After death, earth takes back all parts of our physical selves, via entropic processes of decay and weathering. This aspect of existence is absent from the thoughts and sights of daily life. AURA NOX ANIMA invites us to observe earth’s cyclical nature, and find beauty in decay as we move to something completely foreign and new. In the articulation of extended stillness, deep silence and slowing down, AURA NOX ANIMA re-connects us with our own bodies and reawakens the awareness of our own visceral vulnerabilities and susceptivity to the natural order.
Directing | Cinematography | Editing: Lux Eterna
Performers: Angela French, Jessa Holman, Lauren Lloyd Williams, Kirsten Packham, Kathryn Puie
Sound: soundscape by Lux Eterna and 'Overlands' by Moby
Release date: 2016
Performers: Angela French, Jessa Holman, Lauren Lloyd Williams, Kirsten Packham, Kathryn Puie
Sound: soundscape by Lux Eterna and 'Overlands' by Moby
Release date: 2016
Artist Interview: LUX ETERNA
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LUX ETERNA details
IntervieW Transcript: LUX ETERNA
I'm always interested in how ideas pop to creative minds and what is that moment of the birth of a project. When did you start thinking about making this film and what were some of the initial thoughts that came to you?
Lux Eterna: This was a bit of a process leading up to it. It wasn't just an idea and an action follow suit. I was given the residency at Port Stephens and as a part of that residency I went and did a recce. So, I went to have a look around the location, explore the landscape, and that's where I found the sand dunes of Anna Bay. I spent a couple of days there just walking around, meditating, having my camera and just rolling. Being with the elements, just allowing the wind to move around and through me. I started collecting all the bird bones that I found and categorizing them and putting them into different collections. I was interested in the bones and the remnants of death. So, I started photographing them and making still photographs, which I put together for an exhibition proposal. But then I felt like I needed something to accompany these still images; I wasn't really happy with the still images just on their own. For me, the whole experience of being in those dunes… Well, it was an experience. And I wanted to bring that into the gallery. I was doing a lot of bodyweather dance training at the time. So, I think even just being out in the dunes in a meditative state was part of that bodyweather experience of just allowing my body to allow the elements to move me, to make me still to feel what it's like to go through life and death cycles, et cetera. So, I put an expression out there to my dancing friends who trained with me, and I asked them if they were keen to go out and have an experiment of dancing in the dunes. And that was where the first part of this, yet to be finished trilogy, of which AURA NOX ANIMA is the second part, came about. So, it wasn't until I'd made that first video that I realized that there was something there. There was actually something richer than my photographs.
AURA NOX ANIMA is the second video in the trilogy. The first one was exhibited in the gallery. And then you went back to film AURA NOX ANIMA?
Lux Eterna: Exactly. I had another solo exhibition a year and a half later. So, I put another production together and this time one more dancer came on board, which I was happy about. And surprisingly, both times we were really at the mercy of the weather and everything kind of happened as it needed to happen. And I think that's part of the bodyweather practice.
To just give yourself over to the elements.
Lux Eterna: To the elements, to the space, to…. yeah, whatever arises.
How many days were you there on the location shooting?
Lux Eterna: Just one.
Lux Eterna: Yeah. Yeah. I wish it could be more. That's something that I'm hoping to be able to plan better for and fund next time. Ideally I wanted to spend two to three days with the dancers - one day not doing any filming, just working with the body, working with the elements, with the space, with the environment and seeing what actually came out of that and debriefing, and then going back out on a second day or the third day and seeing where I could actually, where we could all take this. So, yeah, we were just at the mercy of logistics and the weather itself.
So the dancers weren't on the site before the actual day of shooting? This was their first interaction with the place?
Lux Eterna: Exactly.
And how did you prepare them to that?
Lux Eterna: I think because a lot of us trained together. So, we were dancing once a week and training at bodyweather where we do a lot of work with sensitivity, imagination, space. So, I was just trusting that that experience was going to drive it. And, remarkably, it did. Quite beautifully.
When you originally met with these five women that were a part of the film, what were some of the first words or images or descriptions or ideas that you’ve shared with them?
