08 & 10 June 2023Hamburg Short Film Festival

This damp and amphibious track extrapolates from field recordings of an immense network of stuttering frogs, which we encountered on Yorta Yorta country in South-Eastern Australia. The frogs reacted to their presence and movement by altering the intensity and volume of their vocalizations, creating an organic techno. The singular texture of PROXIMITY is the result of this collaboration with wetland wildlife.

The frogs’ reaction to their sense of [in]security led us to draw parallels to how physical and emotional proximity affect human societal relations, a concept we explore in the slime-covered video for PROXIMITY. Released by the poetry journal Interim, this visual artwork lurches and staggers across bodies in motion to ask the question, “Does our Proximity Bind Us?”

The movement research for the PROXIMITY video began with the performative installation and praxis PROXIMATE MOVEMENTS, which was first researched during Isabelle Lewis’s immersive spaces exploration at Martin Gropius Bau, which was part of the “Welt Ohne Aussen” festival in 2018. It was later performed at Garbicz Festival Poland with Ambrita Sunshine, Adrienne Teicher, Mad Kate, Federica Dauri, Danilo Andrés, Bishop Black and Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau. The movement research around Proximate Movements later evolved into the group CLUSTERFUCK, whom HYENAZ directed and performed with for PEACHES stage show There’s Only One Peach with the Hole in the Middle.

This track was particularly rewarding in terms of the field recording process from which it began. One night we were camping on the Barmah Lakes in the lands of the Yorta Yorta nation in south-eastern Australia. We had been invited there by Yorta Yorta elder Professor Wayne Atkinson to go “on country” with a group of students, to learn the cosmology and history of his people and their contemporary struggle for sovereignty over lands that were taken by the settler-colonial nation state.

As twilight settled over the lakes we began to hear these strange clicks and pulses that sounded extraterrestrial, as if some force was mapping the space through sound. We took our recorder out into the marshy wetlands, to try and record this entity, but wherever we were, the sounds were escaping us, it was as if we had a negative force field pushing away whatever this thing was creating these strange sounds. After moving further and further along the banks, but getting no closer to the sound, we decided to stop moving altogether and just listen.

It was then that the sounds began to approach us, gradually coming closer and closer, more and more of these clicks and pulses until we were subsumed within them and we saw, at our feet a tiny, tiny frog pulsating in our torch light.

It’s tempting to think about art as a form of mastery but just as often, creating art is as much about giving up control. Through this experience we realised that sensitivity is at the heart of field recording. The frogs established a set of terms that made it possible for us to share space with them and they also taught us that rather than being in a perpetual state of doing, that sometimes the work is more about un-doing or doing nothing.

The frogs also got us thinking about nearness, safety, and community. How do safety and care shift in relation to physical proximity; how does the grievability, or the extent to which we value and grieve for other lives, change relative to how close we are to them (physically?). What other kinds of proximities exist besides physical ones and how can they be utilised to create networks of care? In the visual work for Proximity, we invited a team of dancers including Adrienne Teicher of HYENAZ alongside Bishop Black, Tereza Silon, Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau, Danilo Andrés and ROC to explore how closeness—physical proximity—shifts our emotional response to each other.

PROXIMITY is the first in a series of singles, mixed-reality performances and a/v installations entitled Foreign Bodies. The works surface from an ongoing practice of learning from the individuals and communities who move in resistance to, in spite of, and as a result of, the management and control of bodies by nation-states, corporations and other authoritarian actors.

Proximity was first published in Interim 35.2 – The Body Issue – April 2018 and was presented at the Hamburg Short Film Festival 2023

Music, Concept, Design, Styling and Editing: HYENAZ
Choreography: Mad Kate
Cinematography: Jo Pollux and Raja de Luna
Movers: Danilo Andrés, Tereza Silon, Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau, Bishop Black, ROC, Adrienne Teicher
Audio Mastering: Becki Whitton