School holidays bring children, squealing and shouting, to the fish tanks of Maroochydore’s Underwater World. Ignoring signs explaining how sensitive fish are to sound, boys bang hard on the windows. They demand some kind of performance. And in a room specially darkened for deep sea spiders, their parents’ cameras flash repeatedly. They flash to look longer at the length of the spider legs and to yell when they see them flinch.
Writer Bill Green has observed a lake beneath Antarctic ice. He describes his attempts to retrieve particles of vital interest to science. He dances like calligrapher Vikki Quill, who connects with the landscape through the fibers of her brush. No line exists, it seems, to separate either, from the natural world they observe.
I began to raise the pole. I felt the leg touch the bottom of the ice sheet. I could almost sense the texture of the ice, its smoothness, twelve feet below. It was as though the organic fibres of the bamboo were feeding into the circuitry of my own arm. It was as though my fingers were tracing along the underside of the sheet. (Bill Green, Particles. in The Antarctic – volume 2 in The Ends of the Earth: An Anthology of the Finest writing on the Arctic and Antarctic. Ed. Francis Spufford 2007 p. 205)
I am amazed how differently humans relate, or not, with the natural world.
Sharks, I was told at Underwater World, sense traces of fish who have passed by many hours before in the ocean. How they sense traces of these events is not understood. Some electrical sense was suggested.
In our own little ocean of human existence, through what sense do we trace events? In our moments engaging with others, are we each having different encounters? What sense is at play as you read this? What sense is at play as I write? What thoughts and feelings arise within, reflecting on how fish sense? How do I identify as part of the natural world?
Scientists say waves and particles both describe light transmission. They cannot say light is one thing or the other. Both models work for measuring: waves for knowing the speed of photons, particles for knowing their positions. Light particles and waves are theoretical constructs of things we can measure but cannot see or touch.
I reflect on the shark in his natural environment, as opposed to the tank where I saw him. I imagine his form as part of a pattern, in a world described by waves and particles, vibrating and overlapping.
Considering light as an energy that forms and transforms matter, I animate patterns of dots and lines, to trace energy through matter. The lines and dots represent transmission, some kind of signals, thoughts. This is imaginative speculation, not science, that resonates with coincidence.
Ideas of our selves as endangered species are floating around in our minds. Ideas float around the internet, and radio and TV. Do they float around in other ways too?
Bill Green describes the oceans as awash with myriad particles. I imagine the whole material world resonating, connecting.
Drawn down to the sea from rocky landscapes above are particles of earth, and of clays, of oxides of iron and manganese, of flakes and platelets of calcite. Cells of myriad organisms are sinking and changing. They are floating within an “earth-wide storm, that has in great measure removed metals from the sea,” (Green, 205). Changes wrought by humankind are diminishing the power of the sea to cleanse the toxins we pour into it. We are all of us now, whether humans or diatom, endangered species together.
Sense of scale is confounds in my mind as cellular patterns merge with patterns of earth seen from space. Changes in the tiniest organisms and in the largest continents are now visually tracked. Information about our world is instantly transmitted globally. Never before have we seen so much. But how little we know.
What knowledge do fish have of the changing sea, changes in sound and temperature? Changes in location and proliferation of life forms indicate change in their environments.
Within our human forms, like diatoms, I envisage internal circuitry: electrical currents vibrating, responding to changing environments.
Artist-animator Len Lye believed we each posses an Old Brain, a remnant from our early evolution. The Old Brain is a repository of ancient knowledge, accessible through symbols that emerge visually when doodling. On some primitive level, he believed, we can access pre-verbal knowledge when we are improvising. He explored improvisation in movement and sound, as well as with images. He composed music and animation.
Phil Dadson improvises with objects, images and sounds gathered in different environments. At the Sur Polar event in Buenos Aires last March he performed live, with sound and video material recorded in Antarctica. It’s textures and rhythms evoked a sense of a privative ‘voice’, resonating from the landscape. Improvising live to this prepared material, he set up a further dialogue, in a sense, with the ancient landscape’s voice, and himself in the moment of performing, playing with Antarctic rocks as percussion instruments. A recording of this moment, and a conversation, through drawings, with some local children about their life in Buenos Aires, provided material for an animated dialogue.
Responding through improvisation to Antarctica, some have found similar symbols: circles, coils, and radiating stars.
I have imagined the scientific models used to measure light as material co-existences of dots and lines. They can be read as the matrix through which consciousness flows between our connecting Old Brains, within Jung’s shared unconscious mind, or wondrous world wide web.