Lux Eterna: It's actually quite surprising because, you know, I think the work is so meditative and spacious. But the day that we went out, we had really inclement whether. It was ready to storm any second; big clouds came out of nowhere. Massive wind came. And it was a matter of just stealing our moments and getting out there and taking the shot and coming back and having a rest. It's so windy out there and I was quite away from them with my camera. So, I was actually yelling, even though I was giving them very gentle cues to just carry the wind that was blowing across the dunes, to carry that in their body. Images of decay as well. Of overland travel. Of seeking, of searching. You know, at the time, and it is quite reductive now, but it was that post-apocalyptic kind of feel of leaving everything behind and going into another world, which…. yeah, I know it's not ideal because, you know, our indigenous people are going through that every day. So, I guess that was just what I had to go through in order to understand it better. But yeah, it was just really working with the elements in the sand dunes. And it can be quite austere out there. But trying to find the beauty in that; the beauty in the death and decaying and the change and saying goodbye and moving to something completely foreign and new.
Decay and renewal are some of the themes that you generally explore in your practice. What is it about it that you are particularly interested in?
Lux Eterna: It's something I think about quite a lot. And I think maybe it's because of my life situation. My parents are very old for where I'm at with my age, so I've had to come to terms with their mortality quite early on in life. So that makes me think about death and the end, and the non-end, and what happens to these journeys. And then being out in the dunes and collecting the bones and becoming quite intimate with the cycles of life. For me, it just doesn't seem so dark. It seems quite beautiful, it's quite eerie. It just opened up all this space for existential contemplation that didn't have to be uncomfortable. So, I think I look to death in order to get closer to - Oh, it sounds like such a cliché - but, life more. I found the more I meditated on death, I started living my life with a different quality.
Is there a reason there are five women in the film? Does the number five signify anything?
Lux Eterna: No, it doesn't. I would have liked to have eight because that's my lucky number and it's a very matriarchal number. It was more, again, logistics. So, I just wanted to work with these five people at the time and I thought, yep, this works, this number's great. I wanted a bit of asymmetry because the first installation of the trilogy was quite symmetrical with four women. Ideally, I'd like to grow that chorus of bodies. I'd like to work with however many I can possibly get.
You practice butoh, and butoh works with images. And one of the things you have mentioned are bird bones. Were these the images that the performers and the dancers were trying to assimilate through their bodies in the way they moved?
Lux Eterna: I feel it's almost unconscious. I mean, when you train together quite a lot and you witness each other, it's something that you start picking up on subconsciously or through osmosis. I also have a love of birds, a personal adoration of birds. And in my own imaginative explorations, I probably have tapped into bird-like movements and elements. And out there in the dunes, it's really a birds’ territory. There's nothing else that comes through those dunes. Birds that fly overhead and possibly, you know, scavenge on the carcasses of previous fauna. So, yeah, I think there's a lot of mitigating factors and contributing elements to the bird-like elements. Also, in bodyweather and butoh, we do work with the image of a bird as well.
In relation to bodyweather and butoh, when we originally met and spoke about this project, you used the term ‘weathering’. Could you tell me what this signifies? What does weathering mean?
Lux Eterna: I think in its technical sense, it's just about what happens to us and any physical objects in the natural world. The entropy that occurs. Weathering to me is also the life journey. The weathering can inform marks, can inform movements, can inform a richness that gets deeper over time. But in the AURA NOX ANIMA, it was probably more connected to literally the weather and how it moves us. How it creates the impulse within us to move. Also, the bodyweather, as the name suggests, is about the weather of the body. Every day that you wake up, it is its own microclimate, it is its own microcosm that's really specific and you have to learn to become attuned to what the weather of your body is in any given moment, in any particular environment. It’s that sensitivity training.
Talking about sensitivity, one other thing that you explore in your practice is haptic visuality, the sensation of touching the screen with the skin of our eyes. So, experiencing through the body rather than eyes, having a tactile and visceral rather than purely visual relationship to the image. Tell me a bit about this interest of yours and how do you achieve it through your practice?
Lux Eterna: When I went to film school for a bit, I kind of struggled with a lot of the aesthetics and techniques and styles that they were teaching me. Things like hand-held camera really annoyed me because I felt quite disconnected from my body. I mean, for someone who's probably not so sensitive, that might be a really good way to feel the action. But for me, when there's a lot of action, I need to be in my body even more and I need to move into the peripheral in order to understand the context of what's going on. I can't just look at one detail and understand it. I need to step back and see everything that's happening in order to feel it and experience it.
