On the day One River art director, Donna Jackson, was to arrive in Bourke to sign off on production plans for ‘Notes on a River’, a seven foot Mulga Snake (King Brown) was lying across the footpath of my house. I live in the bush so I expect to see snakes and, anywhere outside of the house yard, its a ‘live and let live’ arrangement – but this particular snake had been in the yard for months – and there had been several previous encounters including one epic battle. On this particular morning though, victory was mine – and with it the bittersweet feeling of winning and losing something at the same time.
Donna arrived and we worked through some of the technical aspects of my initial plan of launching hundreds of tiny paper boats into the river to signify the committing of peoples individual stories and lives to that of the greater basin. There had been months of different prototypes and models that I had been wrestling with, mostly unsuccessfully, and I was looking forward to her assistance. By the end of the day we had a new direction – ‘lanterns’ in place of ‘boats’ – and a dining room full of models of various calibre and composition.
We were heading down the right track, we knew that, however the low wind that had been lurking, picked up our story just as we were about to trial the models, and the results were less than exhilarating – highlighting some of the dangers and pitfalls of working in the open, with nature, in public, and trying to make something fragile and beautiful and significant. Hundreds of hours of work and commitment by many could be undone on the day by the will of the weather gods.
Un-phased, and with the bulk of the production plan signed off ‘in principle’ your intrepid artist worked over the next few days to make the models more robust and weather-proof. In addition, plans are underway to procure a quantity of River Red Gum for the final lanterns which will make a nice circle to the story. There was a day of designing, cutting, drilling, glueing and generally working with my tongue sticking out the side of my mouth, – and when the opportunity came to test them – the weather was fine – the testing grounds (the dam at the back of my house) was a sheet of glass, everything worked, and the resulting effect was truly beautiful.
I am excited by what it will evolve into. It might all be undone with rain, hail or sleet, but for now, the beast which has beset me has been defeated and I can operate in relative comfort for a while, hoping with everything I have, that it will all be right – on the day.