It has been almost a year since I had anything to post, so today I am happy to break this dry spell with the news that one of time-lapse videos for the project will be playing at Northcote Town Hall for the next month. The large-scale outdoor video projection, titled Axis can be viewed nightly from sunset till 11pm on the south wall of the Northcote Town Hall overlooking the Civic Square.
I am excited to have the opportunity to show the video in a public space so close to the actual site, and I hope that many of the people who became interested and involved with the project over the course of the last four years will now get a chance to see it large in light!
So if you find yourself on High Street after sunset take a stroll up to the Town Hall to check it out!
Reel Architecture is a short film competition established to enhance public perception, interaction and dialogue about architecture. It launches this Saturday at Loop as part of the State of Design Festival. The short timelapse I made to record the working bee that was part of the Global Work Party on 10/10/10 has been invited to screen at the launch as an example of short films that engage with the themes of the competition.
I am excited to have the film shown in this context and look forward to seeing it with an audience for the first time. If you are interested in coming along you can find more info here http://www.stateofdesign.com.au/Festival/Search/Reel-Architecture-Launch
It has been a big few months that have brought many changes. About a month ago I moved house, so whilst I am still in Northcote I no longer live 3 minutes from the apple tree and passing it is no longer part of my day-to-day life. Moving and settling have kept me pretty busy and I have not had much time to work at the site or keep up with the monthly working bees. But I have been thinking about the tree a lot. I have been grappling with both the desire to let go of my involvement with the site and to concentrate on other things and the opposing desire to keep the momentum going and to continue building a community venue. Writing this I am still not sure where things are going to settle on this one.
I did however have a pleasant surprise on the weekend. Last Saturday morning while I was at Northcote plaza doing my grocery shopping I bumped into an old neighbour who mentioned there was a garage sale happening at the site. He asked me if I was involved, knowing that I wasn’t and excited to hear that someone was using the space I raced home to get my camera and headed to the tree.
Sam and Rachel had set up their garage sale and were perched on the logs under the tree enjoying the shade. They live across the road and said they had been planning a garage sale but the nature strip at the front of their home is very narrow, so they thought they would use the apple tree site. What a fantastic idea!!!
So while I have been upset to see the garden become over run with weeds and many of the plants die off it is encouraging to see that perceptions of the site are changing. Local people are starting to take ownership and see it as a place they can use. I hope that this continues and I hope that I am able to witness it take place but as for my direct involvement – we’ll see what happens...
With another successful bee under our belt I thought I would post a few photos. We got the garden bed that was started at the last bee finished with extra soil added a good layer of straw laid and some lavender, rosemary and daisies planted. We also gave the existing beds a good weed and luckily the council guys had been through earlier in the week and cut the grass. Keeping the grass under control will be the big challenge over the next few months, if anyone is in the area with a mower or a brush cutter please feel free to stop by...
The next working bee is scheduled for 19th December, the weekend before Christmas. Hope you have time in the pre-Chrissie madness to drop in and get your hands dirty.
Also, the apple tree was mentioned in an article in the Age today you can read it here Greener Homes or here Michael Green
On Sunday October 10th the working bee went ahead in beautiful spring weather. The old apple tree got a pruning on the day, we also added a new garden bed and sifted another ready for more planting later on. We put in a grape vine, a fig tree and several native climbers.
There are plans to start a regular monthly working bees to continue building up the site and maintain what has already been achieved. The first of these will be on Sunday 21st November from 2pm – 5pm and they will continue on the 3rd Sunday of the month.
I created a timelapse of the day by taking one photo every minute. You can watch it here http://vimeo.com/groups/350org/videos/16194456
Thanks to Serenity and transition Darebin for organising the day and to Mira and Sometimes She Sings for the use of their song ‘Warmth”
As part of 350.org’s 10/10/10 Global Work Party, Transition Darebin are having a working bee at the old apple tree site and I wanted to put up a quick post to let everyone know about it.
What is The Global Work Party?
350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere. 350.org is an international group working to achieve this and the Global Work Party is their initiative.
The point of the Global Work Party is to do something that will help deal with global warming in your city or community. Thousands of local events have been registered all over the world.
So in our little corner there will be a working bee at the old apple tree, we will also have lunch and then move on to a couple of other sites nearby (details of this closer to the day).
Interested in being involved?
Meet at the old apple tree, Cnr Beavers Road and Herbert St, Northcote (railway line) at 10am on Sunday 10th October 2010.
If you are able, please bring: plate to share, hardy edible plants, tools... or just yourself. Don’t forget hat and sunscreen.
for more information visit www.350.org or to register your interest send me an email via the contact form on this site
Hope to see you there!
A year ago yesterday I posted the first entry on this blog. This one year anniversary is a nice time to reflect on the past and think about how I would like to move forward.
The apple tree is starting to look scrappy again as it sheds its leaves for winter. 9 weeks have passed since the working bee in February and I am happy to report that many of the plants we put in are thriving. In that time someone has also installed a swing in the tree and I have noticed teenagers hanging out there after school and a mother with her young children playing under it one afternoon. People are sill using it as a site to dump rubbish and park their cars but I hope over time as it looks more cared for and wanted people's perception and use the space will continue to change.
Since the working bee I have been looking into the guerrilla gardening, not the channel 10 show but the grass roots movement. It is inspiring to see people all over the world claiming ownership of abandoned spaces and turning them into places of beauty for everyone to enjoy. I love the spirit of ingenuity and independence that this demonstrates. For more info visit guerrillagardening.org
Serenity Hill from Transition Darebin and I got together the other day and did a bit of work at the site. We did some weeding, cut the grass and lay some straw down on the garden beds. It was great to see how much we could achieve in a couple of hours. As always there is more that could be done so am organising another working bee, something more informal this time. I still have 40 succulent plants that were donated at the last bee and while many of the plants initially put in survived there is room for more in the garden beds. The date is set for Sunday 2nd May between noon and 3pm. Anyone who would like to drop by and do a bit of weeding and planting it would be great to see you there!
Serenity will also be hosting a meeting under the tree this Sunday for the Public Orchards program. This is a program initiated by Transition Darebin, working with council to plant and maintain more food trees in public open spaces. If you are interested in participating, the meeting is happening this Sunday 25th April 3pm – 5pm at the apple tree.
Finally, a quick update about the timelapse, I have finished editing the visuals for the first of the videos I hope to produce. Now I am working with a sound artist to produce a sound scape for the work. This is exciting and I look forward to having this first video complete in the next few months. The next step is to find venues and avenues for presentation of the work. I am still hoping to do something at the site and am currently in the process of investigating funding and partnership possibilities
We had a promising week in the lead up to the working bee, heavy rain on Thursday meant that the ground got a good soaking and was soft and yielding. We managed to get gardening soil, mulch and plenty of plants ready and waiting for a 10am start.
We ended up with about 20 people in total making appearances to help throughout the day. It was cool and the cloud cover and slight drizzle made for great gardening weather. Some people who were not able to stay and help out came along with donations of plants, coffee and food for the workers. Many of the local passers by were surprised and impressed when they discovered that we did not own the land, hadn’t sort permission to develop it and were not getting paid for our efforts.
So much was accomplished, the tree had a gentle pruning, the area underneath it was cleaned up and leveled out, the logs were moved into position to create a triangle of seats at the base of the tree and a carpet of mulch was spread inside this triangle. The transformation of this space is wonderful. What was once an oppressive and neglected area is now inviting and comfortable. I will watch with interest to see if people start to use it as a place to congregate.
We also got extensive garden beds dug out and planted with a wonderful assortment of trees and plants, and a large section of the fence has been painted. A passer by donated 20 Rosemary seedlings that we have planted in a hedge running parallel to the train line. Along with the rosemary this same local donated 40 succulent plants. The advice given is that these succulents will be best planted in mid autumn, so for the mean time they are in my back yard and we hope put in a succulent garden some time in the coming months.
