(working title - forthcoming 2020)
Final work will be:
Installation, one or two channel 4K video, 5.1 audio, 25 minutes (tbc)
One or two channel 4K (3840 × 2160) video projectors
4 metre wide projection screens
5.1 audio system
Exhibition space approx 10m x 9m, variable
Commissioned by ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH), led by University of Wollongong and linking researchers from over 20 institutions worldwide.
Curatorial management by Deborah Ely and Jenny Bissett of Bundanon Trust.
Sonia Leber and David Chesworth have been awarded the first CABAH Art Series Commission, working with the teams of Dr Tim Cohen, Dr Cassandra Rowe and Dr Michael Bird, with a range of scientists and Mudburra, Jingili, Jawoyn and Larrakia participants.
Copy url of work in progress
The Deep Present is a spectacular immersive video and sound installation that transports us into remote arid zones of Australia from ancient lakes of the Northern Territory to Nitmiluk Katherine Gorge and Girraween Lagoon.
Leber and Chesworth take us on an imaginative journey, exploring the labour of scientists and traditional owners as they dig and delve the past, reading the signs and signals in the landscape, over concepts of deep time. In these arid zones, the rate of erosion is so progressed and so slow, that the landforms appear as they would have some 130,000 years ago.
From fieldwork in the expansive desert environment, to microscopic labwork, the scientists seek evidence of earth's processes over long-term cycles of wet and dry. Climate evidence is captured in tubular sediment cores extracted from the earth, where the banded sediments can be read almost like a 'score' that can be interpreted as periods of wet and dry.
Throughout The Deep Present, the artists deploy video as a tool, scanning the surface of the earth, observing and reading signs and markings in rocks and landscapes, and taking into account erosions, tree lines and the effects of the sun and water. We follow the path of a dusty riverbed over many kilometres, revealing unceasing aridity. At times, we experience vegetation through the jerking head movements of a falcon.
Many of Earth's forces – wind, temperature, long-term aridification, tectonic movement – are invisible to the human eye or lie beyond human timescales. However, The Deep Present reveals some of these forces, sonically mobilised, as they converge and interact with each other. The 'frozen time' bandings in the sediment cores are reactivated through both movement and sound.
Leber and Chesworth reveal both similarities and disjunctions between their own creative research processes and the methodologies of the scientists.
Throughout the artwork, the artists explore fundamental questions that are applicable to both science and art: What does it mean to interpret? What do different methods of interpretation reveal? In what ways do scientists and artists use imaginative processes to collect and interpret data?
"Time is perhaps the hardest experiential realm for humans to comprehend, particularly long-term cycles of thousands and millions of years.
Our artwork can be thought of as testing the hypothesis that the earth is experienced and understood though different ontologies. These can be ontologies that align with art, science, or somewhere in between.
Our method is to create special kinds of experiences, occasionally quite performative and speculative, through images and sounds collected in the field and in the research laboratory.
We are developing ways for different investigative pathways to coexist, converge and resonate with each other in surprising ways. These ideas will be developed over further over the final stages of the project."
- Sonia Leber & David Chesworth