by the shifting surfaces of the sound waves, which corrupt and control its obedience to gravity. The work then largely occurs off screen in the interstitial spaces of transmission. The sound is tremendous, yet the damage is minimal.

  • Su Ballard (New Zealand) Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Full text (PDF) p. 44-46