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Untitled (Holy Mysteries) (2020)

Untitled (Holy Mysteries) combines digital video with a box made of Eucalyptus obliqua (Messmate Stringbark)—a widespread Australian species and, reportedly, the first to be described and classified as a Eucalypt (by French botanist Charles L’Héritier in 1788). When the box is opened, the vision and sound of a wetland (‘captured’ in Gariwerd, Victoria) become apparent; the chorus of frogs and birds resonating and dampening as the box lid is opened and closed. 

The work soothes, like a music box. It also unsettles: in what might rather be understood as a stifling gesture (even if adoring and preserving), this wild, living landscape is here codified, flattened out and contained. On a screen; in a box. Mystery is redacted and reduced; the sacred song and the equally sacred ecosystem from which it was extracted exist only as lifeless imitations. 

Fixed to the plinth like a tabernacle—a box of Holy Mysteries, in some Christian traditions—this work also unsettles the idea of an exceptional divine. Celebrating the life of a complex ecosystem rather than that of a single Christic figure, Untitled (Holy Mysteries) signals “the amorous return of a divinity that had never left” (Keller, Intercarnations, 2017, p. 26). 

Rebekah Pryor, October 2020


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