Understandably most hairdressers are psychic. Hair is your cosmic antennae after all, only one head-click away from the information supergooey. Yet monks are bald, so one has to wonder about the benefits of separation, of cutting connections with the rest of the known universe.
The Rest of The Known Universe
Tasmania’s Maria Island, as visiting new media artists find out quickly, is without easy net access. Options include park ranger seduction, or tapping into the global hive mind while dodging all those pesky Californian patent-pending pop-up banners. Tassie’s East coast more than makes up for this of course, with raw disk island power. Easily enough to feed the 30 or so ‘Solar Circuit’ artists gathering to mesh their southern and northern hemisphered antennae in this data wilderness.
In This Data Wilderness
Used to connecting machines with fun(k), the deeper opportunities of a remote residency seemed to be the chance to synthesise new thoughts / approaches to the triangle of technology, culture and ecology. And maybe the lush location lured a little too. Great place to kick zen outta beta. As we drift towards the great global uncontrollables, wondering whether radical preservationism or sci-tech ecology management will save the day, perhaps remembering our own place within it all, can provide the clarity we need.
The Clarity We Need
As the days revealed the layers, an exquisite collection and calibre of people and projects emerged. Introducing the mountains of Europe to the mountains of Tasmania, spanking machines, solar powered insects sound-blurring the natural artificial soundscapes, jobless robots, light painting in the midnight forests, stretching the tassie devil’s growl into sub-satanic terrain, inventing languages derived from the local surrounds, convincing a village to do ‘nothing’ for a week and making a film about it, retracing tales and journeys of Tassie aboriginals, the redcoats and the tassie tiger, and so on. Eco-themes were well threaded through these projects, and the tailors soon out sampling the island raw with a considerable arsenal of camcorders, mini discs and all-weather microphones. Mood-capture on the island happened slow, but even with lazier heartbeats, most itchy kids were soon ready to remix.
Ready to Remix
Verandah tea stories at some point revolved around plans to reintroduce the Tassie tiger with the preserved dna of a foetus in the Tassie museum. A museum member on hand relayed the plans, related camps of thought and it’s slim likelihood of success. Better perhaps than the two convicts chained to each other who tried to swim to freedom from Maria Island, one drowning halfway and the other taking a literal dead weigh to the other side only to die himself from exhaustion. Better, but still slim.
Did a lot of walking on the island. Stretches of beach, forest paths, mountain trails. Isolated places. Wild places. Is this wilderness? What is wilderness? At the remotest point of the island, chewing a fish caught by Spanky from Sydney, soaking the fire and ambience, we were reminded of the human touch in all places as a satellite passed overhead in the dusky sky. Hours later a fishing trawler echoed it’s engine through the evening, undoubtedly a few short of their catch quota from their legal fishing areas. Park rangers boasted the availability of electronic tracking methods that could trace a penguin to within a metre. Cost enough to buy a small car every week or so, but it added to a gradual sense of awareness that nothing is untouched despite it’s seeming isolation or rugged good looks.
Rugged Good Looks
Someone emailed me the other day:
‘Do you think a productive new media arts residency would involve a structured exchange of skills and technologies? Or do you feel that a more informal, friendship-based exchange of language, culture and ideas is sufficient to create a productive residency?’
Solar Circuit was definitely the latter, though I felt could have benefited from some on-site provocation with debates, forums or presentations to tickle each day’s exploration. Measuring the productivity of an informal residency should look at the long term conversations begun, the (re)combinations of cultures, skills, styles, experiences, but in the short term there was a snapshot available, Hobart exhibitionz, screeningz and island-glitchez, and shortly, projects at: http://www.solarcircuit.org
Jean Poole collects sky noise polaroids, vidi-yo calluses and writes for 3D mag.
((This article was printed in Real-Time, April 02.))