Julieanne Eason’s audio-visual installation Between the dog and the wolf is a work of quiet intensity and lingering impact.
The work is presented within a set - a basic mock up of a room in a 50s New Zealand style house - and you “view” the work by taking a seat at one of the five stations within the room - either an armchair or a couch - and putting on a set of headphones. A 20 minute story is then played through the headphones as other lighting and visual elements occur at specific moments throughout.
Technically the work is very well executed. The actors deliver their lines with ease and conviction, especially the young actors. The story is well-written and has a sparseness and an underlying tension that keeps the listener/viewer engaged. The work was created using binaural sound recording, and was recorded and engineered cleanly and precisely which allows the recording to be completely unobtrusive on the listening experience. The binaural recording method creates the effect of being there without ever actually seeing the characters. This means that each of the five stations within the installation have a separate spatial representation of the story being played through the headphones. Eason has exploited this further by having different story elements present in each of the stations. My companion and I compared our experiences afterward and found that we had two completely different characters present at one point of the story. Aside from providing an excellent conversation point for pairs or groups viewing the work, it also creates great repeat visit value and I wish I had been able to return to listen to all of the different iterations of the story.
The work plays on what the participant perceives as real and unreal. On one hand, you know that you are in a created, artificial set. The space in which Eason has set up her installation is not a typical gallery space, rather a pop-up in a temporary or vacant space. This creates a stark contrast to the world created by the set, but we are still aware of the fact that this is not a ‘real’ house and the set is almost a sketch of the environment rather than a representation.
The characters themselves are heard but never seen and there is a ghostly or otherworldly quality that is created as a result. Within the story the characters themselves are not fully aware of what is real and what is not in their environment either, with much of the nature of the relationships between the characters, and their relationships with the space, being left unsaid or remaining open to interpretation.
The characters span different generations, and the few interactions that happen across the generations are tense and secretive in nature. Each of the groups has their own relationship with the house and these relationships are impacted, and in some cases threatened, by the existence of the other groups. This is an interesting commentary on how we view ownership of space and how we view the presence of others in that space.
The work is set at dusk, which is referenced in the title of the work. The dreamy, temporal quality of dusk is present in the uncertainty of the relationships between the characters, and the feeling of so much remaining unknown. While the story is quite prosaic in some respects, the element of mystery pervades the work to the extent that the story appears much greater than the sum of its parts. I found myself thinking about the work for a couple of days afterwards and wanting to know more.
- Naomi van den Broek. Reviewer / Arts Practitioner / Writer.
It made me wonder about how I may not be really hearing to my full capacity in my day to day life, as during this piece I became aware of the fact that I was really beginning to listen intensely to every sound and nuance in the conversation as carefully as if I were a detective.
It reminded me of being in New Zealand summer houses, of being a child and hiding, of discovering spaces and pretending they were mine for an afternoon.
I felt quite uncomfortable, like I was invisible and eavesdropping on an intimate conversation and would be found out any minute, but at the same time I really wanted to stay to hear more. The audio was incredible, fascinating. It sounded as if they really were in that same room. In this situation, being inside the sound, even the most simple sounds were captivating.
Slick work - the video projections and lights were the perfect touch in synchronising the audio with the space, adding a dash of the real, like the light had burned into the room's memory.
The characters seemed like ghosts. I became aware of the space as a space that holds memories, and the memories and situation seemed so familiar- being a child, a young student, and what I may be as an older adult.
Being so deeply inside a sound scape, inside a fabricated space, inside a black room, inside an office space - it is like floating in-between the pages of a book or being transported down a wormhole into a transitory world, a place where I am extra aware of the physical and mental space I contain within my own body.
There was a nice coincidence in that the narrative we were hearing was that slightly uncomfortable conversation people have when they meet each other for the first time, and we were ourselves the audience a group of strangers sharing this 'listening'. Naturally wanting to compare our experiences of the work, we took off our headphones and introduced ourselves to each other once the narrative had finished. When we discovered that we all had different experiences of this same work, we collectively began to wonder about how personal a memory is, that no two people will ever have the same memory of a shared event, which I guess is what the actual work is about.