Over the last year I have developed a feeling of ownership of this patch of Northcote, I have come to think of it as my own. After this weekend I hope this will extend to more people in the area. Now with the site transformed into something more inviting I hope the neighbourhood embraces it as their own, to look after, develop and enjoy in new ways. On that note if there is anyone reading this who would like to help design and plant the succulent garden, please contact me and I would be happy to pass the plants on to your care.
I am feeling sore in the body today but light in the spirit. I am wishing for more rain in the next couple of days and will watch the garden hopefully in the coming months, I look forward to it getting that settled in look, like it was always there.
Some exciting news! Now that word has gotten round that the site of the tree is not under threat of housing development, there is a renewed interest in cleaning it up a bit. So a date has been set and preparations are under way for a working bee.
Serenity from Transition Darebin (remember the picnic) and myself are teaming up to organise the event on Saturday 13th February. The plan is to clear away rubbish and weeds, plant some garden beds, paint the fence and use some abandoned logs on the site to make seating under the tree.
If you would like to participate and contribute we would love to see you there. Please come along on the day bringing any of the following that you can; plants (the hardier the better), gardening tools, soil or mulch, some food to share for lunch. We are particularly hoping that someone who has a chainsaw and is not afraid to use it will come along to help make the seating out of the abandoned logs. We will also provide tools, food and plants for anyone who cannot bring their own.
I am planning to take time-lapse footage of the day and then sometime in March I hope to show both that footage and the year long time-lapse videos at the site. Stay tuned for more details about this soon.
So the details for anyone who is keen to come along
Saturday February 13th
10am – 3pm
cnr Beavers Rd and Herbert St, Northcote
To help with planning it would be great to know if you are coming along so please drop me a line via the web contact form on this site.
Hope to see you there!
On Thursday January 14th I trod the well worn
path from my front door to the tree to take my weekly photos for the final 4
times. Over the last 12 months I have taken over 4300 photographs of the apple
tree, 3088 of those images will be used to make the time lapse movies I have
planned. Adding up the time taken for both the weekly photos and the seasonal
24 hour shoots, I have spent approximately 150 hours photographing the tree
over the last year, the equivalent of about 1 months full time work.
I am relieved and grateful to get my Thursdays back,
although I will miss getting out of bed early one day a week. I feel a sense of
accomplishment but there is a lot more work to be done. I don’t want to loose
momentum so I will focus on finishing the videos and finding a platform for
With regards to the blog, this will be the last regular
weekly post I make. Now that the project is moving into this next phase I will
continue to make postings from time to time when important developments occur
with both the apple tree and the project. Thank you to the regular readers and
people who have left comments, your interest and support has been very
encouraging and made process a pleasure for me.
There is some other news to write about this week. During
the first 24 hour shoot in March I was told by a builder working in the area
that the site had been sold to developers and that the tree could be torn down
at any time. I put this information in subsequent flyers that I produced to publicise
future shoots. I had every intention of contacting local council to verify this
was the case and was regularly reminded of this intention as the word got
around and more and more people asked me about it.
Finally on Thursday I rang Darebin council and spoke to 3
people in their planning department, so I now have some accurate information.
Whilst I haven’t been unable to learn exactly who the owner of the land is it
most likely belongs to VicTrack. Currently the zoning for this piece of land is
PUZ4. This stands for Public Use Zone – transport. Anything zoned for public
use would have to be re-zoned before it could be developed for residential use.
At this time there are no applications for rezoning of that land in progress
nor do the team at strategic planning in Darebin know of any negotiations or
discussions about the future development of that particular site.
This site also has what is called a special building overlay
(SBO). SBO’s are used to identify
land liable to flooding from the urban drainage system. Any land with an SBO is
subject to a whole series of extra permit requirements as well as adherence to
a series of planning guidelines. In short this makes the land more expensive to
develop and therefore less attractive to developers.
So in brief the land is still zoned for public use meaning that it cannot be used for housing development with out first being rezoned. No applications for rezoning are currently in progress and it is unlikely any will be submitted in the near future. Also, if such an application is submitted, the helpful folks at Darebin council have said that they will notify me of it.
I have to question why it took this long for me to actually
follow up and find this out. I think I was hesitant to find out the truth because
the idea of a potential threat to the tree gave it and the project extra
significance. It seemed to give people in the local area an entry point, a way
to connect to the importance of the project. Now I have found out there was no
such threat I can see I had been using the idea of one to bolster my own and
others sense of why the work was important.
I think it is interesting the ways we try to find meaning and importance for what we do. For many reasons I made a particular effort not to justify this project beyond my own personal impetus and desire to take on a process and see it through. It is easier to believe something is important if there is a direct effect potentially resulting from your action. In many arenas this kind thinking is reasonable, but with art this cause and effect thinking can be limiting lead to superficial and trite outcomes. It has been interesting to discover the ways in which I was falling into the very mind set I was consciously trying to avoid…
On Friday and Saturday with the support of many others I camped out for 24 hours taking 1 photo every 2 minutes. In many ways it was not easy, I was awake for 37 hours, temperatures reached 38 degrees and winds about 30km/hour. While I would not want to do this often there is something special about taking the time out to sit on a street corner with an apple tree and witness the rhythm of a summer’s day. Here are a few highlights.
The set up went very smoothly, I have had the same crew helping me with set up and pack up for the previous 3 shoots so we are a well oiled machine. Thanks to Belinda, Emma, Connor and Donal for all their help. After sorting out some technical hitches with computers we were up and running and settling in nicely. Some colleagues from work visited and it was lovely to sit in the warm summer air and chat. At about 2:30am a couple of guys who were drunk and looking for adventure, found it by climbing the tree. Thankfully they had a playful spirit that made this funny rather than obnoxious.
Gradually the visitors made their way home and it was just Jackie and I left to see through the wee hours of the morning. Between 3am – 5am is a bit of blur, the world is so still and every part of ones being wants to shut down and sleep.
At 5am Carolyn came to take over as my companion and Jackie headed to my place for a bit of shuteye. It was a lovely morning spent getting to know Carolyn. Early morning and sunrise are such a beautiful time of day. The magic of the morning was punctuated by grace of 2 hot air balloons sailing overhead.
As the day progressed the temperatures rose and the winds set in. Belinda and I had a heart in the throat moment when the whole marquee moved about half a metre south. Thanks to Belinda’s fast reflexes and strength it did not knock any of the camera equipment and we managed to stop it moving any further. We removed one of the marquee walls so that the wind could pass right through and it was stable for the rest of the shoot. Phew!
Saturday 4pm – 6pm
At this point in the day it was still very hot and I was getting very tired but it was time to have a different person in every photo for 2 hours. What had seemed like a good idea now seemed like a mountain to climb.
Luckily I was not alone, Belinda took responsibility for operating the camera, Jackie helped recruit and keep people moving through the process and in one of those happy accidents Boris was there enthusiastically stopping many a passer by and inviting them to participate.
The story of Boris being at the shoot needs some extra telling. Boris lives in Germany, I haven’t seen him in 5 years and until 1 pm on Saturday I had no idea he was even in the country. I got a phone call from him saying he was in town but scheduled to leave Melbourne the next day so would I like to catch up this afternoon. I invited him to come down and he arrived just before 4 pm. It was great to see him and his energy meant that we were able to fill almost every spot for the 2 hours.
I had not realised what an ambitious idea this was logistically. 2 minutes is both a long and a short time. Short when you do not yet have anyone standing by to be in the next shot, yet surprisingly long when you are waiting for your turn to be in the next photo. I am grateful to Belinda, Jackie and Boris for jumping in and making it work, we managed to get about 56 people and the whole event was a lot of fun. Many thanks also to everyone who came down specially to be a part of it and to everyone who said yes when we stopped them on the street. Here is a clip of those 2 hours.
