Art: ‘Heartsong’ performance combines music, animation, video mixing, sculpture and text

Several months back, Emma Sterling and I were invited by Sophie Hyde of Closer Productions in Adelaide to join a project out of Flinders Medical Centre’s Arts in Health program. The project entitled Heartsong was inspired by the experiences and thoughts of patients and their carers on the Cardiac Care Unit. Fittingly, the resulting multimedia performance was to premiere in an adjoining space, and did so last week.

Heartsong poster & performance details
Heartsong poster & performance details

The project’s video design task was almost an open brief when we were first introduced, though other elements of the performance had been roughly hewn. A text had been assembled by the project’s producer, Cheryl Pickering, constructed from patient and staff testimonials. Accomplished musicians Richard Chew (keyboards) and Ian Dixon (flugelhorn) were involved, and successfully plotted an improvised musical course which supported the text with colour and emotion. A large scale sculpture of a human heart (approximately six feet tall) was constructed by Diwani Oak, and then lit by Emma Sterling and myself, using a combination of projected and LED rope lighting. Diwani also produced several screen-printed and hand-crafted hangings which also adorned the space, and provided a canvas for the thematically connected poetry of Ian Gibbins to feature on.

Heartsongs central sculpture by Diwani Oak (as installed at FMC)
Heartsong's central sculpture by Diwani Oak (as installed at FMC)

Emma Sterling’s and my greater commitment though was the production and presentation of video and animated content to harmonize with Heartsong’s other elements. We called upon many of the approaches we used to produce our first documentary film ‘A Shift in Perception‘ back in 2006 and set about crafting stop-motion animations, moving textural sequences, lifting public domain found footage from The Internet Archive, and preparing them all for live delivery.

When audience members enter the Heartsong space, they are first drawn to Diwani’s light sculpture, which sits as the work’s hearth. An animated rendition of it also rotates on video screens, while another projection presents a faithful recording of a medical heart monitor read-out. When the improvised music begins, pre-recorded voices recall the words of patients and nurses alike, and lead the audience through the patient’s journey- from symptoms and hospital admittance through care and recovery. In performance, my task is to react to the text and emotions presented by Richard and Ian with improvised video, which I layer, blend and loop for the duration of the performance using Arkaos GrandVJ and a Korg NanoKontrol MIDI controller. The piece is designed to have a meditative, gentle and nurturing quality about it, and audience responses thus far have suggested we’re striking that chord.

Heartsong is installed and performed at the RiAus
'Heartsong' is installed and performed at the RiAus

The first performances of the work are behind us now, with only one remaining performance of our debut season remaining. On Friday, December 11th at the Royal Institution of Australia from 6-9pm, the installation will be open, with the performance occurring around 7pm. The performance runs for approximately 25 minutes, and will be followed by a panel discussion with the involved artists plus another artist also currently exhibiting at the RiAus, George Poonkin Khut.

Dan Monceaux

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Photography: From beneath the sea to Sydney gallery

Some of you will already know that I’ve had a long-standing love affair with photography and the natural world. Eight odd years ago, I bought my first digital SLR camera. A second-hand Nikon FE, I bought my first prime lens (a 50mm f1.4) and ever since, I’ve had great trouble putting it down. I learned to burn film like a chain-smoker does cigarettes- I rolled my own reels of film, developed black and white stock myself and loved every minute of it. Combined with my life-long passion for observing and recording wildlife, my photographic kit expanded rapidly and considerably, absorbing an extensive range of prime lenses, a couple of zooms and a box full of filters. Often seen toting two camera bodies and multiple lenses, my kit became formidable- both in its image-making potency and for the sheer weight of all that metal and glass.

Around 2004, my interests shifted more into 3D photography (stereography) exhibiting 3D works in Adelaide twice in 2005, before I veered into Super8 filmmaking. The leap into HD video-making followed in 2006, and since then I’ve been keeping a keen eye on the photographic forefront, waiting for an opportunity to put my beloved old lenses back on a DSLR body. I guarantee it’ll be a Nikon or a Fuji when I finally commit, as both of these offer Nikon F-mounts and I can snap my ol AI-S lenses straight on the body and shoot with all the manual controls that make photography equal parts art and science.

Starfish undercover
Starfish undercover

Until that day comes, I’ll be content excercising my Panasonic DMC-FT1 camera (or DMC-TS1 as it’s known in the USA) that I purchased earlier this year. The rugged little point-and-shoot has allowed me to take 12 mega-pixel photos in an environment that has always fascinated me- the Southern Ocean (along with 720p HD video, but, that’s another blog post). Seldom photographed by comparison to warmer Australian waters, I was encouraged by PanasonicAU on Twitter to submit a gallery of my recent work to LumixLife: an exhibition they were then planning. Several weeks later, I’m very pleased to announce that my collection of ten images has been selected from a field of about one-hundred-and-eighty galleries and will be exhibited on October 8th in Global Gallery, in Paddington, Sydney. Featuring a collection of starfish, sweep, cuttlefish and a colony of ascidian sea squirts, my shots are also visible online, but unfortunately will not be offered for sale at the gallery site.

After receiving some very warm compliments from my social networks on Facebook and Twitter, and being the entrepreneurial sort, I decided to look into options for selling photo prints online. The site I’ve settled with is RedBubble, as suggested by Simon Loffler from the creatively-connected blog, Home Slice. Like many other print-on-demand services, Red Bubble allows artists to upload high-resolution artwork, select from a range of printing options, set their prices and make enlargements available to the world. It’s free to register and offers a remarkably easy and expedient process for turning your artworks into saleable products. Many comparable sites offered much murkier pricing structures, uglier interfaces and in some cases, prohibitive registration fees.

If you’d like to support this blog and my photographic efforts, please consider buying an enlargement or two from my recent exhibition. If you do so, please shoot me a message, or better still take a picture of the artwork once it’s hanging in its new home- I’d love to see where my local surveys of underwater life end up next!

Dan Monceaux

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Art: Lateral Movement, Art & the Moving Image (Feb 21 & 23, Adelaide)

After several months of planning, exploring and collating, it’s just about ready… the first incarnation of Lateral Movement: Art & the Moving Image. Lovingly and personally crafted by three dedicated Adelaide screen-culture vultures, Dan Monceaux, Emma Sterling and Toby Bramwell, we hope this to become Adelaide’s premiere calendar event for the appreciation, discussion and enjoyment of international moving image artwork.

Co-presented by the BigPond Adelaide Film Festival and the Media Resource Centre, the event will take place over two nights in Adelaide, South Australia at our dearly beloved Mercury Cinema. Post War films screen on Saturday, February 21 and New Works screen on Monday, February 23. Entry to these sessions is $12/10, and doors open at 8pm both nights. Check out the trailer below…

The trailer features excerpts from the ‘New Works’ program, including pieces by J. Van der Made (Holland), James McGilchrist (Australia), Michael Robinson (USA), Peter William Holden (Germany) and Adam Paradis (USA).

Full program coming soon.

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