EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE     |     2017

Festival: LUMA Southern Light Project, Queens Birthday Weekend, 2-5 June 2017
Digital Animation | 0:07:20:00, 25.00 fps, 1650 x 720
Media: Animated projection, black fabric screen, black plastic sheeting, water, sound
Site: Queenstown Park, Queenstown, New Zealand
Music: “Edge” ©2017 Mark K. Johnson

In EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE, projected letters of the alphabet cascade like a waterfall on a black screen held between two trees in the woods at the southern end of Queenstown Park. As the falling letters gain in intensity and momentum, they spell out selected lines from six poems by New Zealand writers, before disappearing into a shallow pool of water below. As the letters hit the water, they create a reflected cacophony of illumination. The work begins and ends with: “I live at the edge of the universe like everybody else”, from a poem by New Zealand poet laureate Bill Manhire. The first letter to fall is a capital N. As it slowly rotates it becomes Z, then N and Z once more, before fading away at the bottom. There were 35,000 visitors. To view the original animation and soundscape, see: https://vimeo.com/219185985

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 2.00.29 pmThe excerpts below taken from six New Zealand poems invite a larger story to unfold when placed together – a story about taking risks, learning from mistakes, making a difference, seeing the light within the darkness, and gaining wisdom over time.

I live at the edge
of the universe,
like everybody else.
(Bill Manhire: ‘Milky Way Bar’ in Milky Way Bar, Victoria University Press, 1991)

… there’s always an edge
here that one must walk which is sharp
and precarious, requiring vigilance.
(Patricia Grace: Cousins, Penguin Books, 1992)

It’s true you can’t live here by chance,
you have to do and be, not simply watch …
(Lauris Edmond: ‘The Active Voice’ in Scenes from a Small City, Daphne Brasell Associates Press, 1994)

Blue rain from a clear sky.
Our world a cube of sunlight –
but to the south
the violet admonition of thunder.
(Alistair Te Ariki Campbell: ‘Blue Rain’ in The Dark Lord of Savaiki: Collected Poems, Hazard Press, 2003)

Then with the coming of darkness the
bay opened up beneath us, like a shell splashed
with beads of light.
(Marilyn Duckworth: A Barbarous Tongue, Hutchinson, 1963)

And now, as I grow in years,
I feel at times like an old
violin played on by a master
hand. …
(Patrick Lawlor: Old Wellington Days, Whitcombe & Tombs, 1959)

I live at the edge
of the universe,
like everybody else.
(Bill Manhire: ‘Milky Way Bar’ in Milky Way Bar, Victoria University Press, 1991)

The soundscape by Mark K. Johnson for EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE has six movements representing the atmospheres evoked by the six poems. The music is derived from the structural characteristics of lines from these New Zealand poems. The number of syllables in a word, the location of stressed syllables, the length of phrases, and the word order determine the musical notes and their durations. The upward and downward direction of the melody alternates between adjacent words, while the voices represent the lines of the poems. In this way, the poems’ texts are transformed into the soundscape itself, as well as the visionscape.

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