Sunday February 14th, 2016, Valentine’s Day, I arrive at Melbourne Airport after four days in Sydney, originally arriving from Los Angeles via New York City. A stranger in an old compact car waves and honks at me. I get in the car with said stranger and off we embark on a five-hour evening journey through windy roads involving kangaroos, wombats, owls, bats, stars, and complete darkness. A tiny alpine village awaits us somewhere in the massive land that is Australia, somewhere on the opposite side of the world where I live, somewhere no one I know has ever heard of. We briefly get lost at the beginning, adding to the surreal and existential feeling I had already been feeling since my arrival a week before. In the back of my mind I start to dramatically wonder if I will die out here and think what nerve I have to have chosen to do this, to find myself in a stranger’s car driving up a mountain in the dark in unexplored foreign territory. This stranger who picks me up is Madelynne Cornish, who kindly invited me overseas to attend an artist residency in Bogong Village, with the theme of nature and phantasmagoria.
First day at the Bogong Centre for Sound Culture I notice the soothing sounds of leaves dazzling in the wind, an abandoned playground, and the cool sunny climate and verdant mountainous landscape of the Bogong alpine region, which brings back childhood memories of my maternal grandparents’ small plot of land in rural Colombia, where they built vacation cottages for my mother and her five siblings and their respective families. In the back of my mind I think I should send a message to my family to let them know I am safe; adding to my ever-present sense of feeling like a child, even when in a few months I turn 27. My mind also starts to plague itself with thoughts of duties and chores and love relationships I have yet to resolve some 10,000 miles away back home in urban life. I yell at my conscience: “Focus and enjoy! This is your first international artist retreat on a mountain in the outdoors, this is what you wanted, now get to work.” I then find myself with my camera touring this verdurous region, being only surrounded by hilly grassy leafy blankets of my favorite color palette: green, and beautiful birds with feathers of intense primary colors that caw and coo throughout the day, and cobwebs and insects galore that let out my squeamish self.
Madelynne comes along with me and explains the concept of phantasmagoria and how it applies to this region through its history, tourism, and politics, where there is a marked play of presence and absence and a longing for a bygone era, which seems to be tailored to my creative themes and aesthetic. We cross a lake through the back of a junction dam, discovering its echoic, operatic, cathedral and prison-like qualities, realizing the potential for a sound recording, while recalling my fantasy to one day sing and perform my writings. I return back to the Bogong Centre annex and open my laptop folder with all my texts, plug in my headphones to my sampler, and lay out my visual archive of paper cutouts on the table, on the bed, on the floor, and on the nightstands, and proceed to make work.