Disturbances in the Ether
Our son has been taking these pictures
Strange days for so many of us.
Back in 2011, I was working in IT for the NSW Rail Infrastructure Corporation and studying Information Science at UTS and living as an artist in residence for the Glebe Chamber of Commerce (who to this day still wonder if I was a REAL artist). We had been given an essay topic about the idea of a “Digital Dark Age”. There was a theory around that as we handed more and more of our data over to “the technologies of remembrance”, information would be lost through hardware obsolescence. This was paralleled with the Dark Ages – when Roman rule declined, the great monasteries and libraries were destroyed and barbarian rule erased massive tracts of culture.
I dug out Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 and read a bit more about the decline of the Roman Empire. One book described the impact of the barbarians – smaller, wilder forces able to short circuit the Roman systems with random attacks and behaviours that were just beyond the conception of the centurions. Terrorists, in other words. I was at my desk working on this paragraph when the planes flew into the buildings.
I never finished the essay, I quit the IT job, I left the patronage of the Chamber..and went back to the Mitta Valley to milk cows. I have to admit to some pretty weird acting out, as I made the transition from tanned, plucked, buffed Bondi Management Consultant to splashed, kicked, unwashed Noorongong Dairy Hand. The tan was maintained by fencing in my bikini. There is not a fence on my parent’s farm that I haven’t twitched. The perils of borrowing from The Bank of Dad. $22,000 in credit card debt is a lot of milking and fencing. Away from coffee shops and social life and the diesel electric hum of Sydney, burning with horror and outrage at the ravages of late western capitalism, I began to make art in earnest. And boy was I mad.
It was a fertile time. Some people would brand doing commando rolls under barbed wire in a full trained wedding dress while foxes ran past as just another bi-polar symptom. But gee it was fun. And the video wasn’t bad either. At the end of the recovery period I had a shoe box full of mini-dv tapes. Moving postcards from the world beyond the edge. I made the mistake of showing my touch cuts to other film people. “I’m documenting the interior” I said to one director. “Indulgent”, he said. “Is all your work this RAW” commented another woman. To be honest, the responsibility of editing my nervous breakdown weighed incredibly heavy. What agonies documentary makers must go through.
When the debts were paid off, and all the art was made, I took ute loads to the Tallangatta tip. Over went the eight wedding dresses, the typewriters, the record players, the notebooks, the photographs…and my whole experimental experiential video oeuvre. Thirteen years later, my friend tells me that there is a photo app that automatically deletes the pictures after a few minutes. Technology is learning how to forget. Back then, I simply went to the desert.
Good things have been happening, bad things have been happening. We are moving closer to the point where we can escape all the forgetting and remembering. The tangled feedback loops. But we are not quite there yet.