Image courtesy of Create or Die Co-op by Dark Cinema, Barwon Water projection.
When sound artist Ros Bandt first met Vicki Hallett, they were immersed in the sounds of the Pilliga Artesian Bores in New South Wales.
'I was giving a concert and she was doing some performance work. We were out there with all our microphones on a wildlife sound recording gig and we just hit it off,' said Bandt.
The meeting was serendipitous. Both artists are originally from Geelong and share an interest in capturing the earth through sound. After their work at the Pilliga, they each went on to work in nearby parklands and record the audio generated by radio telescopes, capturing a sense of how we exist in the universe and the sonic resonance of these spaces.
The synchronicities of their practice kept coming up; Bandt called Vicki from Portland to tell her about her experience filming a local seal. 'Oh yeah, I did a hydrophone recording of him last year,' said Hallett.
'Vicki and I are both very open to the growls of the eels under the ground and the kinds of mystical atmospheres that some of those connote. She did a hydrophone recording in the crater at Buckley Falls, and that was a very moving and scary experience. There's a little darkness and mystery there as well, just in being alive,' said Bandt.
Collaboration was certainly on the cards as both artists separately followed similar paths of exploration that were attuned to the Earth and the cosmos. Fortunately, the opportunity to create a new work that brings these recordings together presented itself and will be premiered at Geelong After Dark from 6pm on Friday 4 May.
Earthscape (detail) by Ros Bandt, Vicki Hallett and Jem Savage. Image supplied.
Created in collaboration with another artist, Jem Savage, their work Earthscape moves through different points of view, beginning with the feeling that we and the Earth are only minute specks in space. Earthscape then turns inwards, examining the way humans interact with the planet through industrial interventions like fracking, before resolving into a third movement that attempts to find a balance – 'a better balance so we are not such a self-destructive species,' said Bandt.
If you were under the impression that Geelong After Dark was like Melbourne's popular White Night, you're probably not the only one.
While White Night is known for its large light installations and projections, Geelong After Dark is evolving into something else.
While still including projections that light up Central Geelong, it's the interactive arts programming that gives Geelong After Dark a point of difference from other night-time festivals, making it more immersive and hands-on for audiences.
Creative Producer Luisa La Fornara said: 'We are in our fifth year and I've had the pleasure of being involved since the beginning … It has been amazing to watch Geelong After Dark evolve and grow.'
La Fornara is particularly excited by the diversity of art works on offer: 'It's a real combination. Projections, spoken word, interactive activities, sculptural interactions.'
Artists responded to the 2018 theme 'Earth', which has led to a diverse program of events and performance, including Earthscape by Bandt, Hallett and Savage.
The event draws audiences from Geelong and the wider Victorian community, explained La Fornara. 'For locals it is about coming into the City Centre and rediscovering it in a different way. For outside audiences, it is about coming in to discover Geelong and its artists. Roughly 70% of the program is work by local artists.'
The program also includes a popular arts adventure that appeals to families, getting kids into different public spaces where they can engage and even make art. 'There's this incredible ownership and they take over the city, which is fantastic,' La Fornara added.
This year the program also includes a new zone aimed at adults that extends later into the night.
'After After Dark, the zone running until 11pm, is definitely another highlight because of the acts we'll have on later in the night,' said La Fornara.
Mx.Red played by Amber McCartney. Photo by Sam Wong. Image supplied.
In an After After Dark exclusive, Johnathan Homsey, will take over the front bar of Lt Malop St institution Beav's Bar with Mx.Red. In Mx.Red, artist Jonathan Homsey brings together motion capture technology and live performances to create eleven experiences of dance, expression and intimacy beyond gender lines.
Audiences heading to Geelong After Dark this year will also have the opportunity to witness participate in the biennial event, Mountain to Mouth.
The award-winning arts walk takes place over two days, Friday 4 to Saturday 5 May, with participants travelling an 80km contemporary songline, from the You Yangs to the mouth of the Barwon River.
The route is marked with site specific ephemeral art installations, commissioned for Mountain to Mouth, bringing people together through shared experiences of extreme arts that celebrate the land, our place in the land and communities residing within. In 2018, Canoe, the lead ephemeral art work of Mountain to Mouth that is carried the length of the contemporary songline, is a collaboration between US-based artist Leslie Pearson and Ocean Grove artist Kerrie Bedson.
On the night of Friday 4 May, Mountain to Mouth will collide with Geelong After Dark in the city centre for the second of three ceremonies.
Mountain to Mouth ceremony. Photo by Dean Walters Photography. Image supplied.
The entry of Canoe into the City will herald the beginning of the second Ceremony, Gathering of the City.
'That first ceremony, the Gathering of the Elders, is a silent ceremony. It's really what sustains us as we set off on this pilgrimage together, if you like,' explained Mountain to Mouth Artistic Director, Margie Mackay. It pays respect to the land upon which we will walk.
'By the time we reach the City Centre, we've seen three major ephemeral art installations along the way. Then there's another ceremony that collides with Geelong After Dark. The ceremony, Gathering of the City, is about our culture, our communities, each other and remembering the Earth and that we need to take care of it as much as it takes care of us,' she explained. Everyone can join us as we dance and sing Canoe into the City.
The walk culminates at Barwon Heads with the Gathering of the Elements. That's the final part of the contemporary songline.' The ceremonial burning of Canoe marks the end of Mountain to Mouth, an extreme event that to end the extreme arts walk.