I also felt from the discourse and dialogue that I had with other students and teachers at film school that there is too much of a focus on close up, tracking, zooming in, follow the action, follow the action. And I actually think it disconnected me from what was happening. And I feel that film does that. In a lot of the videos, it's about sitting back and checking out. It's not about experiencing really what's happening. And this also connects to my work as a commercial photographer. So, I did fashion photography for a bit. Working with young models I just really wanted to connect with them. I always got them to gaze directly towards me and they found that really unusual. I just wanted to create a more experiential, subjective and connected experience with the camera. And I mean, I have to go back to John Burger’s Ways of Seeing and the way he criticises the idea of women being looked at and men doing the looking. And so, for me, it was never about that. Film for me was this living, breathing organism. It was an experience that everyone needed to partake in – from performer, to camera-operator, to watcher.
When I researched haptic visuality, a while ago, in my studies, I always thought about it in relation to close-ups when the camera comes so close to the body and the screen that I, as a viewer, imagine myself as that body or as being in proximity to that body. And yet in your film you choose very wide, long shots and also still camera. How do you relate to this close-up versus long shot in terms of haptic physicality and anti-voyaristic gaze?
Lux Eterna: I think there is a place for both. I think it just depends on how the camera is employed, how it's put in proximity to the subject, the way in which it's held. I feel, you know, that it could possibly create that hapticity and that physical, visceral intimacy. Those shots could also be juxtaposed with something else, a bit wider angle. But I think it goes back to that point; for me to feel my peripheral vision has to be activated. When I'm just seeing one detail, I feel like it's almost a periscope and I'm looking through just that one tunnel at one very small bit. I mean, that could still work. In the physical world if that's all I could see, then my hands would be out there trying to feel my way around. But on the screen … I can't feel on the screen. So, for me, I guess I had to come back in order to feel.
You mentioned that the dancers who were a part of the film commented on the sense of comfort that they felt having a female cinematographer. Could you talk to me a bit more about their experience?
Lux Eterna: When people I work with say things like that to me, I take that as a very positive thing because I am trying to intentionally create an environment where the performers feel extremely relaxed. It needs to be a gentle space in order to create that resonance that I'm hoping for on screen. So, yeah… They said it was unlike anything else. And, I also think I was lucky because I had spaciousness; I had time. I wasn't working to a timeline or a particular budget. So, there was a bit more freedom for me to just see what comes up. Being gentle and mindful of everybody on set is really important because I want them to access that sacred place within them and bring that aspect to their work. I think that's where my work came out of - the dancers knew that I could dance; and I had that kinesthetic awareness of how to move camera with them to capture dance in the best possible way. I mean, it's still an experiment, but yeah, it's ongoing investigation, which I'm really enjoying.
Your own experience of dance, leads me to the question around ‘embodied mediation state’ by which I mean the way that your personal visceral experience, your embodied experience of dance informs the way you think of the projects that you will make, the way you envision them, the way you instruct and guide your performers and understand the process they go through. You spoke to that a bit, but how important is it to have that background?
Lux Eterna: For me, dance and movement and somatic experiences have been vital. I see them intrinsic to everything I do, including writing, including the 2D work that I do. If I haven't been moving or dancing, there's a massive block in me. It's almost as if I need to feel my way through something in order to understand it, to create it, to articulate it. I never really thought too deeply about it, but I knew that without moving, without dancing, there was a block somewhere and I couldn't do the work that I really wanted to do. It's also important for me to understand how to move if I'm filming people who move. And sometimes I think it's very subconscious. I don't intentionally think about it. It's only been recent that I'm starting to break it down and deconstruct it and go: ‘Okay; that's what it is; that's what I'm doing.’ Now, I understand a little bit more theoretically this embodiment and being with the camera. And that's been a journey into confidence with the camera and probably why I used more static images in the past. When I worked for example with Kathryn Puie, she had a very specific idea that I needed to dance with her, and really closely. Up until then, it was kind of mid-range, and it was about learning the dancer’s language so I could best support them. And then it became even closer with Kath Puie.
Talking about Kathryn Puie, she's one of your long-term collaborators. Why are these long-term collaborations important to you and what brings the two of you together, creatively?
