Beyond Shoalhaven River 34°52′S 150°44′E

Go fly your Kite

December 13th, 2011
by Mike Leggett

Go fly, you Kite (full screen)

Late Spring in the Southern hemisphere and the hawks are out cruising for chicks. The Kite in the video (likely a Whistling Kite) was trying its luck over the Shoalhaven river in NSW, until it was spotted by a Magpie Lark, who proceeded to harras it with a series of mobbing dives, until the hawk floated away from the resident’s patch.

The series of attacks is reproduced here as a series of video loops which, based on an ‘action cut’, gives the illusion of a change of shot, from one camera position to another. The edit between the last frame and the first frame of the shot are selected to give this impression, based on our cultural ability to ‘read’ motion picture sequences, a form of syntax learnt by contemporary infants probably before they have the ability to read. This was not always the case.

I remember the first motion picture cinematic experience I had was (before the days of television), at the age of six. I found the experience disturbing and sought reassurance from my parents that the little dog, a mascot of the group of cowboys, was not harmed in all the shooting and galloping that took place. Years later I heard of the first screening in the 1880s by the Lumiere brothers of the arrival of a train at a French suburban station; as the engine came towards the camera, moving from the ‘background’ to the ‘foreground’ of the projected frame, the spectators took fright and rushed out of the screening space; so the story goes…….

This was not a matter of misapplied intelligence; as the space was darkened how could even an engineer or scientist realise how the illusion was created? Even when the technological principles are comprehended by modern audiences, such matters are suspended as peripheral to the representations presented. Like language itself, we learn how to manipulate the tool to our own ends; in a way not dissimilar to a Magpie Lark I once observed in the Domain in Sydney.

The bird was busy drinking from a Coke can lying on its side on the ground, the can tilted with the ring pull hole facing down. After a moment, it walked around to the rear of the can, put its beak under the base and gently lifted; the can tilted a little more forward. It returned to the front and continued drinking, before again repeating the procedure several times, until it had slaked its thirst.

This incident I observed, without movie camera; so it becomes a memory, recalled in words. Had I been able to make a digital movie file, I suppose I could have repeated the editing process described earlier and, as a video artefact, maintained the Lark, like the Kite, in a never ending time loop.

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