Dancing on Mars (films), 2007-14

Dancing on Mars (films), 2007- 14

A multi-piece mosaic of thirty camera-less toned gelatin silver ‘chemogram’ images on film recorded on location at Lake Tyrrell in the Victorian Mallee. Individually mounted on a pane of starphire glass, each of the film/glass tiles is 14 cm x 14 cm x 0.6 cm. They are intended to be displayed on an LED light box. Unique objects.

These cameraless gelatin silver ‘chemograms’ made on the dry salt bed of Lake Tyrrell trace the imprint of a performer dancing across a roll of photographic film, her feet wet with sodium thiosulphate ‘fixer’, which chemically dissolved the undeveloped silver in the emulsion. Human footprints carry multiple meanings. Feet are our point of contact with the earth and the prints they leave are records of our presence and our passing. As the body part closest to the soil, feet are often associated with ‘baseness’, abjection or humility. Unshod footprints are like handprints – unique to each individual. At the same time they cannot be individualised but are simply and unequivocally human. Evolutionary biologists believe that physiological adaptation of human feet to upright running was a pivotal factor in the development of our uniquely human brain and behaviour. The word ‘footprint’ is commonly used to describe our impact on the natural environment. Fossil prints such as those at Ileret in Kenya or Lake Gampung in NSW evidence the deep time of human lineage, whilst comparatively fresh prints like those left on the moon by the crew of Apollo 11 in 1969 flag an historical moment of both wonder and hubris. NASA astrobiologists consider periodically dry, pink, hypersaline Lake Tyrrell to be an outstanding model for what life might exist on Mars because the lake’s subsurface minerals and microbes closely resemble early 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 the rest of this planet, the relict life-systems of Lake Tyrrell face further decline from runaway climate change. Dancing on Lake Tyrrell is like dancing on Mars. A selection of these chemograms were digitized to create the Dancing on Mars print series.

 

‘Gathering Shadows’ exhibition, RMIT School of Art Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, October, 2014

‘Gathering Shadows’ exhibition, RMIT School of Art Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, October, 2014

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

Harry Nankin and dancer 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

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 Harry Nankin planning the chemogram dance on Lake Tyrrell, Victoria, Australia, April, 2007. Photo by Siobhan Murphy

Wind buffeted roll of gelatin silver film laid out on the dry salt bed of 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

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

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