Lux Eterna: What brought us together is… I just loved the way that she moved. I met her working as a facilitator for Marina Abramovic when she had her exhibition in Sydney. Kathryn was co-facilitating with me so we got to know each other. I just loved her poise, her grace, her grounded-ness. I mean, even the way she walked. Yeah, I fell in love with the way that she moves. It’s probably a lot of what I aspired to in my own movement – this extremely grounded and earthy movement. Yeah, there was this solidity to her movement, but still a poise and the grace that I really liked. As per the long-term aspects… I think this has actually just opened up for me in my life. I've realized that one of my main ingredients that I work with is time and I'm starting to understand the depth of long-term, the long durational. And by long durational, I'm not thinking as in 14 hours, but could be 14 years. I'm really interested in, you know, the years of blood, sweat and tears that might go into everything, from friendship to collaboration to artistic pursuits, and seeing what comes out.
Was there a particular thing that made you aware of this interest in time?
Lux Eterna: I feel it's like a personal experience. This year has been a lot about growing up and taking responsibility and accepting things as they are and major life lessons I've had to accept and bow down to. And in that personal experience, and I guess my spiritual meditations, I've realized that time is one of my major ingredients. You know, in my frustration, I would like: ‘This could have happened ten years ago. Why didn't it?’ And then I'm like: ‘Hang on, Lux. This is your journey. This is how you need to move through life and just accept it and see if you can find the gold in that vast expanse, on the way.’
So, it's time and patience. You seem to be referring to patience, in terms of entrusting yourself and not rushing. Is that part of that idea of duration, to let things happen in their own time?
Lux Eterna: Very true. Yeah. Yeah. It's also come up for me this year that I'm a bit of a control freak. So, you know, when I want things to happen, I make them happen. And yeah, I'm opening up to that. And also, I mean, what I'm advocating is about, you know, slowing down as an act of rebellion in this day and age. And I'm really not practicing what I preach. So, it's how you ride that wave with grace. You know, life isn't meant to be a race or a rush. And so, I've accepted also that my work, which is kind of meant to be slow paced and silent and still, should come from those durational places in my life and acceptance of those places.
At the same time as you are interested in meditation, body, visceral, time, slowing down, you are also fascinated with post-human and technology. And this blows my mind because I see them as the opposing things, and I would dare to say that most people would. And yet you see them as a pair that could co-exist and you also see technology as something that could assist us in learning how to slow down. Tell me about that…
Lux Eterna: I feel that a lot of these ancient embodied practices, such as meditation, somatics, awareness of breath, are technologies. You know, our bodies, our anatomy are technologies that we really are not, in my opinion, going deep into in terms of our understanding and awareness of it and what its capacity is. I'm always curious about post and trans human futures and why we're authoring these futures from just a technological input. They think the pinnacle of AI is when the AI has consciousness. And I'm thinking, well, that's fantastic but who's inputting consciousness into humans? You know, we're building all this stuff, but we're not developing ourselves. And I feel that this is where we are becoming subordinate to technology. And it is becoming more powerful than us because we're letting it. You know, I really feel that technology is wonderful. We have the scientific technology, but we also have the technology in our body and the technology from ancient worlds and they really should come together to co-author our future, not one or the other. I feel that we can use technology to actually help us become more aware humans, more conscious humans. I'll quote another artist who I love. His name is George Coote who works with biofeedback and coding and creating devices that help register signals from the body to help you understand and develop an awareness of what's actually going on, on a very acute and sensitive level within your body. So, I used his app with a heart monitor and you can start to control the shapes and sounds on the screen with just your breathing awareness. And so, I found that this was exactly how I felt technology is meant to be used; in order to help us become that superior AI that we are trying to design.
Do you then think that in the development phase of technology, this development should be done by particular kinds of human consciousness?
Lux Eterna: I would like to see more people come to the table to co-author these post and trans-human futures. I think right now it's very heavily leaning towards the scientific, the computer, the technological world as opposed to ethically drawing in wisdom from the humanities - linguists, meditators, artists, dancers, sociologists. And from indigenous tribes as well, because they're so connected to the natural world. There's much richness and wisdom that really need to inform how we move into the future. Otherwise, it's just the same construct that we have now with more technology and gadgets. So, that's what I'm hoping to do with this work – I’m hoping to challenge that script.
One of your dreams is to make a sci fi dance film that would be fully performed by robots. Where does the body come in there?