The home straight
The excitement and pace of those 2 hours had woken me up, but now it was over and I was starting to feel the sunburn so I was glad I only had a few more hours to go. As the evening started to cool we fired up the BBQ and ate sausage sandwiches. Then Jackie and Boris said good-bye and headed for their respective homes. I had a few more visitors stop in to see me thorough the home straight. Then at 10pm the final photo was taken and with the help of that well-oiled machine (Belinda, Donal, Connor) we were packed up and heading home by 10:10pm.
At the end of each of the four shoots I have always felt a kind of quiet, special joy. The feeling passes very quickly and is gone by time I wake up the next day. It is difficult to describe and almost impossible to remember. It is fleeting yet lovely and in that moment I know with certainty that it was worth it.
here is a 4 hour test shoot I did over a year ago as part of my research for the project
It has been a big week. The calendar ticked over to the first day of the year and I strolled down Beavers Road, 4 times on a Thursday for the second last time.
I always find this an introspective time and the expectation to socialise a bit of a burden. Maybe it is my contrary nature, the need to pull against the norm or what is expected. Maybe it is connected to the sense of renewal, a wanting to reflect on what has been and to start to dream and plan for what is to come.
My Mother once said that I was good at setting myself specific goals at the beginning of the year and then setting about achieving them. Until I heard this from her I wasn’t really conscious of what I was doing. I know it is embedded in our cultural thinking, but I never liked the idea of resolutions; they come with a feeling of restraint, denial, or discipline that I don’t respond very well to. The inner rebel always wants to break those rules, especially if they are ones that I make up myself. So I have never formally thought of myself as making resolutions, but here I was every year choosing some specific goal or ambition to focus on. I am now much more conscious of this process and I give myself time and space for it each year.
This time last year my chosen goal was this project. Committing to its duration and seeing it through despite doubts and waning inspiration. Here I am nearly at the end and as is always the case with these things, that long endless year that seemed to stretch out before me like an ocean, feels like the blink of an eye when I look back on it, time is funny like that. Something in this reflects the core of the project; a year of life (mine, the tree’s, the neighbourhood’s) condensed into 2-minutes.
I will spend the rest of this week preparing for the final summer shoot. I have had a great response to the idea of having 60 people in the photos over 2-hours and I am very excited a little nervous about it. Each of the three previous shoots has had it’s own unique flavour and story. I look forward to seeing how this one turns out.
So, if you’re interested in being a part of this final 24-hour shoot, please come along I would love to see you there.
Here are the details:
4pm – 6pm
Saturday January 9th 2010
The corner of Beavers Rd and Herbert St, Northcote (see the google map in the side bar)
The plan is to have a different person in every photo between 4pm and 6pm on the Saturday afternoon. I take a photo every 2-minutes so that means I will be taking 60 photos over the 2-hours. Each person will stand in the same position in the frame and face the same direction. In the final video those 60 people will merge into each other over 10-seconds.
Hope to see you there!
After my earlier talk about our plans for Christmas day I thought this week I would post the menu as well as photos I took on the day. It was lovely and relaxed with six courses eaten over about 10 hours. Yum!!
Prosecco with raspberry and crème de Cassis
Seared scallops on mint and ginger salad
Little pancakes with caviar
Mini caramelised leek tart with Chevre goat's cheese
Roast Chicken and Lamb with potatoes roasted in garlic and butter
Pomegranate and cucumber with lemon and mint
Roquette, prosciutto and parmesan with balsamic vinegar
Tomatoes, basil and boconccini with extra virgin olive oil and salt
and finally a Cheese platter to finish
unfortunately by this stage in the game I had too much wine in me to be thinking about taking photos and I didn't get any of these...
here we are enjoying the back yard between courses
During this week planning for Christmas escalated to a whole new level. As is always the case with my family Christmas is more about what we are going to eat than it is about what we are going to give each other. I am spending Christmas at my sisters house this year and Emma is a chef so despite all out earlier proclamations that we gonna keep it simple the menu just keeps getting bigger and better. Wine has been delivered, bread has been ordered, various sections of the menu have been allocated to the various attending households and a copy of the Spicks and Specks board game is on order to keep us busy between courses.
Aside from Christmas planning I have been thinking a lot recently about how many people have become part of this project in one way or another, so I would like to take the time to acknowledge and thank some of them.
The camp I set for the 24-hour shoots includes lighting, and computer equipment. I have been very lucky to receive the support of Margaret Taylor and her family who live next to the site. They have generously allowed me to have access to their home for each of the shoots to run a lead so that I can power the necessary equipment. The 24-hour shoots would not be possible without them and their support and enthusiasm has meant a lot to me.
If you have been reading the blog through out the year you will know that I went away for 2 months during July and August to direct a theatre show in my home town of Goulburn in NSW. During this time Belinda my housemate took on the responsibility of taking the photographs each week. She did this with a grace and enthusiasm that made handing the project over to her enjoyable and interesting. Belinda has also been a major support throughout the process as a whole. She has prepared food, sat with me and helped set up and pack up for the 24hour shoots. She has listened to my ideas for years now and with out her support I am not sure I would have ever started the project in the first place.
There is everyone who has come and been a part of the 24-hour shoots. Emma and Ben who sat through the long cold over night sessions with me. Kate, Mira, Prishanti, Jac, Michael, The Geek Girls (Alison, Lesley, Michelle), Casimir, Meike and Sas who have all given their time and helped make it fun!
I will mention Alison again for her advice and support; she has been something of a mentor for me over this last year.
Thanks also to Serenity at Transitions Darebin for organising the picnic under the tree and inviting me to join in. And finally to every one else, who has read the blog, sent me a message or listened to me go on about the project, thank you all it has been a fun and inspiring year.
Merry Christmas everyone!
I am once again running late for my blog post but this week it is for fun and interesting reasons rather than funky ones. It is the silly season, people are returning home and there is much drinking and celebrating to be done. Writing a blog can be fun but it is hard to compete with these other activities.
I have also been busy writing emails, making flyers and putting up posters to get the word out about the final 24 hour shoot and my plan to include 60 people between 4-6pm on the Saturday. This has been has been very exciting; lots of people are responding that they are keen to come along, some even from interstate. I am really looking forward to the day which I think is gonna be a lot of fun.
This week saw a string of comments on the blog, which was great. The one from my Dad was nice for me, mainly ‘cause he is my Dad and also because he expressed his sentiment so beautifully (he has a way with words my Dad).
With this phase of the project coming to a close I have been reflecting on the past and dreaming of the future. As a result I have been busy writing to capture these thoughts and prepare for application submissions in the coming year. This has been interesting and I am thinking I might post some of these writings in future blogs once I have done a bit more work on them.
As for the tree, walking down my street yesterday morning I walked under a small apple tree in hanging over the footpath from someone’s front yard. As I brushed passed I bumped my head on a small green apple about the size of a golf ball. Wow, it seems like yesterday the trees were in blossom. Seeing this small tree made me realise that I haven’t taken a close look at the tree in weeks. This sometimes happens I photograph it every week and walk past it nearly every day but I rarely take the time to go up close to it. Like the picnic under the tree organised by Transitions Darebin, until they suggested the idea it never occurred to me to sit under it… So, as a result of bumping my head this morning I went and had a close look at the tree to find it covered in green apples about the same size. These seem bigger than apples I have seen on the tree in past years. We have had a lot of rain in Melbourne recently and this seems to be promoting growth of the fruit. I have never tasted the ripe apples in the past but I look forward to giving them a try when they are ready at the end of summer.
The count down has started I am now 5 weeks out from the final 24hr shoot and 6 weeks away from the last weekly photos. The end of the project is nigh.
With the summer shoot so close it is time to begin preparations and I have decided that I would like to something extra for this one. In the past three shoots I have really enjoyed the photos that have accidentally included the odd person here and there. I have also been thinking about how to reflect how important people and the local community have been to the project over this last year. So, on the Saturday afternoon between 4pm and 6pm I am inviting people to come and be in one shot. The plan is to have a different person every 2 minutes and each person will stand within the same place in the frame. This will translate into 60 people merging into each other for 10 seconds of the final video.
