'MEDITATIONS ON WATER' for Proximity Festival 2015 @ AGWA
Meditations on Water' was one of 12 one-on-one performances for Proximity Festival. The participant was led with eyes closed down a hall carpeted with eucalyptus leaves, with sounds of night time swamp swirling around. I took them through a visualisation of the former wetlands and the walked through the draining of the nearby lake, the site upon which the Perth Train Station is now built. Using the scent of eucalyptus and tea tree, sounds of magpies and jiddi jiddi's, and the feel of paperbark, the participant was situated by the lake, watching history unfold.
Walking them into the small dark room, I invited them to open their eyes. Shadows of leaves line the walls and a glowing bowl of water awaits them on a small table. We sit and talk quietly about the disappearance of the lakes and wetlands. Finally I invite them to call the swamps back by filling the room with sounds of water. We pour water from a jug, blow bubbles, record tiny drops using a hydrophone until swirling sounds of water fill the room. The bell rings and I show them out, they leave for the next performance and I wait for the next participant.
This work is heavily aligned with the writings of eco-theorist and lecturer, Rod Giblett, who drew up a table outlining the imbalance between male and female energies present in the world today. A mountain is seen as sublime - it is pointing to the heavens, is strong and phallic like. Where as a swamp is seen as uncanny, it is an ecotone - a meeting of solid land and liquid water - and everything in-between. A soft part of the earth, extremely rich in life and active with biological processes. Yet it is not revered the same as a mountain. Giblett explains the mountain has been masculinised and the swamp feminised. In our current patriarchy society, you can see which one is disrespected. Under the male category of Giblett's table were the senses of sight and sound, and on the female side: less utilised senses taste, touch and smell. So it was important this work allowed participants to explore the work without the dictatorship of sight. It was also just as important for me, that the participant really got a chance to make something and be an active part of the work, not simply experience it passively. I was lucky enough to be mentored by Sensorium Theatre co-founder Frankie Italiano, he has worked with sensory theatre masters Teatros de los Sentidos. I don't often state this but this work is very much an eco-feminist work by nature and subject.
Nerida Dickson speaks eloquently about the work for Real Time Arts:
"Mei Saraswati’s Meditations on Water is grounded in the vanished geography of inner Perth, a chance to experience the history of the gallery site. A degree of trust is required as the artist takes me on a blind tour through bygone wetlands. Senses are heightened in the dark, leaves crunch underfoot, releasing eucalypt scent. Fingertips are taken on their own journey through bowls of fine sand and leaves. The feel of water droplets connects with Saraswati’s vivid descriptions and a soft soundtrack of nature’s movements. The sudden sensation of sunshine on eyelids as an external door is opened brings the large water feature by the side of the gallery to new life and cacophonous birds seem to perform myriad antics in the trees around the edge. Saraswati’s description continues, relentless, explaining how and why rich wetland life disappeared.
Then we go to another place, the former lakeside site by night, and on opening my eyes find vessels of water, gentle night sounds and cool native vegetation. Sitting on a stool, I work with Saraswati to create sound loops with the water. Splashing, dribbling and stirring to learn the song of the ripples creates a meditative recreation of a vanished place. Returning to the bright, dry gallery, a subtle palimpsest lingers of a mighty lake that once dominated this landscape."