Lux Eterna: Well, yeah, I've been a bit brash when I say it's a science fiction dance film…. When I hear it, it sounds ridiculous! I don't expect it to make sense at this stage. I'm still trying to make sense of it. But I've been a science fiction fan for a long time and not in a typical science fiction way. You know, I do like some, but I've also appreciated subversions of the science fiction genre. So, I think this film will be one of one of those types of films. And it's trying to tap into and access the wisdom, the knowledge, the bodies of knowledge, the bodies of ancient knowledge that are carried down through many histories, many worlds, many lifetimes. Which I don't know if there are aliens involved that might help us connect with them or not connect with them or, you know, unlock deeper mysteries of what it means to be human, to be alive, … the universe, cosmos. These are all ideas waiting to be written and edited and cut down and thrown away and rehashed. So that's the journey. But for me, I think the basic tenet is the body. There's much wisdom, there's much magic in the body, and I know we're all very different and some people move through life very cognitively or auditory or… But for me, I mean, I was a very imaginative child and coming into embodiment has also been part of my life journey. And I've been able to shift so much through the body, I've been able to heal so much through the body.
Speaking about imagination, another thing that we teased in our previous conversations is this idea that we have moved into the era of images but away from imagination. You said something interesting in relation to that. You said: “I see imagination as type of technology.”
Lux Eterna: That does also connect to butoh. Butoh uses imagination and sensitivity as a type of, well I would say as a type of technology. The reason I brought that up about imagination, and I probably referenced an academic called Brett Evans who said that right now we're living in the age of the image. And I agree, we are saturated by images on social media and Internet; everything has this kind of visual currency, visual literacy and the images all look the same and are quite dire. You know, we're not learning to actually generate images from within ourselves, from within those deep, I guess, subconscious impulses. We're not able to imagine new worlds, new stories. And he talks about that as being really vital to getting us out of this, for instance, eco anxiety and everything. At the moment, we're just focusing on everything that's going wrong. It's a bit on repeat. And he says we really need to just block out the images and go in to activate imagination and imagined futures and start dreaming again.
At the same time, as a filmmaker and visual artist, you obviously work with images. But this brings me back to that idea of haptic image, which is an image that is bringing us back in touch with our bodies. And you brought to my attention a beautiful essay called The Eyes of the Skin, written by Johani Pallasma. And here, he looks at architecture and the idea of touching the spaces through the skin of our eyes and also creating spaces that are attuned to our bodies, to our visceral experiences. And he writes something beautiful; he says: “The touch is the mother of the senses. The skin is the oldest and the most sensitive of our organs. Our first medium of communication. The touch is the parent of our eyes, ears, nose and mouth.” I just love this sentence. Has there been a single sentence in your life that has shifted you profoundly?
Lux Eterna: There have been many sentences - different ones for different times in my life. But the one that's been hanging out with me for a while, is from a Daoist philosophy, I think, and it says: “If you want to become full, let yourself be empty. If you want to be reborn, let yourself die.” For me, that's all about the cycles of life and not only the cycles from birth to death, but also the cycle of life from night to day. Just kind of clearing the channels regularly so you can be a vessel.
How do you make yourself feel empty at the end of the day or beginning of the day?
Lux Eterna: I think it's easier at the beginning of the day, waking up and staying calm and clear. I think my cat is my huge teacher there. Just waking up and the ritual of washing your face, brushing teeth, physical cultivation, making a tea, and then sitting down to quietly drink that tea with my cat. Sometimes I like to journal, sometimes no. Sometimes it's just staring out the window as I watch the birds and the plants move through the wind. So that's probably a really foundational way to help make sure that my day is clear.
And then you said that dance is also important. That dance helps you write.
Lux Eterna: Yeah. I think on a physical level, it just shifts some energy. You know, writing is very theoretical. It can be quite heady. And you start getting stuck in the ideas and you go on tangents, and there's just so much with the ideas. It's like, oh ok, how do I carve these into something really simple and clear? So, dance is a way of offloading all that extra nervous energy that comes with writing for me. I wish writing was as spacious as making a film, but it's not. It's almost like spinning five plates; you have multiple threads that you have to look after at any given time. So, dancing just kind of brings me back to the body, offloads the extra nervous energy and I can come back. It's almost like coming back to a clean slate and picking up the exact idea that I need to focus on.
When you are developing a project do you hold a diary? Do you buy a new notepad for each new project?