Emily in the spring shoot
I know it is a tricky time of year with many people going away but I am hoping to get lots of folks along, especially anyone who has been a part of the project, helped out in any way or who has simply read the blog. I will also be inviting passers by during the day to come back between those hours to be in a shot. It will be a lot of fun and a great way to celebrate the final shoot for the project. If you will be in Melbourne Saturday January 9 and are free between 4-6pm that afternoon I would love to see you there. It would be helpful to get a sense of how many people are coming so if you think you might turn up please send me a quick message either by commenting on this post or by sending me an email via the contact page on the website.
me at the studio
Aside from these plans it has also been a busy week moving into the studio. Monday morning I arrived for my first days work in the space. I got in early made myself a coffee and got to it. The lack of familiarity and history with the place made it easy for me to sit down and get started on some things I have been putting off for months at home. I have been very productive and have a rough edit of the first video-yippee!
a screen shot - proof of my productivity
It still needs the final summer footage and some tweaking and fine turning but I am excited about how it is starting to look. Now to get cracking on the next phase where I actually find a spot on the planet to show this thing…
This entry has spent more time rolling around in my skull prior to posting than any other. Week 44 found me back in a funk and I could not face writing another blog entry about how hard I was finding life and the project. I tried writing about something else but could not get past the hard, so the week slipped by in a destructive and narcissistic fog where everyone and everything reflected my own inadequacy.
Finally after giving myself a firm talking to (which was ineffective) followed by a more gentle one (which seemed to do the trick) I ventured out into the world to engage with stuff that others were doing. This took me into last week and the second lot of rolling thoughts that have taken until now to form into words
This is the first time I have attempted a project outside of the theatre. Entering this new realm I have not really even known what it is I am entering or who my peers in it might be. Early on I made a decision not to let any doubts or questions about the validity of what I was doing stop me from doing it. I have made myself plough on despite spending much of the year with the fear I am attempting something obvious, naive and not very interesting.
Venturing out this week I have been reminded that I am not alone. Though very different to my own current practice in each piece I encountered ideas, images and processes that were in some way familiar. I have recognised some common approaches to time and process, works that are not so much not creating an object but rather engaging the artist and the audience in a process and then recording this in ways that produce artifacts.
This has been encouraging and for now I have a renewed hope and enthusiasm for this silly little thing I have given a year of my life to. So I would like to quickly share the highlights
This is a work that defies description, it requires participation. If you are in Melbourne and feel the need for something outside the everyday flow I recommend contacting the vorticist to “arrange a mutually suitable time” the time you give is the most it will cost you and well worth the price.
This has been a week of catching up. I had a look at the last few months in my diary and they have been pretty full. Being away created a pile up of life chores that I am only now getting on top of. One was my tax, finally it's done and I got a bigger return than I was expecting (yeehaw!!). So now with a clearer picture of my financial status I have taken some time to make plans for the next few months.
I have been thinking about getting a studio for a while now but wanted to wait till the end of winter and I was back from my gig away. I have many hours ahead editing the footage I have gathered for this project. Working from home is great in some ways but it is also easy to get distracted. In recent weeks I have planted a vegie garden, cleaned the oven, cleaned the BBQ, cleaned out the shed and re oiled the garden furniture... Hopefully I will be moved into a space soon and I can create some separation between work and home and spend more time sitting at the computer.
Amongst all the work in the garden I have managed to get some editing work done. Here is a clip I made using the same technique that I am planning to use to make the films from the weekly photos. It is a rough animation using still images that shows the progress of the tapestry 'Give up Your Day Job' by Michelle Hamer.
I have also made some time this week to get out my new camera again, I have just been too busy at work and doing other things to take many photos lately but today I went to Connor's studio (Connor is a painter and my brother in law) and took some images of his work. This one is my favourite.
Finally, I have also been doing some catching up for this project. I got the calendar out and have made plans for the final 24-hr shoot. This will take place in the new year over January 8th and 9th. Then the following Thursday will be my 52nd week of shooting the tree and will be the end of shooting for this project. the end is well and truly in site. Until then lots more to do!!
On Sunday a group called Transitions Darebin (see the last post for more info) hosted a picnic under the apple tree. We have been having very hot days for November and Sunday was no exception with temperatures reaching 34ºC. Now I have been looking at and photographing this tree for nearly 2 years. It sits on a gravel bed, the grounds surrounding it are often used as a car park and it is next to a train line. It has never occurred to me that it might be a pleasant spot to sit, so I was a little sceptical about this picnic.
But I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised, the tree provided a lovely cool shade and the openness of the area meant that we had the benefit of any breeze that was blowing, anywhere outside the shade of the tree was hot and harsh under the tree itself was lovely.
It was also nice to hear people interested in the tree and making plans for it future. I have to admit this has created a dilemma. One of the decisions that I made early on when planning for this project was that I would not interfere with the tree or the surrounding area. I would not clean up any rubbish or try to make the site look a certain way. My choices were limited to the position of the camera and the frequency with which I took the photos and I always try for my exposure to reflect as closely as possible the lighting conditions as my eye perceives them on the day. My task it to capture moments not to interact with this location.
All of a sudden sitting under the tree listening to people talk about other planting projects they are working on and making suggestions for how the tree site could be developed, I felt torn. I would love to clear away some of the rubbish, do some research into plants that may survive on the site and plant them there. Get in and prune the tree once a year to improve its fruit and put a seat in so I can take my book down on a hot afternoon and sit under it to read. But any such plans will have to wait till after January 14th 2010, the last day I photograph the tree for this project (that’s 63 days or 9 weeks to go). Then maybe just maybe I will get in and do something with the site…
Spring had definitely gotten into my bones. At the moment I yearn to be in the garden planting vegies, throwing open the windows, cleaning out my wardrobe and dusting the skirting boards. The thought of sitting in front of a computer screen, editing still photographs into time-lapse video does not however create the same sense of longing.
So the editing can wait, on the weekend I put basil, coriander, zucchini, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes in the ground and soon I am planning a day doing the same at my sister’s house and I can’t wait to get dirty and sunburnt. In the garden I feel close to Mum in a way that is comforting rather than sad.
For the last 24-hour shoot I put some posters up on telegraph poles around the site of the tree with information about the project and my web address. As a result a group called Transition Darebin recently contacted me. They are the local wing of a larger group called Transition towns that are about localising activities in order to prepare for peak oil and climate change.
To quote their web page
“Essentially we are about helping the Darebin community to prepare for peak oil and climate change through practical solutions like local food growing, energy efficient homes and buildings, fossil-fuel-free transport, local production of goods and services, and reuse and recycling.”
They think my project reflects a number of their aims and have organised a picnic under the tree this Sunday. This has created some interesting and conflicting responses for me.
From what I have read so far I agree with much of what it is that they seem to be aiming to achieve. That being said, I had never thought of this project as political. I can see how it can reflect philosophies of a return to local, organic and ‘sustainable’ ways of living. But these ideas were not the starting point for me. My decision to do this project came about because of where I found myself at this point in my life.
During the 24-hour shoots once the marquee is set up one of the most common questions I am asked is if we are protesting something. People often think we are ‘hippies’ making a protest or university students completing an assignment. I have found myself wanting to reject both of these labels and have been concerned about what this tells me about how my project is being read and received in the world. And now this group, so whilst on the one hand I am pleased that there is interest in the work, and that people are connecting with it in their own ways. I also feel unsure about what this means. Groucho Marx summed it up when he said “I would never belong to a group that would accept someone like me as a member.”
