Dancing on Mars

Dancing on Mars, 2007-21

Eleven sets of paired gelatin silver ‘chemogram’ and ‘photogram’ films each individually encapsulated in a Mylar envelope. Displayed backlit. Unique objects.

These camera-less gelatin silver ‘chemograms’ exposed by sunlight on the dry salt bed of Lake Tyrrell trace the imprints of a performer dancing across photographic film, her feet wet with sodium thiosulphate ‘fixer’, which chemically dissolved the undeveloped silver in the emulsion. Each chemogram is juxtaposed with a cameraless nocturnal photogram of the body of an Eastern Grey Kangaroo or the still lake’s turbid shallows or live insects found around its shoreline. Human footprints carry many meanings. Baseness. Abjection. Presence. Impact. For astrobiologists, periodically dry, pink, hypersaline Lake Tyrrell is a perfect model for what life might exist on Mars because the lake’s subsurface minerals and microbes closely resemble primordial saline habitats on earth. Except for its invertebrates, much of the above-surface life that once thrived around Lake Tyrrell has been destroyed by clearing and colonization. And, like most of the planet, the relict life-systems of Lake Tyrrell are undergoing accelerating decline from anthropogenic climate change. Dancing on Lake Tyrrell is like dancing on Mars.

Michaela Pegum with chemical fixer on her feet dancing upon gelatin silver film at Lake Tyrrell, Victoria, Australia, April, 2007. Photo by Siobhan Murphy

Michaela Pegum with chemical fixer on her feet dancing upon gelatin silver film at Lake Tyrrell, Victoria, Australia, April, 2007. Photo by Siobhan Murphy

Dancer Michaela Pegum, sound artist Christopher Williams and artist Harry Nankin planning the chemogram dance on Lake Tyrrell, Victoria, Australia, April, 2007. Photo by Siobhan Murphy

Roll of gelatin silver film laid out on the dry salt bed of Lake Tyrrell, Victoria, Australia, April, 2007. Photo by Siobhan Murphy

Michaela Pegum with chemical fixer on her feet dancing upon gelatin silver film at Lake Tyrrell, Victoria, Australia, April, 2007. Photo by Siobhan Murphy