2020, please slow down

Eye of the Corvus exhibition ad in magazine at GOMA giftshop
Eye of the Corvus exhibition ad in magazine at GOMA (Brisbane) giftshop (February 2020)

The year 2020 was supposed to be a ‘cruisy kinda year’ on the back of what had been a whirlwind 2019 — a quietish year to plan for more adventure in 2021. This post is about how that hasn’t been the case…and it’s a long one, more for my own sake than yours — but thank you if you’re interested enough to read it. It’s a reminder that creativity doesn’t stop when the world as we know it may have.

Last year was spent researching crows and ravens for my Eye of the Corvus project, and travelling not just widely across regional NSW but to the remote north of Iceland via Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, before staying in Iceland for two months at the Nes Artist Residency.

Then it was a rush home in November with six weeks up my sleeve to do the post-production on a big, teched-up solo exhibition that opened at the Western Plains Cultural Centre (WPCC) in mid-December, as well as attend the Cementa Festival in Kandos where I was part of an Andrew Frost-curated exhibition of regional artists responding to the history and culture of regional places (hear Sonic Territories: Kandos).

Hanging with the Norwegian trolls
Hanging with the Norwegian trolls (2019)…maybe a hint of what was to come.

On top of the recording, travel and the usual family commitments, there was fund-raising, planning for other projects, and work — the first half of 2019 was one of the busiest periods I’d experienced in years in my consulting business. I knew that by Christmas I’d have earned a summer rest.

Mother Nature has played havoc with 2020 in more ways than one.

My stress levels started to rise over summer as bushfires continued to rage across the east coast of our droughted country at the same time as we were subjected to an endless barrage of dust storms from the west. The fires started in the 2019 spring while I was still in Iceland and the dust storms had been a feature of our life for over 12 months – even through winter. Living in a high bushfire hazard part of the Central NSW region, my bags and valuables were packed ready to evacuate at short notice, at the same time we watched fires burn around the village on the South Coast of NSW where our shared family holiday home is located. None of it was conducive to artmaking.

Dust storms continue to roll across Dubbo (summer 2020)
Dust storms continued to roll across Dubbo (summer 2020)

In between watching the weather and Bushfires Near Me apps every few hours, I was busy promoting my Corvus exhibition at WPCC, due to wrap up in early February. There were also artist talks to record and organise, privately-guided tours to conduct, and documentation of the installation to put together. My daughter was also preparing to start uni in Queensland, so there was a trip to Brisbane planned for mid-February.

By the time Corvus deinstalled I was already scheduling trips to the Macquarie Marshes for my new project, Pulse of the Wetland. The whole premise of the project has been to document the post-drought recovery of the wetland, and by late February (after returning from Brisbane), I was the racing water coming down the Macquarie River, destined for the Marshes.

Time lapse recording a burnt out reedbed in the Macquarie Marshes (February 2020)
Time lapse recording a burnt out reedbed in the Macquarie Marshes (February 2020)

I made it to the Marshes for an overnight camping trip at the end of February (read about that here), beating the river flow by two days. I had my baseline recordings of the area in drought, described to me at the time as being as bad as they could possibly be.

Mother Nature has played havoc with 2020 in more ways than one. Not only have I been trying to second guess rain and weather forecasts in planning field recording trips to the Marshes, then came COVID19.

For a moment, time was suspended as we all came to terms with the impact on our businesses and social lives with cancellations and closures, isolation and social distancing becoming the new norm. In reality though, other than losing a large chunk of my usual seasonal event promotions work and missing my end of week lunches and coffees with friends, life didn’t really change much on the periurban fringes of Dubbo. When you already live and work online from home outside the city limits, life goes on. There was no pivoting or flexing required once some financial planning was in place.

I hadn’t intended on travelling too much this year, other than a jaunt to Tasmania to celebrate a milestone birthday at the Dark Mofo Festival in June, and then again for the Regional Arts Australia Artlands conference in September. By early March, I knew that all travel plans had to be abandoned. By the end of March, my daughter was home from uni having only completed six weeks of her first year, with no idea of when she’d return due to border closures.

