Reflecting on Streams

One of the highlights of opening the Crossing Streams exhibition was learning a new word.

Ekphrasis is a Greek term for a literal description, particularly in poetry, of the narrative in visual art. So I’d guess that the responses to haiku describing scenes local to Narrandera, that were then interpreted with photography and music is a kind of inverted ekphrasis.

This was part of the writing workshop led by Dr Greg Pritchard, who had contributed to both Crossing Streams and the exhibition Slow Book Haiku that his collaborator Kelly Leonard had brought down from her home Mudgee after the works had been part of the Bring To Light Projects show in Dubbo.

I really appreciated Kelly’s interest in exhibiting in Narrandera at the Arts and Community Centre is a large venue with two rooms. There had been times when I doubted whether the exhibition I’d been asked by Western Riverina Arts to curate would manifest.

However, the exhibition slowly snowballed from unattended workshops, to around one and half dozen haiku, to over 70 tracks from musicians around the world that provided over five hours of music. For this I am grateful for the support of Marco from Naviar Records and also Marc from the blog, whose Junto joined the fifth poem as one of their weekly projects.

Five hours is an almost perfect amount of soundtrack as the that’s how long the exhibition is open each day until 29 October, ensuring most tracks will be heard daily. The music contributed can be heard in the gallery and also available for perusal on an iPad with headphones.

Another highlight of the opening was hearing Lizzie Walsh and Mary Sutcliffe performing composer Fiona Caldarevic’s 'The River's Edge,' a response to a haiku by Sue Killham. Fiona contributed musical responses to each of the five poems shared by Naviar Records and they were all of a high quality and distinct among the mostly electronic contributions.

The process of curating an exhibition was one that required me to rethink my approach. In my previous exhibitions the focus had been on my role as photographer. While I contributed photography, as well as video and haiku, the idea of being a curator seemed to be one that needed an outward and collaborative focus.

While we were installing, Kelly had mentioned that this would be the first time Greg saw their work. It seemed incredible but somehow made sense given Greg’s frequent transient roles travelling between arts communities and making connections.

In the artist talk Greg told how their project had begun with a handwritten note on handmade paper from Kelly that invited him to collaborate. It said a lot about her style. I’ve really appreciated her enthusiasm for this exhibition and am excited about the idea we have to collaborate again.

It has been fascinating to see how a short poem can be interpreted sonically and the variety of the contributions provides a rich experience in comparing and contrasting individual approaches.

I was also happy to see the variety of people attending and engaging with the exhibition. At one point I passed two women considering the meaning of the word ‘verdant’ and, after reaching for their phone to check, learned it means green. That they didn’t shrug and move on showed their interest.

Crossing Streams has been a rewarding experience for me and I am grateful to Western Riverina Arts for the opportunity, as well as the photo above. Before it concludes on 29 October there are workshops on Sundays from 1pm, with Peita Vincent discussing writing then Kelly introducing weaving techniques.