SALA 2023: Beyond the Floodtide…

SALA, the South Australian Living Arts Festival, is a statewide festival of visual art, spanning the entire month of August. In 2023, it involved over 700 venues across the state with nearly 11,000 participating artists. SALA is Australia’s largest and most inclusive visual arts festival, and takes place in galleries and non-traditional arts spaces across South Australia, featuring visual artists working at every level, in any medium, from all backgrounds and all parts of the state. Indeed, there are few if any festivals of this nature anywhere in the world.

For SALA 2023, I presented Beyond the Floodtide… a sequence of mostly new video works with environmental themes, at The Joinery in the Adelaide CBD, in collaboration with the Conservation Council of South Australia and coordinated by Sally Francis.

Faced with accelerating anthropogenic climate change, how will life on earth cope with global warming and rising sea levels? Plants, animals, humans, forms yet to evolve: all will need to adapt to challenging new environments. This video sequence imagines how we and the biosphere around us might deal with the consequences of our effects on the planet.

In addition to screening the videos at The Joinery on each Friday afternoon in August, I gave an artist talk, explaining some of the processes that went into making the videos. Together with acclaimed local poets Matthew Pankhurst and Shaine Melrose, I presented a reading of original poetry addressing environmental themes.

Here are the videos that screened on loop at The Joinery. The entire sequence runs for about 40 minutes and includes soundscapes, music and poetry. Click on the image or title to view the videos on Vimeo.

ANOMALY (03:00, 2022)
This video combines a plot of the rising sea surface temperatures over more than 120 years in Southern Australia, with a visualisation of the effect of modest sea level rise along a sunny beach at Moana / Potartang not far from Adelaide. If this rate of increase of ocean surface temperature continues unabated, much of Adelaide, like most other coastal cities, will be inundated.

FLOODTIDE (08:00, 2018)
How does a city cope, what does it look like, after years of drought, rising sea levels, relentless storms?

Composited from footage around Adelaide, Melbourne and beyond, these scenes might be imaginary, but the reality may not be far off… 

the white (03:40, 2022)
Moored at portside, we ponder the uncertainty of what lies ahead. We know there are dangers: the ocean, quiet for now; impenetrable fogs; perhaps the monsters of our imagination, the destruction wrought by our greed and disregard for the natural world.

The video is composited from multiple elements around Port Adelaide, and includes algorithmically generated animations.

The Grey Box (04:04, 2022)
Throughout South Eastern Australia, woodlands with Grey Box are under threat by habitat destruction and climate change.

This video was recorded along the Lodge Track on the border of Belair National Park and was composited and animated from several layers of still images.

The Bilgestruck (04:32, 2023)
In constant heat, the rains rarely stop, breaking through our warping barricades, threatening to flood us for ever. With our pumps overwhelmed, we feel helpless, our outlook is bleak, we speak the language of castaways…

The video is animated from local footage, algorithmic generators and artificial intelligence imagery.

Password to view the video: bilge23

MAGPIE (03:34, 2022)
The Australian Magpie trills and carols with a wide range of calls, often together, and often at night. As we push their environment closer to total devastation, perhaps we should be listening to what the magpies have to say.

The audio is from my transcription of a magpie’s night song and the video is animated from footage of magpies I’ve met.

preening (06:57, 2022)
“shore-bound by force ten gales we dream about the ones that got away… far from any dimly recollected grasp… a compass misplaced forever…”

Crested Terns at Marion Bay wait out a storm and dream about a life that is becoming increasingly imperilled.

The video is generated from a single long sequence.

DRAGONFLIES (01:43, 2023)
For several days in December, 2022, Adelaide and surrounding areas swarmed with large dragonflies, that had bred in the very wet spring of 2022.

A frame echo process tracks and digitally illuminates the flight paths of the dragonflies as they dash around our garden in Belair. The sounds also were recorded in our garden.

Space Invaders (04:56, 2022)
Who are these invaders? Whose space do they inhabit? Despite appearances of beguiling beauty, environmental destruction is everywhere… As we are driven by increasingly creative algorithms, we must ask ourselves if we have outlived our welcome.

Much of the footage here was originally generated for UGLY, a combined performance and video event at the 2022 Adelaide Fringe Festival. It relies heavily on algorithmic image generators for its imagery. The music in the soundtrack also was written originally for UGLY.