For now I think it best if I sit on my feeling about belonging and rejection, turn up to this picnic on Sunday and see what happens. You never know I might even enjoy it.
this last week has gone by so quickly again. Life is busy with so many other things, some of them good some of them hard, but it means my tree feels like an obligation that I resent having to find the time to do each week.
I realised this week that I am three quarters of the way through and only have 12 more weeks to go. This feels like both a long and a short time. Right now I wish for it to be over, but I am sure when that time actually comes in January I will feel sad about it.
just think only three months ago the tree looked like this
and in only three more it will again look like this
For now I will continue to squeeze it in around the busyness or business of life and try to remember how to enjoy it...
Again I am running late…
Again I have let one week get by without posting…
I had such a great time doing the Spring 24hr shoot and felt a renewed enthusiasm. Since then however I have had to work a lot, had visitors and have been nursing a bit of heartache. So after being late with the post shoot blog, I have now let another week go by and this becomes 2 weeks in one.
I have to keep reminding myself that ultimately this does not really matter… I mean I am not being paid to do this, I am not letting anyone else down if I miss a week. But the structure of posting every week for the year as I gather footage for this project is important. Why is that? As I pick this open and try to talk about it now I realise I don’t really understand why it is important to continue doing. I know it has something to do with time and how recording things through time allows for a different perception and for reflection that would otherwise not be possible. More simply I guess it is just about seeing through the commitment I made. Needless to say the thing holds up more strongly if I am consistent with my postings. So there you have the guilt, I have been feeling guilty about falling behind. But guilt is such a useless feeling and I have been trying to talk myself out of it. If I need a break then fine take a bloody break.
Then there is the disappointment. As I walk past the tree every day on my way to the train station, I see how much it has exploded into blossom in the last 2 weeks. It looks beautiful at the moment and so I am disappointed that it did not look this way for the 24hr shoot. Not much I can do with that one, I have the footage I have and it is fine, it represents an actual spring day in the life of this tree. Not the spring day I hoped for, but a spring day none the less.
I have also been struggling with what to write because I feel like I have slipped back into despondency, and I mean how interesting can that be? After a while it just gets boring – I am bored by it I can tell you. Love affairs are wonderful things. I recently had one that was good, unexpected, and different. I felt something I didn’t know was possible. Something I had begun to give up on. Now it is over with no hope of continuing. Whilst it was wonderful and gave me a new hope it has left a difficult legacy. I am back here living my life, a life I was very happy with in the months previous, but now feels like something is missing.
I have had love and lost it before and in many ways this is the same as it always is. I know it just takes time and that I have not actually lost anything, just the possibility of something… I don’t want to let that take from me my ability to see and appreciate all the things I have in my life right now.
As I finish writing this and prepare to post it I already better. This stupid little blog here is something I am doing and whilst I struggle with it, it also gives me a sense of purpose and achievement. It feels good to be posting again even if the content of the post does not.
So, thank you dear reader for your indulgence
1:31pm (15hrs 31mins)
During this shoot I had a lot more time on my own to sit thinking about the project, I was wanting to share my thoughts, feelings and experience but my computer was hooked up to my camera, out on the street with no hackable internet connection to be found.
So instead I sat with a notebook and pen writing this in the present, pretending I was a future version of myself reporting it all to you after the fact. In truth I am sitting here now in the marquee, well it is now to the ‘me’ that writes it but to the ‘me’ that types it up and posts It on the blog and to the ‘you’ that is reading it your future now it will be the past.
All this time lapse has got me thinking about time….
…about the subjective experience of it and the objective measuring of it… about the perception of time as an arrow and as a cycle or spiral. And the physical properties of the universe that lead to these two perceptions.
In one of those lovely serendipities that life can throw up I was rostered on as an usher for a conference at ACMI hosted by Monash University called Time, Transcendence and Performance. It turned out to be the perfect anecdote to my recent apathy. Some of the speakers reminded me of key ideas that were at the front of my mind when I first started this project, that have been recently subsumed by its practical demands. There were also a couple of gems, new ideas that I am yet to properly digest and explore but that certainly got my juices going!
>> 2:21pm (16hrs 21mins)
This musing has generated many thoughts about the structure format and sound the final digital video works will take. I am not ready yet to describe what is shaping up in my mind, I look forward to seeing how these thoughts continue to evolve. It has been an exciting couple of days that has rekindled my enthusiasm; I am excited once again about the possibilities and potentialities for the work beyond my making of it. I am again dreaming about sharing it and hopeful that the product or artefact of the exercise will contain some trace of the richness that the experience of producing it has held for me.
>>4:13pm (18hrs 13mins)
Since my last entry I have been thinking about this renewed enthusiasm and reflecting with regards to it on recent blog posts. The simple realisation smacked me in the face. If you give time and space to a place, space, person, activity or thing, that simple act generates something. It can produce bonds, make connections, deepen investments. I know this hardly new or profound and probably a thought I have had many times before. But a good thought to remember at a time when I have been feeling conflicted and torn about where I want to be and what I want to be doing. My life is what I give time to, what I choose to prioritise. And more importantly that my care and investment in those things grows and strengthens the more time I give…
Ok so preparations for the spring shoot are plodding along. I have a good friend who is gonna do the hard shift so I am no longer worried about being alone in the middle of the night, on the street, all lit up and drawing attention to myself. The Marquee is hired, I have hands on deck for set up and pack up and a hot water urn for cups of tea (thanks Belinda). Thankfully all the other preparation from the previous 2 shoots mean there is less to do this time – hallelujah!
I am trying to feel connected to this project in some meaningful way but at the moment it is just a bunch of practical tasks to get done. When I started it I thought about these times, the times when I would not feel like doing it anymore, when I lost touch with the feeling or the reason why I thought this was a good idea. At this point I must admit the only thing motivating me to see this bloody thing through is the previous 36 weeks of work.
A small window of hope in this regard did open up today. My day job involves me standing for up to 8 hours in a darkened gallery with very little but my own thoughts to occupy me. When you have already spent days in the same position, looking at the same artworks, listening to the same sound loops, recycling the same thoughts and worries about the same things that you have no real control over it can start to feel a bit like crazy time… But, I had a moment today standing in the gallery watching Len Lye’s direct films where I actually got excited about the thought of watching all four of these 24 hour clips together. I am curious to see what patterns emerge from the combination of differences and similarities between times of day and seasons once all four segments are played in unison. I know the sun will rise and set at roughly the same time for autumn and spring but at very different times during summer and winter. I look forward to discovering other patterns that I cannot yet foresee.
So there we have it, the spring shoot is this weekend – I am hoping it is as much fun as the other 2 were and that through doing it I will reconnect more fully with the heart of the project!
One more thing before I go, I just wanna mention that aside from being a place and time for me to think about life, Len Lye is one of the best shows I have worked on in my 4 years at acmi.
If you are in Melbourne and you haven’t been I recommend checking it out. http://www.acmi.net.au/len_lye.aspx
The new permanent exhibition Screen Worlds is also worth a look!
So I have been back one week and already the spring shoot is only 1 ½ week away. Faarrk! But taking my advice from the Hitchhikers guide I say to myself “Don’t panic” I have done this twice before already so I have a bit of a routine in place. But Faark!!!! It is a busy time of year for everyone and I am finding it tricky to find someone I know and trust who is able to sit up with me during the overnight part of the shoot. I feel a bit exposed sitting there with all that equipment on my own during the late hours of a Friday night and the wee hours of a Saturday morning.
Truth be told I am feeling very nervous about the whole thing. I may have done it twice already but I guess I have been so busy I am not sure I feel fully prepared for this one. I also have all this footage piling up but I am yet to find the time to sit down and actually produce the video. Then there is the question of what I am gonna do with the bloody things once I have made them. All this talk of the process and what I am getting out of the process etc. is all well and good but you know I do want people to actually see it too.
