CETA Lab 2: meet the mentor (part two)

Part two of our interview with the creative technologist Annie McKinnon sees her talk about the CETA Ukerbarley project and her response to the Ukerbarley environment. If you haven't read part one yet – about art and technology and mentorship – you can find it here

On her first visit to Ukerbarley:
It was totally calming – I went in putting a lot of pressure on myself about the project and feeling anxiety around how we might look at a place as rich and vast as Ukerbarley. I was aware of the rare, vibrant and thriving ecologies within this larger landscape.

I was sitting in the backseat of the ute. Jill and Jeremy – the National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers – were driving us through and I was just sitting there and I just felt so calm. I was looking at this place and thought wow, it’s so beautiful. It was like a blanket sitting on top of you and I immediately felt calm. That was my first experience of Ukerbareley.

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On Ukerbarley:
It makes me feel amazed. I’m constantly in awe of the colours – wherever you drive or walk in that environment there’s something new to look at; it’s full of different textures. Growing up in Coonabarabran – my dad works for the National Parks – so I’ve been to the Warrumbungles hunderds of times and you see such beautiful ecologies and textures.

On the first Ukerbarley visit we saw an emu with six chicks running around and rare rock-tailed wallabies just hopping around and they had vibrant yellow tails. It just makes it feel very precious; there’s something really powerful about the place, like it has so much to give and there’s so much there to explore.

What stands out for me the most is just how welcoming the landscape feels – it feels like a massive mouth and you’re driving into it and the trees come around you like a big hug. You look up into them – one morning we stopped there and the birds were all singing and I’ve never heard that many birds at once singing. We got the recorder out and we caught all of that. There aren’t that many words for how that feels, being completely immersed in nature. I came straight from the city and you feel like you’ve been taken into another world but in another way you feel connected to who you are and what you’re doing; your role on the planet, specifically in this place.

It’s a very generous place. I feel when I’m at Ukerbarley that I have a huge responsibility – that landscape and that environment has been able to communicate that to me or awaken that in me. I have a responsibility to give back in some way or to listen and to understand what I can of this place. It does feel like it wants to give and that it’s very, very much alive – it feels quite magical and surreal.

On CETA:
What excites me about this project is that Paris is wanting to push boundaries and challenge ideas and I’m getting to feed these super-exciting ideas back and forth with her – being at Ukerbarley takes you out of the riff-raff of the everyday. I guess what excites me about it is how large the project can be but also how centred the project is and how we can actually make quite a big statement together, or I can be part of Paris’ process in making an artwork that can inform a connection to place and a practice of connecting to place that may not have been documented in such a way through art and community; engaging with interactive technologies: it’s the bringing together of all of those things that excites me the most.

We’re right in the middle of it right now and I’m full of thoughts and ideas around it and I’m just so excited to see what becomes of it and how it plays out in the future. I hope that it keeps growing – it’s an incredibly exciting time. 

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