I acknowledge and pay respect to custodians – past present and emerging – on Dharawal land where I live and conduct this creative practice. I extend this respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Sovereignty never ceded.

Bianca Hester


Bianca Hester is an artist, writer and educator engaged in place-based practice through artistic research. Her work investigates entanglements between colonial inheritance, extraction, environmental crisis, evolution and extinction evident within locations across the Australian continent. Employing relational feminist methodologies, she combines experimental fieldwork, engaging the geologic record (in archives and in situ), embodied site-writing, sculptural production, collaboration and performed actions to develop projects that unpack the material conditions of specific places, resulting in an expansive form of public art unfolding in dialogue with a range of interlocutors and participants.

Solar Objects The Cinema's Project

All photos by Sam Nightingale

This film was developed for ‘The Cinemas Project’ in July 2014 and curated by Bridget Crone. The video was presented through the Warrnambool Regional Gallery (WAG) and the RMIT Design hub.

  • Cinematography: James Wright and Polly Stanton
  • Sound: Polly Stanton
  • Editing: Polly Stanton and Bianca Hester

Conversation between Bridget Crone and Bianca Hester, 2014. Originally published in Hester B; Crone B, 2014, ‘Primordial Projection and Cinematic Site: A Conversation’, in Crone B (ed.), The Cinemas Project, National Exhibitions Touring Support (NETS) Victoria c/o The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, pp. 61–69.

Bridget Crone
I would like to begin by asking you a bit about the processes that you work with in sonic objects, solar objects: variously. Could you describe them and tell us how you arrived at these processes in your work?
Bianca Hester
The project is divided into two distinct processes that are based upon different sets of performance objects. Both sets of objects have been developed from experiments over a number of years within the larger framework of my practice. The objects and the process explored in this project are intertwined. In some sense the objects precede the processes and develop from long-ranging experiments with their particular ‘affordances’ or ‘capacities’, which are then explored and discovered within a range of performative contexts.

The sonic objects mark an accumulation of a number of actions that were sparked in 2010, during a project presented at ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) titled Please leave these windows open to enable the fans to draw in cool air during the early hours of the morning. Multiple ‘sculptural’ objects was fabricated specifically for this project. Some of these objects had actions already assigned to them, while others were made on a hunch and added into the mix in order to open up possibilities for action that was undetermined (or unspecified). A blue hoop comprised one of these forms. This hoop was initially presented as a ‘mute’ object positioned atop a stack of cinderblocks. A few weeks into the exhibition, I invited a collaborator to push this hoop back and forth along one of the white walls. This left a trail of blu-ish inscriptions tracking the process.

These residues became a kind of ‘score’ for further action that was subsequently elaborated by the work’s viewing publics. One day a man dislodged this ring from its place of presentation, rolling it along the floor. As it was released, the ring traced a wobbly trajectory through the space, before crashing to the ground in a mesmerizing motion. I did not witness this directly but saw video footage of it taken from one of the cameras installed within the project, and one the invigilators, who witnessed it occur, re-staged the event for me. I came back to the space a number of times to test out animating this hoop with Hanna (the invigilator who had initially witnessed the action), and also employed it as a part of a sound performance that had been scheduled, in response to and within the work.

Witnessing the potential of the hoop, I had a set of 13 of these hoops fabricated, and I tested them out in a number of sites such as rooftop carparks, a ballroom, a laneway, a stage and now for The Cinemas Project in a range of ex-cinema sites. So, this current project was germinated from an occurrence that became recorded in video and re-enacted through narrative – a gift that sparked four years of work. This is important for me to discuss here, because it demonstrates the importance of processes that emerged at the periphery of what you think you are doing. Consequently it has becomes more interesting for me to chase the tangents that arise unexpectedly because they present the opportunity to explore possibilities unforeseeable in advance rather than working from a determined position. This experience, of witnessing the potential of the hoop being unleashed, taught me the importance of responding and improvising with actions and processes that emerge.

The simple pragmatics of testing these hoops out in different sites alerted me to the sonic differences generated by each new context. This has everything to do with the materiality of the ground, which affects not just the sonic signature of the objects as they are spun but also the quality of the hoop’s movements across those grounds. It is amazing to witness how a simple process generates a vast field of nuances in terms of sound, movement, and sensation. So I attach the notion of ‘sonic’ to these rings because the sonic is located at the foreground of their potential as objects. When handled appropriately to this sonic/acoustic/haptic potential, these rings unleash an incredibly boisterous sound that dominates and consequently intervenes into whatever contexts they engage.