It is one of those weeks when I can’t help thinking “what the fuck am I doing with my life?” I have no money, I am back working in a job which completely under-utilises my abilities, I have these stupid worthiness issues around money and applying for funding, I am not famous, I am getting older, I am not married, I have no children, nobody loves me, think I’ll eat worms etc etc.
Take a deep breath…
Where was I? That’s right the spring shoot. Yes, I am hoping for a tree full of leaves and blossoms. Apples trees are late to blossom so their leaf buds shoot at the same time as their flowers bloom. This means that after the plums, apricots, nectarines and cherries have all finished blossoming the apple is still a bundle of twigs. But not for much longer and if my research serves me well and I have my timing right, I will be there October 2nd and 3rd to catch a spring day in the life of what I have come to regard as my apple tree. Until then I will just have to stay focused on the task at hand and try not to spend too much time thinking about the conundrum that is my life.
This week the show finished on Sunday and we bumped out (dismantled the show out of the theatre). Then had dinner on the stage with the cast and crew. They gave me this beautiful gift (a brooch made by Martin) and I felt very happy to be with them all and sad to have to say goodbye. Originally I planned to leave Goulburn on the Wednesday but I didn’t feel quite ready to go. Also, I had the offer of a horse ride on Saturday which I was keen I so I decided to stay on till Monday. It has been a lovely week, I have been able to relax, spend time with people and reflect more fully on what being in Goulburn has meant to me.
It has been a huge two months, I have directed a show, purchased a new camera, looked after a baby and a three year old, fallen for someone, fallen out with a few others, read a bunch of scripts, ridden a horse for the first time since I was a child, and spent the last extended period I will ever have in our Family home. Libby (my sister) and her husband have decided to move back to Sydney and after Mum’s passing Dad no longer wants to live in the house, so the time has come to think about selling up.
Today after only being back in Melbourne for one day I can’t tell you how sad this makes me feel. My life has been in that town for 7 weeks and through working there I have re-established a connection to the place and the people beyond my immediate family.
As a teenager I like many others couldn’t get out fast enough. When I did go back to visit I would usually stay within the bounds of the family home, not really connecting with the greater community. But as I got older I realised that even though I had lived away from Goulburn almost as long as I had lived there I still strongly identified as being from there and I was interested in exploring this. So, two years ago I decided to make a personal portrait documentary about my love hate relationship with the place.
This coincided with Mum’s diagnosis and last year I spent over half the year there, shooting footage for the film, taking care of mum before she died and then helping Dad pack things up after. During that time I reconnected with the theatre, which then led to me going back and working there this year. Through the act spending time there I find as my family connection to the town dwindles, I have a renewed personal investment and love of the place and the people.
Tonight I feel torn. But tomorrow I will wake up early walk up the road, take my photo of the apple tree, and begin again connecting with my life in Melbourne…
So the show is up and running and settling in, I am finally starting to enjoy it again myself. I have also got some time to do other things, which has been great. Yesterday Martin (one of the actors in the show) took me for an afternoon out on a little property Towrang way. I got to walk in the bush and try out my new camera. I was hoping to get some shots of trees for the blog. This wattle was the best of the bunch.
Here are some other shots from the day
and finally this old majestic oak in Belmore Park in the centre of town. It was planted by Lady Belmore to commemorate the opening of the railway to Goulburn on May 27th 1869 (140yrs ago) It is a rough manual stitching that gives you some sense of its beauty (I'd love to see what Alison would do with this!!)
These weeks just got swallowed up bu the show I am afraid and I am writing this too much after the fact. I had forgotten how all consuming theatre is and remembering why I wanted a break from it. The show opened and is going well so I now have some time on my hands to do and think about other things.
Regarding the tree, I will post one email exchange between Belinda which did occur during these weeks
24 August 2009 5:18 PM
I hate to concern you with your tree shoot at the moment (with opening night only days away) but I am having some issues with the night shots which only came to my attention on Sat. I was going through the shots I have taken and the last two night shoots (11/8 and 19/8) have not come out as good as the previous ones. I have attached a sample of the best shots from those night and a sample shot of the week prior (4/8) so that you can see the difference. When i look a the notes I have taken, I have noted that the flash has been playing up. I have a sneaking suspicion that the flash may be causing the problems. I did a test on Friday night where I took some test shots angling the flash in different locations on the tree but unfortunately it made no difference.
I have attached a few for you to see - unfortunately due to my lack of knowledge I really don't know how to manipulate the setting to get a better image. What are your thoughts?
The photos taken at the other times of the day look great. You were spot on in your notes about the date when 6pm becomes light. The last photo I have attached is an example from the last 6pm shoot
1. Image: 0807 (F=4 S=15") date: 4/8/2009
2. Image: 0833 (F=4 S=15") date: 11/8/2009
3. Image: 0863 (F=4 S=15") date: 19/8/2009
24 August 2009 5:24 PM
In terms of the flash - it was playing up by not giving full/bright flashes every-time the red light says it was ready. However, the photos I have attached which I have earmarked as being quite dark - the flash appeared to be working fine - I even tested it by flashing it directly into my eyes (do not do this) and saw pink spots for 1/2 an hour.
In spite of this, I feel that it still might be the flash producing such dark images.
24 August 2009 7:37 PM
thanks for the update on the tree images. Looking at the ones you have sent me - I am not too worried. I think you are right and it is the flash that is the problem. Having said that - the tree is still visible and even though they are not great, they will be fine for the project. I kind of like the idea that as you watch it you will see a section where the tree is darker and i will know this was when the flash wasn't working so well, it becomes part of the story of the year... I did laugh when you told me about testing the flash - i will remember never to do that.
Tonight I looked up at the full moon and thought of my street and my tree. I am missing being there, I love my little spot in Northcote and I love having a project so close to home. But coming home (my other home - the house I grew up in) from rehearsals late at night, I look up at the sky in Goulburn and think "God that is beautiful". Goulburn is high and dry and the brightness and clarity of the stars and moon are something you just don't see in the city. There is also a romance to a cold clear winters nights, coming home alone knowing you are about to enter the warm cosiness that makes me feel alive and happy about it.
But back to the project
I am going to post the email exchange between Belinda and I. She has been taking the photos for me while I am away. I am most grateful to her for this and it has been interesting handing the process over to someone else...
29 July 2009 at 11:52 AM
On Monday I completed my first shoot - everything went really well and the photos look great - I am focusing on lining up the tree as precisely as I can - I think the settings you have instructed me to follow are producing some dynamic photos. Nothing unusual to report - it all went very smoothly.
29 July 2009 11:12 PM
I am glad the first shoot went well and the technical side of it is working for you. I just hope the time commitment does not put too much pressure on you. I am missing my project - I have already missed a blog entry and feel so distant from it... I guess this is all part of it.
30 July 2009, at 11:37 AM
In terms of your photo project, feel assured that I am thoroughly enjoying taking the photo. I feel like I am understanding what this project means to you and it allows me to understand it more deeply. You have established a rich project in many ways. It actually giving me some confidence in handling a camera and maybe, just maybe I might start taking photos of things I find beautiful in the world (I have been thinking about this for a while now).
04 August 2009, at 6:39 PM
I have been looking back over the photos I have taken and although I am trying to accurately line up the photo as exactly as I can - when i look back at the photos one after the after there are slight differences between each time period. Am I not doing something (should I be trying to be more precise) or is this normal? Are you able to fix these slight variations in photoshop (can you line them up more accurately)?
04 August 2009, at 6:45 PM
yeah - there is a limit to how accurate you can be with lining it up because of how small the LCD viewfinder is. I can and do re-adjust every individual image in photoshop to line it up better so yeah the best you can do is great!
4 August 2009 6:48 PM
Phew - I did not know whether you could do that in photoshop - I will try to be more accurate.
This post is going up 2 weeks late. This is was my first week away. I thought about posting many times but in the whirlwind of leaving home for 7 weeks and starting rehearsals the day after I arrived I could not keep my thoughts on the project or the blog long enough for them to solidify into sentences. This I regret, I am now missing my tree and my blog very much but am finding it hard to stay connected with the feeling of the project from such a distance and with so much going on here. I will try and write something no matter how small each week I am away.