Lux Eterna: You know, I have thought about doing that because I heard a podcast about Beethoven, and he had a box for every piece of work. And he kept all the ideas in compartmentalized boxes. So even if he didn't finish it, when he come back, he would just open up this box and everything was there for him. But, I just keep a diary regularly and that traverses any project. So, it's more like a chronological diary that I keep.
Do you go back to reading what you wrote?
Lux Eterna: Yeah. I've actually brought them with me today - two of the diaries that I write into. I write ideas, I write quotes, I write inspirations from teachers or workshops that I've attended and been to. Sometimes I write lists of things I want to do or activate over the next couple of years.
And how often do you go back and read the whole thing?
Lux Eterna: Depends. You know, some periods you're really busy and you don't have time. But sometimes when I get a break, that's when I do start pulling them out and going through. I know there’s something I wrote in here that I need to reread again. It might be the genesis to another art idea or there could be an art idea that I had three years ago that seemed to me ineffectual then and it might make more sense to me now.
We started this conversation with how ideas come to you. How do they commonly come to you? Are there particular spaces that you get more inspired in? Or moments in a year or a day, or your life when they are more likely to appear?
Lux Eterna: It's definitely when I'm out in nature. I make time to be out in the natural world and resonate with it. So, I start meditating a lot more. I'm less goal oriented. I take time to just sit on the land and try to feel what comes to me. So that's a lot of where I get my inspiration. Other ideas that I get come… Once a year or twice a year, I like to do some kind of psychotherapy where I do a workshop or something that peels the layers of conditioning, whether those are socio-cultural, familial, political, whatever. And every time I do a workshop like this, the things start to happen again. I get some new ideas. Also, when I'm sick. You know, you are kind of under a house arrest and in that deafly darkness of nothingness something gets reborn. I have a friend who calls it the “fertile void”. So, yeah, those are probably the three places. And of course, the dance, dance workshops too. Those are the four things that are the strongest impetus for my work and ideas.
And when in this process do you start feeling that it's safe to share an idea with someone else; to give it to the world?
Lux Eterna: I think that with AURA NOX ANIMA, for instance, it was ready. I had an exhibition ready for it and the collaborators were on board. And everything just seemed to flow. I didn't really have to push for that one to happen. I think that up until about January this year, I had a lot of… I wouldn’t say shame but I was embarrassed about saying that I wanted to make a science fiction dance film. But then I thought, if I don't say it, it's never going to happen. So, I think for me, part of voicing that and articulating that has helped put the foundations to commit to this journey. Because it's gonna be a long one. Yeah. So, I think sometimes it's about just kind of going with what is there, flowing with what's in front of you and other times, you know, if you do have a really…. Well, I think it is a far-out idea. I just actually had to have the conviction and belief in it and project it out there and see what support I can get.
I’m also asking because ideas are such a precious, fragile things. And there is only a certain time when they're ready to be given to other people, entrusted. And that brings me back to this collaborators and people like Kathryn Puie who is someone you obviously feel like you can entrust your ideas to, and somebody whose opinion you value and who is on the same ‘idea path’ as you.
Lux Eterna: Most definitely. Kathryn Puie and I, we have a very, very similar aesthetic and we're both grateful that we've connected. A lot of our aesthetic and our ideas is very primal and very unspoken. We understand each other without having to say a lot. And that's very exciting for me. Yeah, there's a huge safety with her. But I also feel that sometimes taking a risk and putting the ideas out there means dialogue; dialogue that can help shape it and dialogue that can help you articulate the ideas better. Because, you know, saying something as abstract as a science dance film, people ae thinking ‘What?’ And I am thinking ‘What?’ Like, what is going to happen? So possibly by sharing it, even though I'm not ready to, it might provoke a series of questions that will help me craft what I need to do and how I need to do it. So, I guess with age, I'm learning not to be so precious about them. Not to take anything really personally and just know that it's a process. And I'm merely a conduit. I'm merely a channel for this work. That's how I feel. It's not my work. It's a work. And I'm just a vehicle to help it materialize.
If there was a single question about AURA NOX ANIMA you would like to be asked, what would it be?
Lux Eterna: The editing process. How that all comes together. Because it feels like a lot happens out in the space, in the environment with the dance. And then, again, it's another world editing. So, I mean, I was able to sit down for close to 16 hours every day for a few days and that wasn't a challenge. It felt it was something quite magical about working on this and creating this story and sewing it together, stitching it. You know, I couldn't understand why I could sit at the computer for that long and just edit until I had what I was happy with.