The solar objects, on the other hand, are a newer set of objects. The first iteration of these developed in early 2013, when I was seeking to develop another set of performance objects after the hoops. The hoops interested me as a set of sculptural objects lodged within the midst of a set of processes. I started to understand them a possessing multiple capacities, and functioning as abstract instruments. I wanted to push this further and make more objects that could be then taken up performatively, or in the context of an action. Also, the metallic material of these steel hoops is what grants them their sonic potential, and so I decided to continue working with metal, but to make the shift to bronze.

The solar objects emerged from an attempt to make another set of sonic objects. However I was really unsatisfied with the sounds they produced. This is primarily because they required (in percussion terms) too much ‘attack’ and didn’t sustain enough of a ‘delay’. What I enjoy so much about the hoops is that they require very little human intervention (very little ‘attack’) and a simple gesture can set them off on their own trajectory as they move by virtue their on weight and momentum. They therefore have a long delay in relationship to the attack that animates them, meaning that once they are set into motion, the human body must exit the scene in order to allow them to carry out the full entropic process of spinning from an upright state to a flattened form crashed upon the ground. So, in being unsatisfied and unsure about these objects, I put them aside for a while, and they sat dormant atop a chest of draws in my living room.

One afternoon in late summer I noticed that the western sun would stream into the living room and reach as far as the other side of the house. In that fleeting pathway sat these bronze objects. The sun illuminated them in such a way that the entire corner of the room glowed bronze. It was a beautiful and seductive vision, and in this instance the optical capacity of these objects was amplified. In conjunction to this experience, and at a similar time of the year, as I rode my bike from Rozelle to Sydney CBD along the Anzac bridge, I noticed photographers shooting the scene at ‘golden hour’ as the sun dropped and refracted off the city. These two visual experiences altered my perception of the bronze sculptures and I was able to see their potential as objects to be engaged in relation to light and illumination, specifically due to their ‘chatoyance’ – which is a word used in relationship to jewellery and its lustre in terms of a metal’s reflective capacity.

The solar objects component of this performance and film is the fourth iteration of a sequence of performances that have been engaged during different times in 2014. The first was on 25 April, then 24 May, 7 June and then in Warrnambool on 21 June. Each session offered up incredibly different light conditions and I quickly realized that the objects became instruments that effectively sharpen one’s attention to the ephemeral atmospheric conditions that envelop us daily. It is so easy to live removed from these conditions, and not really notice their qualities and nuances. This work brought us into direct contact with such conditions. This process of seeking out the light was amplified in the context of Warrnambool, whereby the work was made on the winter solstice, and every slither of light was chased down across the township over the course of the day, making us highly attuned to the dynamic movement of light from dawn to dusk.

Bridget Crone. There was an additional aspect introduced into the work that you made for The Cinemas Project. This also pertains to issues of light and the intersections of light and (material) object but in quite a different way, and this is the role of the film in your overall project. This sense of the camera as another actor (along with those of the objects, the participants, the material of the ground and other elements such as the weather conditions) was very much brought to my mind, particularly in relation to the point that you just mentioned in which we were chasing every last slither of light in order to enable the solar objects to meet that light. Suddenly there was another element in the mix that had its own very specific demands – its own ‘capabilities’ and ‘affordances’ (as you described it in regards to the objects). I felt very conscious of this while we were filming and as we raced across town chasing the light. I was conscious of the needs of the camera: ‘would there be enough light, not only for the objects but for the camera and ultimately for the image that we sought?’

On reflection, what is interesting about this is that not only does it allow us to understand the camera as another actor / another variable part to consider amongst other parts, each with their own capacities and needs, but it also introduces a complex temporal dimension. The performance of the objects both sonic and solar is firmly grounded in a ‘live’ interaction with a set of material conditions and factors that are fixed in the moment of encounter, an encounter that takes place in the present moment that we experience as participants in the performances. Yet film and filming or image-making introduces a different aspect of time that loops between past, present and future tenses. Filming, we focus upon present conditions (is there enough light here?) and future ones (if we race over there, will there be enough light?) and specifically, we focus on a future image / an image to come. There is also the fact of picturing something that has taken place (and of course replaying it through the medium of the film).

In thinking about The Cinemas Project (and indeed it is incorporated in the title), I have been preoccupied with the notion of the ‘spectral’ in relation to questions of site and memory. For me this term relates to time and to the image as well as having some sort of relation to what is not known as it is etymologically connected to ‘speculation’ through the shared Latin root – specio, to look. So I have been thinking not only of the ghosts and spectres (of cinemas past!) but also the variables of memory and the speculative nature of the enquiry that these questions open up. In particular I am interested in how the notion of the ‘spectral’ unlocks another way of thinking about site in which the past is not separate from the present but is more akin to a (Bergsonian) notion of duration in which the past, present and future comingle in a space that is constantly becoming through the force of the actors in its midst – bodies, objects, memories and so on.