This week I am posting the manual that I have made for Belinda to use while I am away. I feel a little exposed doing this because I think it demonstrates my lack of experience with photography as well as showing the limitations of my equipment. But it also shows the process I use each week to collect the images and hopefully communicates this clearly to others...
"But what minutes! Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day." - Benjamin Disraeli
I feel like there should be some kind of celebration. I am half way through my 52 week stint of turning up every week to photograph the tree. Bells, whistles, streamers, some kind of uplifting monologue about how rewarding it all is… Instead I just feel buried under a to do list, preparations for the show in Goulburn and difficulties at my day job. But I don’t want to go on about all that – none of it is very interesting nor does it have anything to do with this project.
Perhaps instead the half way mark is time to come clean. I have been speaking a lot about how this process is about me, the commitment-phob committing to the task of turning up once a week to photograph the tree for a whole year. How then am I able to go away for 7 weeks to direct a show in NSW? Good question! The answer is I am lucky enough to have a supportive, curious and interested friend, who I also share a home with. Belinda has agreed to take the four photos each Thursday while I am away. So I get to have my cake and eat it to, thank you Belinda!!
This means that one of the items on this mountainous to do list are putting together a small manual describing all the photographic nuances and decisions I make each week to take these photos . This has been interesting. On one level it is a very simple and repetitive task, but the more I compile the information I need to communicate to Belinda the more I realise how much I have learned and how many decisions I make each week to do this project.
I am yet to broach the subject of the blog. I don't know what shape it will take in the time I am away – I don’t want to stop making entries each week, but I am not sure what form they should take and I feel they should have some input from Belinda. Saying this I do not want to add any more to her burden. More thinking and discussion needs to be done about this, I will keep you posted.
For now I can say I am already looking forward to getting back from Goulburn in week 35 and reconnecting with my tree and my project in person. But I haven't left yet and we will see each other before then.
"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." - Albert Einstein
A week has past since the 24-hour shoot and it already seems like a million years ago. My day job has taken me into a week of installation in the gallery, which is enjoyable but also demanding. This means the week has been filled with the concerns of the installation and with trying to catch up on lost sleep from last weekend.
Today I finally have some time to sit and reflect on the shoot. The thing that stands out the most is how much fun it was. I had lots of visitors that made the time pass quickly and sharing the day with so many people helped make it feel special. There is something about being with people where priority is given to a simple task and where this task limits you in particular ways (like we all have to be in this same spot for the allotted time) but has freedoms in other ways, (like all the has to happen is one person keeps an eye on the equipment and exposure and presses a button every 2 minutes) This combination allows for a way of being together that can be a lot of fun. There was much laughter and discussion covering a huge range of topics. There were also lots of conversations about the project, which was great for me and has given me lots of things to think about. The results of this will be sure to pop up in future blogs.
For check out pics along with short stories from the day here at the tree photo gallery
I was hoping for a totally leaf free tree for the winter shoot but last weekend the tree still had quite a few leaves on it’s north eastern side where it gets more sun. This surprised me, we were a few weeks passed the winter solstice and still the tree held a lot of its leaves. But then in the week since the shoot we have had some rainy and windy days and these have stripped those remaining leaves off. So for the sake of a week the tree looks very different and much more how I had hoped it would look for the shoot.
Whilst I am a little disappointed with this it also highlights an aspect of this project I enjoy. I have chosen a number of parameters and made a commitment to stick to those over the course of a year. As time goes on and I learn and discover things there are times where I would like to change certain aspects of what I am doing. If I was to make changes this would mean starting again from scratch, I am now nearly half way through, and my limited resources mean I cannot just redo the 24 hour shoot in a couple of weeks, so I have to stick with my initial decisions and see them through. This process of turning up every week and of having to sit in the same place for 24 hours; what this requires and the effects it produces are as much a part of the work as the finished product will be.
ok so I have been up for 35 hours whilst I am still functioning I am very tired and I now realise that my plans for 4 blog posts today was a tad ambitious.
Belinda is just heating up our pot of stew for dinner and we will eat that shortly and then begin to get ready to pack down. Only 3.5 hours to go so we are in the home straight! Everything has gone well and I can't wait to get the photos into Final cut to have a look.
Over the next couple of days I will post some of the more memorable events and photo's from the day - stay tuned.
So here we are Emma and I sitting in the marquee with our hot water bottles on our laps, under our blankets with our beanies and gloves on.
At 8:30pm Jac, Belinda, Emma, Connor Donal and I all arrived with car-loads of equipment and began setting up for the shoot. Then at 10pm we got started on time with the first picture. One minor equipment hiccup later and here we are 5 hours in. At about 1am Em very kindly let me have a quick kip under the sleeping bag. I lay there on the floor of the marquee in the middle of the street in the middle of winter, thinking what an utterly ridiculous thing to decide to do with your time. Then I quickly decided that is precisely what I like about it. It is not sensible but it is kind of fun, and a way of having a very different experience without the cost of an airfare.
Earlier we had a visitor who assumed we were protesters of some kind and thought this reason enough to have a go at us generally, specifically he took issue with the quality of the small flyer I made to hand out to people who wanted to know what was going on. Yeah, ok it is pretty basic but I am not sure it was bad enough to justify the passion with which he criticised it. We soon turned him round, my being able to guess his favourite tree in Melbourne did the trick, (the elm on the corner of Punt and Alexander) so he stopped by again on his way home after purchasing a kebab from Elysee and talked to us of the evils of the media and what a joke they make of free speech. His own speech was running freely.
We have lots of other visitors as well, a Possum came by and is in residence in the tree at the moment. I say he is visiting us but it is most likely the other way round, I am sure the tree is his regular nightly abode, I hope the light we have shining on it doesn’t disturb him too much.
We have just had a man offer to find us coffee, I wonder if he will have any success at this time of night... So that’s it for the early morning blog, talk to ya again in a couple of hours.
OMG! 3 days to go!! So it's a quick one this week.
This coming Friday is the start of the next 24 hour shoot. From Friday night until Saturday I will set up camp on the corner of
I have been busy making checklists and rosters, preparing equipment, hiring Marquees, enlisting the help of friends, buying hot-water bottles as well as gathering blankets and beanies to help keep us all warm for the long cold night.
On the day I am planning to do 4 blog entries from the site, including photos of the event, as well as comments and photos from people who stop by. During the autumn shoot I learned that the site the tree in on has been sold to developers, this means it could be torn down at any time. I am hoping that again we may learn other things about the tree’s history and future. Apple trees live for over a hundred years and given its size this one is pretty advanced.
So if you are gonna be in Northcote on Friday night or Saturday, drop by and say hi.
till then gotta run - heaps to do!
I am running late with the blog this week. I took my photos early then as the tree sat in its corner of the world with the sun and moon making their circles around it, I headed north to the town of my childhood and later to the city of my youth. So, today’s blog about the tree is actually about what happened while I was away from it.
I spent the weekend in Goulburn running a script development workshop. I stayed with my sister and her family; they are currently living in our family home. My nephew Charlie turned three on Sunday and while I missed the party it was fun to be around for the festivities. Charlie is my favourite human at the moment. He is smart, funny, articulate (for a 3 year old) enthusiastic and cheeky. His resistance to authority means we fight a bit (as his aunt I am one authority in his world), but it is quality in him I applaud. For me it is his enthusiasm that is the best of his traits; many times over the weekend you would hear him say “Oh wow that’s gwreat!” (I don’t think his dropped R will continue into maturity but I do have fondness and would miss it should it go) His favourite present was a Spiderman costume and my favourite moment was when he ran into the kitchen with it on presenting himself as Spiderman. Then just in case the presence of Spiderman was just too awesome for us to bear he removes his mask to say, “Don’t worry everybody, it’s all right, it’s only me”.
