Down in the poor country (films)

Down in the poor country (films), 2003-20

A series of fifty-five (55) singular, multi-layered and multi-piece camera-less toned gelatin silver films encapsulated in Mylar envelopes. Unique objects displayed backlit on light boxes. The affiliated artworks Down in the poor country (print) and Damselfly nebula digitally reiterate two of the film pieces on paper.

When Australian poet John Shaw Neilson (1872-1942) wrote “down in the poor country no pauper was I”, he was proclaiming his love for the parched, infertile, half-cleared Mallee country—and his uncertain faith in the redemptive power of love itself. These life-scale shadows cast by flash and moonlight at night on sheets of gelatin silver photographic film (some remade and sandwiched together in the studio) record live native vegetation and invertebrates, animal bones and the carcass of a western grey kangaroo at sites not far from where Neilson once lived: accompanying them are other camera-less images including personal x-rays, shattered glass, chemical traces of a dancer’s footfall made on a dry lakebed and enlargements of an old map of the moon—a perennial light of night in the Mallee, as everywhere.
Like most of the surviving bush in the region these relics of untidy dry woodland, grassland and saltbush animated by insects do not lend themselves to naked-eye representation. Rather, like the poet, these juxtaposed and fragmented chiarascuro’s of layered, pin-sharp and blurred camera-less imagery suggest riches beyond appearances—riches perpetually veiled at the threshold of revelation or erasure: revelation or erasure doubly indicated by the uneasy play of lifeless moon and human presence.

‘Flow’ exhibition, Counihan Gallery, Brunswick, April-May 2017. Photo by Garth Henderson

‘Flow’ exhibition, Counihan Gallery, Brunswick, April-May 2017. Photo by Garth Henderson

‘Flow’ exhibition, Counihan Gallery, Brunswick, April-May 2017. Photo by Garth Henderson

‘Flow’ exhibition, Counihan Gallery, Brunswick, April-May 2017. Photo by Garth Henderson

Preparing hinged scaffold for high level nocturnal shadowgram exposure, Meringur Flora & Fauna Reserve, 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collecting live ants with a portable vacuum device preparatory to nocturnal camera-less imaging of them, December, 2009. Being elevated above the ground on the tubs was a precaution against ant bites! Photo by Rudy Frank

Imaging live ants on film without a camera using flash on the shore of Lake Tyrrell, March, 2009. Photo by Viren Mohan

Preparing site for ground level nocturnal shadowgram exposure, Meringur Flora & Fauna Reserve, 2003

Preparing scaffold for mid level nocturnal shadowgram exposure, Meringur Flora & Fauna Reserve, 2003

Preparing hinged scaffold for high level nocturnal shadowgram exposure, Meringur Flora & Fauna Reserve, 2003

Preparing hinged scaffold for high level nocturnal shadowgram exposure, Meringur Flora & Fauna Reserve, 2003

High level nocturnal shadowgram exposure, Meringur Flora & Fauna Reserve, 2003