Synthesis – episode 1
I have blurred reality and storytelling… I have used the body of the Ranger as my site of imaginative intervention within the real world of institutionalised nature conservation while referencing deities and pagan costumed rituals from European history. Today our faith lies in ourselves, with appointed representatives as guardians, backed by science.
Wild animals exist within our urban spaces, often unseen and unnoticed. They have their own borderlands and migrate within topographical maps made of animal habitats.
On a cold, snowy day in March 1985 an artificial bat “cave” was inaugurated by the town-mayor. A photograph records a group of school children dressed like bats at the official opening. The photograph was taken by Dr. Aldo M. Voute of the State University of Utrecht, a bat researcher that instigated artificial hibernation sites. Many monuments of the military, such as forts and bunkers, are now protected micro bat roosts having evolved into nature reserves. Bats are now dependent on these synthesised urban habitats.
The micro bat fulfills its role in ecological systems by eating its own body weight in insects. Their population in Europe is declining but they have received legal protection. Since then, bat researchers have been carefully constructing and recording the use of different artificial bat housing, to identify successful bat box designs and roost sites.
The nocturnal wanderings of these animals have created misplaced fears throughout cultural history.Their ability to see in the dark, at the time when we are most vulnerable, has placed these creatures of the night, into the category of horror in myth and story telling. It is scientifically acknowledged that humans share the ability to perceive objects in darkness through the same method as the bat. The blind, using echolocation, can experience images using sound waves that bounce off surfaces to convey spatial information, effectively seeing with their ears. It is a learned skill. A developed perception of the world. Philosopher Thomas Nagel posed the question “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?”. He concluded that where consciousness occurs in animal life that the experience is fully comparable in richness of detail to our own, but in the example presents sensory apparatus so different from ours that the problem is impossible. It is a proposition not expressible in a human language. We can hardly imagine the subjective character of their experience. But perhaps we can imagine … for a moment, seeing with our ears.
This work has been a long time in the making. I never dreamed it would look like this. A video work made in another distant and dry continent. It was a long time ago that I began thinking about water, discussing and exploring the topic while at an artist residency, beside the pristine river that would eventually flow through the city I lived in. By the time it arrived there it had altered, and morphed into something else, while still made of the same stuff … a little like this work about water, a year or so on. It is an endless cycle. At that time was shocked to see images of the skeletal remains of sea birds with their bellies full of plastic. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – it sounds like a continent, it is as big as one. It is here that the remnants of human manufacture swirl and gather on the currents of the world’s seas, forming one giant island of plastic refuse close to the remote albatross island habitat. They mistake the floating particles as food and are dying from it. Endless cycles of matter feed the world. I made a book with children that same year and tried to explain the cycle of water, how it is circular … “it’s the same water that the dinosaurs drink”, I said. What we put in, becomes part of the cycle. I have come to accept the synthesis of human made matter in our ecology but it wasn’t easy. It is good to remember the simple cycles that we are all dependant on. This video work is my way of doing that, it contains a simple cyclic poem of water shot in beautiful Moroccan streets capes. You cannot see my interventions in these photographs but they are there.