Flay – In Graphite
FLay – In Graphite, 2007-23
A set of three, nine-sheet overlays of human body marks recorded in graphite. Each piece 355 x 355mm, in a Mylar envelope. Unique objects.
Lake Tyrrell in the semi-arid Mallee region of Victoria, Australia, once served as a celestial observatory for the indigenous Boorong people. The heavens mirrored in its saline shallows enunciated a sacred reciprocity between sky and country, a reciprocity long ago ruptured by clearing and colonization. This pre-history is reflected in the source of the lake’s name, ‘tyrille’, meaning ‘a space opening to the sky’ analogous to the ‘chora’ of classical Greek myth. The rationale and overarching project title of ‘Syzygy’ – a ‘yoking of opposites’ or an ‘alignment of three or more celestial objects’ – was an act of poetic restoration, an ersatz re-yoking or realignment of the lost reciprocity of earth with sky using camera-less, indexical methods of image-making. On nights free of reflected solar light, large sheets of gelatin silver film were placed under pre-recorded images, laid out on the lakebed and exposed to the naked light of the stars.
The prepared images included these carbon powder prints on tracing paper of the bodies of two dancers, Michaela Pegum and Siobhan Murphy, two self-choreographed performances. In the first, in public view, they remained clothed, imprinting only their limbs. Later, however, at their suggestion, naked and out of public sight, they recorded their entire bodies with graphite on the tracing paper. It is the prints from this second performance that now constitutes most of Flay – in Graphite. I also recorded the foot and hand prints of an adult male and a toddler at Lake Tyrrell but these were not used.
Flay – in Graphite inverts the conventional presentation of landscape as an anthropic sign by alluding to correspondences between poignant, salt-flecked veneers of human flesh and the eviscerated skin of the salt country upon which they were made.
The photographic films exposed by starlight at Lake Tyrrell beneath some of these sheets of tracing paper constitute the series Flay.