Justas Pipinis’ interdisciplinary practice is concerned with the human condition and sensemaking. Through spontaneity, shifting perspectives, mixing media, blurring the boundaries between the “natural” and “artificial”, challenging norms and conventions, Justas seeks to explore how we make sense of the world we live in. How do we know what we think we know? Where are our blind spots? How do we deal with the unknown, the complex, the unexpected?

Justas was propelled into art practice by his postgraduate studies in the anthropology of art at Stockholm University (Sweden) and Vienna University (Austria). Thereafter he studied various artistic disciplines at Karlstad University, Konstfack and Umeå Academy of Fine Arts in Sweden and at RMIT in Melbourne. He has undertaken artistic residencies at Not Quite (Sweden) and Bogong Centre for Sound Culture. He has also exhibited works in Sweden, Austria and Australia. Currently he is an MFA student at RMIT.

Exhibited work description

My field in Bogong consisted of Archie who would never give up a ball when playing fetch but did not mind returning the footage from his stint as a camera dog. Of Madelynne who was a relentlessly supportive facilitator and inspiring sounding board. Of the array of equipment that I used to sift through my surroundings looking for the art-to-be. Of the birds filling up my video soundtracks with their songs from outside the frame. Of the mountain rivers cooling off my overheated brain, producing electricity for my equipment and providing yet another layer to the soundscape. All in all, a “field” to me is primarily an assemblage of significant relations rather than a physical location.

Normally I prefer not to know too much about a new field beforehand. Any piece of information conveyed by others carries traces of their own sensemaking and I don’t want to find myself unconsciously replicating that. I also prefer not to have too specific a plan that might blind me to unforeseeable possibilities and new ideas. Thus, arriving at Bogong I had just a vague idea that I would be dealing with remoteness through sound. And, to start with, I did. However, unprejudiced engagement with the field soon readjusted my trajectory and I found myself working more with my GoPro cameras than sound recorders. The sound was still there, but now I was more curious about the soundscapes I was capturing unwittingly while focusing on the visual. The unexpected video focus in combination with unforeseen evening walks with Archie prompted yet another unplanned idea.

Firstly, it was just a playful experiment: what would Archie capture on camera if he had one attached to his collar? I found the outcome fascinating – the camera orientation was shifting following Archie’s movements, the patter of his paws created a captivating sonic rhythm, the footage was flouting most of the traditional narrative conventions. There was no storyline, framing of the imagery and occasional focus did not seem to derive from any recognizable human logic but it felt decisive and purposeful, nevertheless. Further experimentation involved a gradual increase of the number of cameras involved – from attempt to replicate Archie’s binocular vision to adding a camera on the hand holding the leash and then also onto a head looking at that hand. We started testing various settings – playing fetch in the water, roaming freely, even visiting the site of the future exhibition. Archie did not mind working as a camera dog at all, he almost seemed proud to be part of whatever it was that was gaining him additional attention.

And here it is, a very spontaneous and site-responsive mega-note from the field: My Working Week as a Dog. Whose perspective, whose story does it convey? What does it say about anything? How to make sense of this endless loop of 8 hours video? I am still processing it myself. If you would like to share your thoughts or raise new questions, you are most welcome to e-mail archie.cameradog@gmail.com

Field images by Justas Pipinis
We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land that this work was made upon as the unceded homelands of the Bidhawal, Dhudhuroa, Gunai–Kurnai and Nindi–Ngudjam Ngarigu Monero peoples. We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land that this work was made upon as the unceded homelands of the Bidhawal, Dhudhuroa, Gunai–Kurnai and Nindi–Ngudjam Ngarigu Monero peoples.
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Notes from the Field

Felix Wilson, Untitled (Bogong sequence), 2019Img. 37 of 44

Notes from the Field is first a portrait of a place – Bogong Village, in the Alpine region of North East Victoria. Bogong is a place of exceptional natural beauty, and a site of many intersecting concerns. Halfway between Mount Beauty and Falls Creek, it was established in its current form as a worker’s village for the Kiewa Hydroelectric scheme.

Bogong is the Dhudhuroa word for “big moth” and gives name to Mount Bogong, the Bogong High Plains and Bogong Village, as well as the well-known moth whose existence is now threatened through industrial agriculture, habitat destruction, climate change and other anthropogenic impacts. The discordant relationships between industrial technologies, human involvement and the environment is stark in the unique setting of Bogong Village. The power station is a major presence in the village, and although hydroelectric technology promises to produce green energy, the damming of the Kiewa river has forever altered the valley’s ecosystem and landscape.