Could you talk a bit about this notion of ‘spectral space’ in relation to your work for The Cinemas Project? In particular, I am interested in the fact that your work has been very concerned with material forms and this notion of ‘spectral space’ is perhaps immaterial in the manner of memory, imagination, desire, possibility…

Bianca Hester: Even as the work brings material forms into the foreground when engaging with a range of sites, this does not occlude a relationship to the notion of the immaterial that you identify as connected to the spectral.

My approach towards the relationship between materiality and immateriality is informed by the idea of indeterminacy outlined by Elizabeth Grosz. In Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics and Art, Grosz suggests that indeterminacy is a condition of the real whereby what is present is not simply reducible to matter. This conception of indeterminacy positions matter as being inclusive of but irreducible to objects, and encompasses forces and events. A reservoir of indeterminacy, which is matter’s condition, enables living beings to elaborate the material world in ways that cannot be specified in advance.

According to Grosz, through her reading of Darwin and Bergson, the material and the immaterial do not express a difference in kind, as they would if understood as binary opposites, but rather a difference of degree. In this conception, the material and the immaterial are ‘inter-implicated’ and radically enmeshed. The material universe, while tending towards determination, entropy and inertia, acts as an enabling constraint that is perpetually elaborated by life’s expansive and unpredictable dynamism . In the chapter ‘Feminism, Materialism and Freedom’, in the book Becoming Undone, Grosz writes that life emerges through perpetual negotiation: ‘Immersed in matter and an eruption from it, life is the continuous negotiation with matter to create the conditions for its own expansion and the opening up of matter to its own virtualities’ .

In the framework established by Grosz, matter is not only seized and elaborated by life, but is haunted by an indeterminacy which allows the material universe to ‘become more than it [currently] is’ . Considered from this perspective, matter becomes inclusive of yet irreducible to objects: encompassing ‘events, processes and relations’ .

Thinking about the relations between materiality and immateriality as such has been really productive in relationship to engaging with objects, whereby those objects are approached in terms of their capacities and affordances (which are positioned in the future in terms of processes to come, which ‘haunt’ the objects). This relates to your observation about the past, present and future comingling in a space that is constantly becoming through a range of converging forces. I understand the objects at play in this project being open-ended proxies (or props) that, in combination with other actors (our bodies, the particularity of the ground, the atmospheric conditions, social relations etc.) actively facilitate the process of ushering forth this unspecified and indeterminate ‘future’, particularly in relationship to process.

So in terms of the spectral, I connect this to thinking about improvising with a ‘spectrum of possibilities’ that emerge in an embodied engagement with situations, whereby the notion of situation encompasses site as well as movement, object, social body, history etc. A situation is restrained by a particular array of limitations (physical, social, economic, geo-political, etc) but it is also radically open in terms of time. It is haunted a future that is not fixed in advanced but which is co-produced through experimentation.

Bridget Crone: For The Cinemas Project, you have made your first film in the sense that you worked with a cinematographer and engaged with the process of ‘making an image’ rather than using video to document a performance or action. I am keen to discuss what the differences are here and how these have influenced the resulting work. Could you talk a bit about how you see this difference between using the camera to document (where the focus is on the performance or action itself) and using it where the focus is on making images (and framing action)?

Bianca Hester: The self-reflexive production of images, where the image becomes primary (rather than a secondary document of an action/performance) has been brewing in my practice for a long time but the experience of making a film for The Cinemas Project presented an opportunity to refine the production of images in ways that were specific to the process of film-making.

I have been really conscious of the primary nature of images, whereby image-making (which extends to video), is engaged as always more than a secondary document of an event that has passed. I understand this as ‘a proliferating approach to documentation’.

This has arisen over the years due to the nature of the projects, which persistently open out as fields of multitudinous activity. While this approach to documentation engages with the multiplicity that splinters from each project, what has also become interesting is realizing that this approach also assists in generating a range of potentialities for future works. This has especially been the case for the continuous performance with the hoop, which emerged because of the initial documentation that was made of it. Without that document capturing the potential movement of the hoop, it probably would not have emerged as a project. This is a great example of documentation being primary and generative. So, my experience with ‘proliferating documentation’ is that it can help spark entirely new projects, and documentation becomes a crucial methodology in chasing possible tangents, experiments and trajectories, the residues of which then get threaded into successive works. From this approach, the practice as a whole becomes ‘the effect of processes of continual creation, movement…(and) individuation’.