How do you explain it to yourself now? What was going on? Why was it so easy?
Lux Eterna: It wasn't easy. It was just easy to be there with it. I was in that place of flow probably. You know, being at a computer for me is really difficult. I'm trying to be off the computer as much as I can. But the editing of AURA NOX ANIMA was a very meditative experience. It felt very magical, and I could have just kept working on this one. I could have kept playing with it and creating different versions. And… it's another world without my dancers, but with my dancers, without them in the physical world but I still have them. And it's actually kind of disturbing sometimes because I can do anything I want here.
That's that connection between humanity and technology.
Lux Eterna: Yeah. Exactly. And I have spoken to Kath, who talked about how for many years she felt like just a body. You know, people would ask her to come and dance, come and perform, come and be filmed, come and be photographed. And she had no authorship over these images. There was a world of images of her floating out there that she had no control over. And that kind of got me thinking what does it mean to be an author or a film editor. You know, do I own these bodies? Do I have to be conscious to pay respect to how I portray them and how I honor what we did out in the dunes that day. But again, so many things can change. You know, just the order, the sequence shift can change the whole story. The way the transitions are done can change the whole story.
Would you say that there is a narrative to AURA NOX ANIMA?
Lux Eterna: Definitely. Yeah. I'd like to make it feel that there isn't, but I feel that there is. And it might not make sense, but it feels like when I edit it, there's a narrative that's going on in my head. Definitely.
Would you like to share it?
Lux Eterna: This one feels very much about journeys. I think at the time, in 2016, I've been to Morocco as a desert obsessed. And I've listened to a podcast at the time where they referenced a book called In the Dust of this Planet. And I thought: ‘Oh, this is up my alley.’ I found the book and I was very non-fussed by it at all. But there was this idea of moving out into the desert and becoming a mystic. I really loved this idea because I was becoming quite disillusioned with life in the metropolis, the cities and the way we were constructing our futures. So, I feel that this work is connected to that dream about being a mystic out in the desert and learning pathways back to the body, back to space, back to life cycles and death cycles. I also feel chorus work is very powerful. When one body is out there, it’s something but when many bodies are out there it’s something that I can't quite put my finger on, I can't quite articulate it.
Talking about chorus, another project you have mentioned you would like to do is a film with a large chorus of women. What is it gonna be? How are you envisioning it?
Lux Eterna: I think it will be the third part of the trilogy in the dunes. I'd like to finish this one in the dunes. Yeah, it'd be great to get as many bodies as I can. I'm interested in synchronized movement. I feel when I watch western dance now, we've lost a lot of that. I mean, there's benefits, you know, and beauty in each. But there's that Chinese dance theatre company called Tao Theatre Company and they have a synchronicity that's just mind blowing. This also takes time to get and that's why I envisaged having three days out there in the dunes to build that resonance, to build that frequency where everyone drops into this collective harmony. I think it's really important to have this and we're not really working enough on that. In my own performance history and training, I've had times like that. I've even had it through sports where everyone just drops into this moment and movement of perfect synchronization. And it's really unconscious. It feels like something bigger than us. And that's only achievable with many other people. And I think there's also a power of a chorus of female bodies coming together. So, I guess it comes from my own feminist inclinations to bring this kind of, this mother matriarch chorus of bodies that kind of make up one bigger body and see what comes out of that.
And within the mother nature.
Lux Eterna: True. Yeah, definitely.
Talking about harmony and synchronicity. What role does beauty play in your work? And I'm asking this question because beauty has become such a contested idea, and lots of artists shy away from beauty.
Lux Eterna: I'm glad you asked this question. I struggled with this even at university seeing everyone trying to develop conceptual strengths and that was it. It meant compromising aesthetics and I really love beautiful things. Here I go. I'm saying this publicly now. But, you know, art for me as a child, as a teenager, as a young 20-something was a transcendental experience. It's what I went to see to take me away from my mundane life. I'm not saying that the mundane doesn't have a place. It does. There's beauty, there's miracles, there's all sorts of wonder and gold there. But it's boring. You know. So, art for me was my spirituality. It was my religion. And so, when I go to an art space or an event, I don't want to see a picture of a corner of a room with a light switch. This does absolutely nothing for me. I feel like I'm having my time wasted. I could just be sitting at home. We really don't need to comment on things. I think artists have a duty not to just comment on what's going on, not to just point out. As artists don't we have a responsibility and duty to help shift, to co-author our futures, to try and activate something, somewhere that might cause us to grow in a better way. And beauty for me has been part of those transcendental experiences. I don't think all art needs to be beautiful. There's been some that aren't and they're still equally as moving. But I think it's a specific and deliberate choice for what it is that's been made or presented.