It is in this environment that Madelynne Cornish and Philip Samartzis have been running the Bogong Centre for Sound Culture for the last ten years. The centre invites artists from across the globe to travel to this remote part of Australia and immerse themselves in the site. The artists mainly engage in fieldwork, a process of recording, compiling and organising information, such as sound, video, photographs, and sketches.

Notes from the Field brings together the work of 15 artists who have been resident at Bogong Village over the last ten years, with work presented both in the gallery spaces and online. Notes from the Field celebrates the incredible initiative of this globally reaching and supportive artist residency program in North East Victoria. The artists have observed and recorded the dissonance between landscape, humans and technology and now present their findings for us to consider.

Michael Moran, Curator
Murray Art Museum Albury

Fieldworks

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(Peter Blamey) Side roads and fire trails leading off from the Alpine Way invariably take you to nearby power pylons, or further afield to remote dams, pipelines or power stations, and all of that is here to convert the energy of moving water into electricity.’

Online works

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  1. Yellow Mountain (Christophe Charles)
  2. Village Loop
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    Village Loop is an audio-visual work investigating the eco-acoustic characteristics of Bogong Village. The work is an attempt to express the experience of isolation while living in a remote community (of few permanent residents). Using an iterative process of documentation, various details and characteristics were recorded each day to reveal changes in atmosphere, variations in habitat, and processes of land management. The editing process included temporal disruptions and colour alteration to fracture the image quality to convey the psychological experience of isolation.

    Village Loop was supported by Creative Victoria through Regional Arts Victoria and the Sustaining Creative Workers initiative.

    Village Loop (Madelynne Cornish), infoclose
    (Madelynne Cornish)
  3. Diffraction (Adam Pultz Melbye)
  4. An Hour Working as a Dog
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    Single channel video with stereo sound
    Duration: 12 minutes

    Art Director: Justas Pipinis
    Director of Photography: Archibald Hunter
    Leash Director: Madelynne Cornish

    An Hour Working as a Dog is a mapping of Bogong Village with a small terrier, Archie, as a guide. Justas was an artist in residence at the Bogong Centre for Sound Culture in 2020. Like his fellow artists in the exhibition, Pipinis used his time at Bogong to record the environment around the Village. Where his project departs is in using Archie as a camera dog. Nightly walks around the village and the lake become fieldwork sessions with a camera mounted to Archie. This playful shift in perspective unsettles categories and conventions of fieldwork and invites audience to see the world anew.

    An Hour Working as a Dog (Justas Pipinis), infoclose
    (Justas Pipinis)
  5. Electric Fairy Grounds I Electric Fairy Grounds II Electric Fairy Grounds III (Gabi Schaffner)
  6. Intertwining
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    During my time at the Bogong AIR residency in 2015 I mainly worked with two gum trees, which I connected through a fishing line, that acted as a wind harp. Connecting trees refers to a scientific study about the communication of trees: It works through a complex system of roots and some fungus — an underground network. The study says, that the biggest and strongest trees are “mother trees” and work like a communication centre of a forest area. I used strips of bark of these trees and hang it over the fishing line and “played” it, using contact microphones to amplify them. Additionally, I responded to it through improvising with my flutes.

    The heart of Intertwining is the sound experiments with these connecting trees, but as I did more excursions around Bogong Village I weave in close-up recordings - which make almost inaudible sounds audible like underwater recordings with a hydrophone or a microphone inside the flute, binaural recordings with which I listened very closely to the crickets while slowly moving my head- and recordings, that made use of the hydro dam’s space and reverb. The trees are connected to each other, they are connected with the water, the earth, the wind, the birds. My walks are creating connection of places, my flute playing and breathing connects myself with the environment, my listening intertwines place, space and time.

    Intertwining (Sabine Vogel), infoclose
    (Sabine Vogel)
  7. Energy Fields (Philip Samartzis, Michael Vorfeld)
  8. Silhouette
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    With the help of various light sources, Michael Vorfeld designs ephemeral, constantly changing, visual situations. The focus of his performance in front of the camera is on the direct connection between light and performer, as well as the interaction of light and space. The edited visual events are supported and commented by a soundtrack, which generates its acoustic material directly from a variously manipulated electrical current flow. A film with surprising perceptual situations full of atmospheric density and sensual intensity.

    ‘The language, the dance and the music were high performances of the intuitive time-space functionality, and the optics must follow in a new way.’
    Raoul Hausmann, from Manifeste und Proklamationen der europäischen Avantgarde (1909–1938)

    Silhouette (Michael Vorfeld), infoclose
    (Michael Vorfeld)

Documentation

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Artists

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