River Undain

Medium Earth is an exhibition for the digital realm, exploring the vital ecologies that bind species together.

Gabrielle Brady (Island of the hungry ghosts 2018) documents human/non-human migrations and states of limbo. Her work resonates with a growing awareness that we live among other creatures on an environmentally fragile planet.

Gabrielle Brady

Born Bathurst, NSW 1984. Lives and works Berlin

River Undain 2020

single-channel 2K digital video
Courtesy the artist
An Art Gallery of New South Wales Together In Art New Work 2020 © Gabrielle Brady

 

Gabrielle Brady (Island of the hungry ghosts 2018) makes haunting documentaries exploring human/non-human migrations and states of limbo.

When I approached her for this commission, Gabrielle launched into investigative mode. Based in Berlin, she went on night-time recces with fox observers, visited secret nooks in natural history museums, and met up with a group of LARPers (live-action role players) who use simulation to reconnect with nature.

Then she told me about one of her previous lives – she’d been a presenter on a Mongolian kids’ show. For one and a half years, she travelled around nomadic communities. She’d be recognised from TV and invited into people’s gers or asked out for karaoke.

When Gabrielle recently returned to Mongolia, she heard of a small community who were finding ways to resist Oyu Tolgoi, the mega-mine displacing​ nomadic families from their lands. So she took the two-day journey from Ulaanbaatar to Khanbogd, a tiny desert town on the Chinese–Mongolian border, and spent time with camel herders who’d been moved out of the ‘impact zone’.

River Undain is a meditation on tending and remembrance. As the camera roves over a desiccated, lunar landscape, camel herders evoke a lost waterway which sustained life in the desert for millennia.

Listen to this work. You’ll hear the voice of Bayarjargal Chimedtseren, a rare female master of Mongolian throat singing or ‘long song’ (Urtiin duu). Practised by nomads for centuries, these guttural chants ring out over ancestral lands to imitate sounds of nature.

In the steppes around Khanbogd, they’ve become songs of loss, solastalgia and rage.

— Ruby Arrowsmith-Todd