During the daytime I was off to the theatre for the script development workshop. I enjoy being in a room with a writer and a bunch of actors reading, laughing and picking apart the human condition. Over the 2 days we had a lot of fun and achieved a lot, the script is in good shape and we managed to squeeze in a photo shoot for the promotional image as well. This is my return to working at the Lieder Theatre (the place where I first nurtured my dream to be an actor) after more than ten years. There are people there who knew me at a time when I was in high school trying to be a sexy songstress for my HSC music exam. Oh the people we forget we once were…
Also, while in town I got to briefly catch up with old friends who like me have left Goulburn and are living their life in the wider world. These are people I have known since childhood; I remember them before they became the adults they are today, when we caught the school bus together, when we hung out at our Mothers’ shop and as we watched each other go through that beautiful and awkward bloom of youth.
Then yesterday on to Sydney for a day spent driving through the streets of my twenties with an old love (he is both getting older and from my past). After so many years of hurt there is a new hope. Finally we are finding a way to let go of the pain of the past, build a new trust and once again enjoy the company of each other. Friendship I think they call it – that being said, I still want to jump his bones every time I see him…
And then home again last night for a sleep in my own bed, there is nothing quite like it. Today I reflect on it all and prepare tomorrow to again take pictures of the apple tree. This weekend has left me with a realisation, something that has being gradually building over the last two years. For the first time I feel myself moving towards my future, not by running away from my past but by carrying it proudly inside me.
“Because the tree bloomed seasonally we felt its body like our own. A tree stood still and yet suffered change. A tree growing old grew down into itself. Trees could not heal wounds, only cover them up. Trees were magnificent survivors. Trees got used. Trees behaved erratically under stress. Trees strove to fulfil an ideal shape but were twisted out of it by pressures of existence.”
After months of slow barely noticeable change, winter has all of a sudden transformed the tree dramatically. This week its leaves have turned yellow and half of them have dropped off. By this time next week I predict it will be the winter skeleton of its self.
This makes me think about change yet again. Change is the nature of things, everything is changing all the time, but the way we experience change does not necessarily reflect that reality. Even though change is constantly occurring, we experience periods of relative stability interrupted by periods of intense change.
For months I have been watching the tree waiting for it to drop its leaves, hoping for the change that I thought would make my project interesting. Each week very little seemed to happen. In fact when I compare photographs from January to those from May there is barely any noticeable difference, now in the space of one week the tree has changed significantly.
I watch the tree head towards its winter shut down. In order to preserve energy it lets go of its leaves, stops photosynthesis and becomes somnolent in order to get through the looming months of cold.
Thinking about this I realise that I am and going through the opposite process. I am coming out of a kind of personal winter and into a spring. Last year was a period of loss, disillusionment and grief. My world became very small; I spent a lot of time alone or with old and trusted friends and family. There was much reflection, and taking stock and very little out put. In the last couple of months this has changed. Spending time with people is interesting and invigorating again, I have made new friends and re connected with old ones. I have started taking care in how I dress, and I am once again creatively and sexually active (the two seem to go together). I am enjoying being out in the world and receiving attention and basically having some fun again.
For me these periods of change are where life is most exciting and interesting, I think because it is where it is most intensely felt.
Change is when you are falling in love with someone you don’t really know yet, when all those little things about them are still adorable. It is starting a new job, when there is much to learn, much you want to contribute and you are not yet burdened by the politics and restrictions of the place. It is moving to a new city, when your eyes are opened and you see the details in the streets and notice the flavour of the people and everything around you.
But it also has another side, change is exciting but it is also exhausting. It is the anxiety of falling in love with someone, before you know if they are falling back. It is the not knowing if you are gonna be able to pull off this new job and the self consciousness of being watched and appraised. It is when you need to get your shoes repaired, or a filling in a tooth replaced and you don’t yet know a good repairer or dentist or any of the other hundreds of details that you once took for granted about your life.
I think about this in relation to what I wrote last week. While it is true I am getting older and craving something more stable, something that allows a deeper experience. I am also going through a period of intense change. I have no real responsibilities and in many ways am free in the world. Beyond the first week of September I have no idea what I will be doing. Except for one thing. I will be turning up on Thursdays to photograph this tree.
I have always noticed the trees in my world, I guess everyone does, they are a kind of landmark, a form of natural architecture that give shape to both the physical landscape and that of our mind and memory. They feature over and over again in mythology and literature as characters and metaphors.
I have been recently reading a book I found at my local Library called Tree Stories. It is a collection ofbeautiful photographs of trees with accompanying stories from people who lives the tree is a part of. It includes trees from schoolyards, urban parks, suburban gardens, farms and the wilderness.
There was one story that stuck out for me. It was about a kurrajong on a property in Central West New South Wales. The kurrajong is the tree of choice on this wheat and sheep property for three main reasons. 1. It is native to the area, so it flourishes. 2. It has a deep taproot, which allows you to plough close to it and 3. Its foliage makes a great supplementary fodder for sheep during drought periods.
When I was a child we spent a lot of time on my Uncle Tom’s farm, which was on the Southern tablelands of New South Wales. I loved hanging out with the men while they did the days work. I loved the lanolin smell of the wool, and the dry Eucalyptus smell of the land. I especially loved hearing the men swear when they would for a moment forget I was there. This was during the major drought of the 1980’s. I remember images on the nightly news of livestock stuck and dying in the mud of dried up damns. During that time Tom’s paddocks were covered in thistles that were taller than me.
I was staying on the farm during the summer school holidays when I was about eight or nine. One particular day I went out just Tom and I. He was going from paddock to paddock, using a ladder to climb up kurrajongs (they can be very tall trees) and lop off branches, so that the sheep could eat the leaves. I loved this idea that the leaves on the trees could be used to feed the stock when there was no grass in the paddock. I remember learning that the only tree you could use in this way was the kurrajong. We had two kurrajongs trees in our yard at home so I also felt very clever in my ability to recognise which trees they were. In the mid afternoon while Tom was up one of the kurrajongs with his chain saw, his ladder was knocked down by one of the falling branches. Stuck up the tree he called out to me, I put the ladder back up and he was able to get down.
It is a small story, all I did was take the ladder and put it back up against the tree, but when we returned to the farmhouse that evening, I was hailed a hero. If I hadn’t been with Tom he would have been stuck up that tree until he didn’t make it back at the expected time, then instead of sitting having dinner everyone would be out looking for him. That day I learned that the stakes for simple things are so much higher on the land. As a child there was a romance to the drama of this that I loved, because I was protected from its real consequences.
Trees have also been a trigger for memory in other ways this week. I spent the last weekend back in my hometown of Goulburn holding auditions for a play that I am directing there later in the year. This time last year I had moved back and was in Goulburn helping care for my Mother, this week marks a year since her death.
Autumn is a beautiful time of year in Goulburn and while I was there last year I would often go for a walk at dusk in the area surrounding the family home, which is on the edge of town. I have a series of photos from that time, many of them of trees. On the weekend one tree in particular with it’s striking colours, yellow through to rich red, took me back to my thoughts, feelings and activities of last year. Trees, particularly deciduous ones, are visual markers of time. Being there, caring for mum in the last days and weeks of her life, whilst it is not a happy period was a special one. This tree reminds me not only of that, but also of the year that has passed since.
The more I write the more I remember other personal stories connected to trees. I wonder what stories the apple tree by the train tracks in Northcote unlocks for people. I myself have slept under it, been kissed under it and pass it nearly every day. If any one reading this has any stories about that or any tree, that they would like to share, I would love to hear them.
After all the local attention received during the first 24 hour shoot I decided I wanted to create a web page that people could visit, to stay in touch with the project as it unfolds. I thought that a Blog would be a great way to do this and I plan to post each week either on or after the Thursday weekly photo shoot.