Coming back is different. As a newcomer you are entering the field as a tabula rasa of sorts. Uncertainty may be scary, but there is not much to lose and everything to be gained. Upon return the situation has changed. The field is familiar now, there is a history of relationships and mutual knowledge. There are expectations, and with expectations there are values at stake.
Last year I started a video-still life-portrait series in Bogong. Now I am back for more. The concept remains the same, but something has changed. My first still life-portraits emerged from the most spontaneous and playful of experimentations. It was all very unassuming and all the more gratifying when the outcome turned out to be interesting. But now I am openly advertising for volunteers to expand the series, promoting my activities as “a project” and building up expectations for some true art to be made. It better be good…
And with that, pressure starts building up and an immediate doubt appears. What is my responsibility as an artist here? Whose story am I about to tell? What is the story? Does it have to be true? Is it about the people who were adventurous enough to trust me and my video camera? Is it about the Bogong Village as such? Or is it just my own artistic fiction? Contemporary artworld tends to be rather anxious sometimes, demanding clear stances and declarations of intents. Especially when particular places and people are involved, it is often assumed that the work must be documenting social realities, giving the voice to those depicted or engaging in social critique. But I do not want to decide what the work is about before it’s done. I prefer to follow my unfolding process wherever it happens to lead me and leave the interpretation to the viewer’s discretion. It’s more about artistic exploration of the unknown than storytelling for me. So, I push the doubt away, it’s something that I’ll have to deal with when processing the footage back in Melbourne. Now I need to figure out yet another way to transport this very unergonomic backdrop to yet another shooting site.
There is also another account yet to be settled from my last visit. Archie has spent hours filming Bogong for me with GoPros attached to his collar. And his work has been curated into Notes from the Field exhibition at MAMA Albury. However, Archie is not as good with video editing software as he is with the cameras, so I need to help him out. And it needs to be finished now now now, in time for the opening. And it better be good, there are reputations at stake. Eager to succeed, he makes sure to wake me up in time every morning by jumping onto my bed.
As no-longer-new in the village I also start recognizing occasional newcomers – as newcomers. This week it is three geese – one white and two white and black. They keep making appearances in the least expected of places, occasionally walking also into the frame of the still life-portraits I am shooting. Everybody seems to require their fifteen minutes of fame. Apart from the white goose, that is. One day he’s just gone – before I’ve even had a chance to take a picture. Does anybody know anything about his whereabouts?