In the process of shooting the solar objects in Warrnambool, as we came to understand more clearly the possibilities for making images that emerged in the process of working on site, we abandoned plans and storyboards. We realized that we needed to strip it right back and consequently started to take much ’steadier’ or ‘stiller’ shots of singular objects, rather than of objects assembled into groups as we had planned. This demonstrates how we started to consciously make an image for the camera, in response to the capacity of the camera to frame action in a very specific way. I really enjoyed this aspect of working in a more consciously ‘filmic’ mode.

Bridget Crone: I see the camera as providing a very specific tool to think in a different way about the contingencies of space and time – it is its own apparatus. Deleuze talks about images having their own procedure – an operation that he calls affective and which is based upon the movement of images relative to other images. This offers a way of thinking about the image that is distinct from aesthetics and is more akin to how you think about other actors in your work such as objects and other forms. The image too has an operation, action, response and relation that it can offer into the mix. What are your thoughts on this?

Bianca Hester: Yes definitely, I think you start to experience and understand this ‘agency’ of the image-making apparatus, especially when editing, whereby the techniques of editing bring a very powerful sense-making force to bear upon the material – and shaping it in quite a profound way. When I say ‘the agency’ of the apparatus, this relates to the capacity of the camera to shape/generate/produce, rather than to merely ‘reflect upon’ or ‘represent’.

For me, this ties into the Deleuzian notion of ‘mapping’, whereby the concept mapping is understood as generative rather than descriptive. Mapping based in a descriptive (or representational) approach would work to ‘reveal’ that which it mapped, thereby fixing or locating a situation or an action as an origin to which the mapping makes a direct and discernable relationship, thereby becoming secondary to that terrain or process. Instead, if understood as generative, mapping can become a more consciously active process involving multiplying differentiations, thereby becoming primary in the shaping of perception. A great art historical example of this, which is like a touch stone for my understanding, is the example provided by Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty project, which comprised of two components - an earth-work and an interrelated film-work. Rather than being a secondary representation of the earth-work, the film-work is primary in shaping our awareness, perception and understanding of the earth-work. In fact, for most ‘viewers’, Spiral Jetty as a dual project is accessed primarily (and probably only) through the film – it thus becomes a primary apparatus for perception – what the writer Michael Ned Holte has called ‘a primary cinematic site’, which profoundly shapes our experience through (and as) a mediated format.

Bridget Crone: You have spoken of the sun as a ‘massive celestial body’ and a material force, is it not also (or rather) a force of illumination? Almost a primordial projector? I am thinking here of the words of the experimental Austrian film maker, Peter Kulbelka who has described the projection of analogue film as ‘a little day, followed by a little night, follow by a little day’.

Bianca Hester: Yes – a primordial projector – what a great image! The solar objects evolved, as discussed in question one, from really noticing the sun on a number of different occasions (when walking the neighbourhood at dusk, riding towards the city, seeing it refracted upon the metallic objects within the living-room), and then becoming aware of it as material undergoing an infinite ‘splintering’ in the process of interacting with the surface of the earth. This interaction – this encounter – produces an incredible nuance and variation of effect. So this furious hydrogen-based event, is both received upon and framed by the earth in a particular way – according to our position and distance in relationship to this gargantuan body. But we don’t directly experience the sun’s enormity – or – we do, but at a very specific distance. So experience is positioned and framed according to context and location (both in a spatial and social sense), and I’m interested in trying to produce work in a range of ways that open up our thinking about this positioning, so that we see our context and how that shapes us, and our understandings.

The act of inserting the bronze objects into the sun’s trajectory is a ridiculous gesture if you consider the sun’s spatial, material and temporal enormity. The sun remains completely indifferent to this gesture – as it does to every, and any, event unfolding upon the planet I guess. But the gesture is underpinned by a desire to acknowledge and experience this celestial enormity from a particular position and context, at the scale of a particular time and place upon the earth – and within a casual everyday timeframe. In the process of making this work (not just for The Cinema’s Project but across a number of sites in 2014), I can say that I have been brought into an encounter with the sun in ways that I have never before, due to being more fully focussed upon it, and also exposed to it, in the context of the work. Hopefully these forms produce a situation in which participants (and viewers) are able to experience a larger cosmic context that extends far beyond our given material, spatial and temporal limits, but which is framed and therefore experienced through them.

Anthropogenic, Archive, Basalt, Brick, Bronze, Colonial continuums, Coal, Concrete, Cosmic, Deep time, Digging, Dirt, Dust, Embodiment, Extractivism, Extinctions, Floor, Fossil, Fragment, Geologies, Groundwork, Installation, Materiality, Object, People, Performance, Permian, Place, Plant life, Process, Meteorite, Moving, Moving image, Rubbings, Sandstone, Sculpture, Singular objects, Site, Sociality, Steel, Still image, Textual, Triassic, Walking, Wall.