But something that's moving is by itself beautiful.
Lux Eterna: Exactly.
Because I'm always questioning how do we define beauty? Ideas can be beautiful.
Lux Eterna: Totally.
Beauty doesn't even have to have a physical form. Interactions with people can be beautiful. ‘Moving’ I think is a good description of beautiful, i.e. something that affects you.
Lux Eterna: So true. It's affectation. It's being moved inside, being moved to a deeper place within yourself, being moved to feel connected, understood, expansive, expanded. Yeah. These are all kind of non-tangible experiences or things that can't be articulated easily.
And then on another had some physical things could be aesthetically pleasing and beautiful, but you feel completely detached from them and maybe even exercising that voyeuristic gaze.
Lux Eterna: Yeah, they do. They can feel quite empty and vacuous. It’s a good question. But I still am quite sensitive to aesthetics. I think even when you look at botoh and Japanese aesthetics, the Japanese always have a sense of refined aesthetic. And even when they're not trying, it's just there. So, I do appreciate that. I think you can work quite simply. There's a beauty and simplicity and minimalism. The thing that I back up against is when they purposely try to make it ugly or just mundane or, you know, brutal. It just doesn't vibe with my being.
In connection to Japanese aesthetic, it's making me think back to your interest in slowing down. There is something to slowing down in the process of making things in order to become that vessel that creates something beautiful.
Lux Eterna: Or possibly just even aware of where that beauty is in the moment. And when I was walking around Tokyo and got to the lights, as a Westerner, I would press the button and be like: “Come on, let's go!” But I noticed all the Japanese people around me would just come to a halt. They would walk and stop and just wait for the light to change. Almost like taking that moment in, rather than searching and looking to move on. Yes, we are all busy, we have busy lives, but here I am for 45 seconds. Just drop into that.
Where are you at in your art practice at the moment? Are you at that traffic light, stopping and having a bit of a halt?
Lux Eterna: I am having a bit of a halt, yeah. But something is starting to boil again. And that halt has also been because of other life reasons; personal stuff that's come up and it has slowed me down. But I am grateful for that as well because you know, as my friend Alex calls it, it’s “the fertile void” and new ideas are coming out of there.
I listened to a podcast where Rosanne Cash was asked if she always writes songs. And she replied: ‘I don’t write all the time, but I'm always a writer.’
Lux Eterna: Mm, yeah. You're always being the artist or being the non-doer and the doer. Yeah. At any given time. But you're not necessarily activating or creating a piece or working to a deadline. Yeah, it’s very true.
You're still creating it. It’s in your womb. It's growing.
Lux Eterna: Incubating.
Yes, incubating. That's exactly it. And it's actually almost the most important part of the whole cycle. Seems like a time of non-action, but it's actually a time of growth.
Lux Eterna: Absolutely. Yeah.
Another friend of mine who is a writer and whom I asked whether she's creating something at the moment, replied: “No, I'm growing.”
Lux Eterna: Yeah. But, it was quite a struggle for a long time because you'd finish your project and then there’s nothing. You pass out for like two, three, four weeks and you're like, what's next? What am I gonna do? And, you know, you go through this massive production or work burnout and you felt like you lost identity when you are not producing or creating. So, my friend Alex, who did say it's “the fertile void” - he's a psychotherapist and I have much to be grateful for because this specific conversation with him hat created a new life lesson for me. He said that it is a” fertile void” when you just give in to that emptiness, that darkness, the nothingness. The next you know, the genesis for the next idea will emerge and it will emerge quite gracefully. It doesn't have to be like this ‘aha moment’ or a savage pop out into the world. It can be quite gentle and gradual too. Subtle.
"You know, we're not learning to actually generate images from within ourselves, from within those deep, subconscious impulses. We're not able to imagine new worlds, new stories. "