David Ian Bickley – DARKWOOD

4 minute read

I am an artist, filmmaker and composer mainly working with film, light and sound to create immersive experiences designed to produce alternate realities in relation to the natural environment.

I also reference mythology, folklore and symbolism. I’m a great believer in “quality attracting audience”, and in the development of analogue and digital craft in order to accomplish this. As such I have practiced both film and music to a high professional standard, producing, directing and editing numerous primetime television documentaries, mainly historical and musical travelogues, including The Man Who Shot Beckett which spearheaded the Beckett 100 season in Ireland and the four-part international traditional music series The Celtic Songlines with Dónal Lunny.

As a musician / composer I am perhaps best-known as the creative force behind the groundbreaking group Hyper[borea] which pioneered the fusion of Celtic music with dance idioms in the 1990s, winning Dance Act and Album of the Year at the Hot Press Heineken Awards. I have also produced many albums of electronic and ambient music, much of which has been used in my own installation / film work and also in other productions, including most recently Ridley Scott’s The Terror.

As a visual artist I have had many solo shows both in Ireland and internationally and have exhibited alongside major artists including Tracey Emin, Mat Collishaw and Ron Arad.

I do all this because I simply have to populate each day with creative acts and feel driven to use these acts to describe my experiences and perception of the natural and supernatural world to a wide audience. My work is disseminated through multi channel installations and single channel showings at international galleries and festivals, and via digital curatorships such as [S]edition, Baby Forest and online / physical artzines; Artreveal and Wake Up Screaming.

What’s your relationship with trees?

I grew up in Dorset, England, a county resplendent with forests of deciduous trees; oaks, beech , hazel, ash etc. It was into these that I often disappeared for whole days sometimes actually dozing up a tree— In fact I remember one such occasion up a beech in the middle of a mixed forest, the branches of this tree grew back into themselves creating a supportive oblong ring that one could safely lie in. I was stirred form my reverie by a rustling down below, and there, not ten feet away was a deer and her faun, feeding on fallen beech nuts. A distant shot rang out and they disappeared.

I see each tree as having a distinct character or spirit and sense that some channel of communication exists between them and us, although I feel that this maybe transcending a somewhat alien space, and that we, as humans, are outside the world / dimension that the trees inhabit. I also believe that at some distant time we were part of that world and that slowly over many thousands of years our senses have been dulled – by light pollution, technology, religion – reducing first the trees to folklore and mythology, then to timber and commodity.

What do trees/ the forest have to tell us about creativity?

In John Stuart Collis’ The Worm Forgives the Plough it is revealed that trees are in fact communities and that each leave is connected to it’s own root fibre. This composite existence is much like the world of art, each piece is entirely individual, regardless of medium or genre yet together a whole story is formed and from a distance each theme seems to stand as a individual form. Curation is, or should be like, the creative spiritual spark, or seed, that which brings a genetic sequence into being, entwining motive and meaning into a coherent understanding of a presence.

Please tell us about your submission – DARKWOOD

Recently I have been working on a series of audio visual art works based on impressionistic narratives woven through the fabric of Irish landscape.
Through the development of these creative explorations I have begun to realise that almost all of my work, whether single channel film art, ambient audio art or multi channel installation, embodies some form of Monomyth, that is, a symbolic journey or quest that processes and reflects the human condition.

The concept behind DARKWOOD develops this theme in a more deliberate manner, taking the audience on an immersive audio visual journey into the heart of a symbolic forest. Since the forest as an objective entity lies outside cultivation, it is can be seen as outside reason and also intellect. This represents the primary environment that lies beyond the ancestral home, where early man marked a boundary as a circle in the dense forest. Beyond this lies wild nature, our past, studded with memories left over from a greater connectivity with the untamed world. These memories, through time and neglect, have grown and accumulated into a resonant psychological mass, and as such, a journey into this forest represents a decent into the human subconscious and it’s symbolic content.

This journey takes the visitor into an immersive environment driven by a cinematic sequence based on mythological themes and tree lore — a very slow zoom into a strange symmetrical tree that appears full of suggestive symbolic forms; owls, hares, arms, faces, geometric puzzles. These forms have not been digitally “written” into the image, but exist in the viewers imagination, drawn from subconscious archetypes through suggestion.

The sound, a combination of enigmatic ambient drones built from the very fabric of forest atmosphere pervade the space with a sense of natural dominion. This ambient score is based on location sound recorded in woodland in West Cork. The collected sounds; birdsong, wind, creaking trees, are slowed down through “hyper-stretching” from minutes to literally years. These files are then further manipulated using spectra-sonic sampling to reshape the arrangement of sonic elements whilst still referring to the aleatoric nature of the original forms, linking the suggestive symbolic motifs of the imagery to a direct emotional response within the viewing experience.

Why have you chosen video as the medium to explore this?

Immersive moving image is one of the most complex and powerful art forms, and when married to a hypnotic, ambient score has the capability to draw the audience in at a fundamental level; images are processed intellectually, but sound represents the most primal instinct – as hunter gathers we would listen for prey, changes in atmospherics, in weather conditions (the sound of distant thunder, the warning rustle of sedge grass), this would be particularly pronounced in the gathering dusk, at nighttime. Then the imagination would interpolate the invisible, drawing upon the stores of symbols within our collective unconscious, creating this other realm that now exists primarily in myth – when an ambient score is thus constructed, from these emotive symbols, and synchronised, interconnected and sophisticatedly spliced with the moving image it has the ability to channel parts of the visual motif through the same receptors as we receive sound / music thus creating and overwhelming experience.

Do you have a favourite tree?

The Beech

Find David here: davidianbickley.com