Set up to livestream events for the F50 festival on ART e-Parties
Set up to livestream events for the F50 festival on ART e-Parties (April-May 2020)

Then something clicked over and the clock sped up. April was the month that put everything in overdrive. My head spins when I think of what I’ve done in the past four months…and what’s ahead. Here’s a snapshot of April to July 2020.

  • Built, launched and promoted the ART e-Parties online arts platform (March/April)
  • Curated, coordinated and promoted the F50 international arts festival on ART e-Parties (30 May – 13 June)
  • Participated in 18 of the CORRIDOR project’s PD Lab presentations and several breakout sessions (May – July)
  • Soundscape contributions and remixes submitted to Cities and Memories #StayHomeSounds project and the Arts Territory Exchange/Must Use Critical Knowledge (MUCK) Sounds Library collaboration
  • Five grant applications written for a total of about $28,000 – successfully gaining two valued at $4,500 to cover a small part of the Pulse project and to upgrade some editing technology.
  • Published the ecoPULSE website for Pulse of the Wetland and future eco-art projects
  • Spent several weeks solidly researching historical and contemporary narratives of the Macquarie Marshes to inform the Pulse project. (ongoing)
  • Travelled 1800km in trips to the Macquarie Marshes (between May and July), including another overnight camping trip, plus a weekend trip to Coonamble to gather stories for the project.
  • Began collecting first-person audio stories of the Macquarie Marshes for a Pulse of the Wetland soundmap and archive (still in development) – four stories recorded to date.
  • Negotiations and planning underway for a modified showing of Eye of the Corvus at the Outback Arts Gallery later in 2020.
  • Took a role as comms lead on a State-wide youth performing arts project, Not a Dress Rehearsal (with Orana Arts).
  • Produced a video on recording sound in the field (see it on the home page) and co-presented a webinar on field recording for a Science Hub event hosted by the CORRIDOR project. (June)
  • Continued (lengthy) discussions and investigations with my Arts Territory Exchange collaborator, Andrew Howe, on our Mosses and Marshes project – also see Q&A blog with Andrew on ecoPULSE. (ongoing)

I may have forgotten something, but when I was asked why I didn’t attend a local arts group meeting recently, I wasn’t sure where to start.

Water and birdlife returns to the Macquarie Marshes (June 2020)
Water and birdlife returns to the Macquarie Marshes (June 2020)

I love that life is full of creativity, challenges and things to learn.

With five months left of 2020 and much uncertainty about managing COVID, travel within and beyond our home States, social interactions, event planning and just what life will be like post-COVID, just how much of what’s planned eventuates is still an unknown. But this is what it currently looks like.

  • Delivery of a one-day audio field recording workshop to trial new content for further development in 2021 (August)
  • Two 5-day residencies on site at the CORRIDOR project to explore, play and conceptualise possible new works (August and October).
  • Participation in a conversation series for Artlands with Regional Arts Australia (November)
  • More audio stories to record for Pulse of the Wetland (August)
  • More field recording trips to Macquarie Marshes (August, September and November)
  • Installation of Eye of the Corvus at Outback Arts Gallery (November)
  • Post-production work on and exhibition planning for Pulse of the Wetland and Mosses and Marshes (December – February)
  • More videos and soundworks to produce and edit for various projects and clients, and ongoing comms work on those projects I’m inspired and challenged by and a commitment to give up those that don’t.
  • And hopefully a little spare time to respond to other creative opportunities as they arise…and to read.

Applying for residencies in 2021/22 might be on hold for now, as getting to Tasmania in 2021 seems to be challenging enough under current circumstances.

I love that life is full of creativity, challenges and things to learn. There are many things I still want to do, but I also know that if my time was up tomorrow, I’d feel satisfied I’d given things a fair crack.

Links

ecoPULSE projects (Pulse of the Wetland/ Mosses and Marshes)
Eye of the Corvus
ART e-Parties
Arts Territory Exchange
the CORRIDOR project
Orana Arts Inc.
Regional Arts Australia

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