Moving a wheelchair through nature is strenuous. And nature is my favorite place to be. While my efforts are incessantly praised as brave, inspiring and impressive - I experience the effort as meditative. Physical effort, especially involving problem solving to reach a remote destination, is a pleasure that anyone who has been mountain climbing or wilderness trekking understands. Your body and mind working as one. Adding a wheelchair doesn’t change the fundamental motivation or reward. The struggle is considered tragic in the case of disability and intrepid without it. My determination and skill in maneuvering my wheelchair is internal, personal and for my own benefit - not a moral or motivational statement. I made these series of films while in the Fjords in Norway in September 2016.I was really inspired by the 5 day, television marathon live broadcast of the Hurtigruten voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes and back where millions of people tuned in to watch the scenery pass by the ship. One because I took that same voyage and found that just watching the fjords pass and the lights dance for 10 days was a surprisingly soothing entertainment. But also, it inspired me as a form of art - to present an event with no plot, no added intensity or narrative - just untouched scenery and movement. Could this be a way to siphon off the novelty of disability and allow us to connect more completely or more simply? Would it allow audiences conditioned to experience disability in a very specific way move past those narratives and emotional reactions and find new ones? Crawling in the Forest was an experiment in filming my process in long, sweeping, calm shots keeping an eye on the journey, the colours, sounds, and the strangeness of my movements.
Hamnøy by Erin Clark. Published by Deaf Poets Society
In Hamnøy the focus is on the Fjord, the weather, the birds. I intend to simply be a part of the landscape. My love for nature, my profound love of Norway in particular, compel me to get closer to it. My body is made of the earth. Including the metal inside me and the metal of my wheelchair. This effort is not intended as defiance, it is devotional.
Skrova by Erin Clark
The airbnb is a converted oil tanker on the top of a hill on an island in Norway accessible only by ferry. In 'Skrova' the filming was done by one of my travel companions in a continuous shot. I chose not to add any cuts to leave in the real time it took to maneuver the multiple changes in terrain. It was deliberate to leave in the moments when I direct the camera to show that, as the subject, I am also framing the narrative. I also left in the shots where another friend is visible stepping out of the way as I pass, while refraining from interfering. This was to evoke the contrast between the typical sense that a disabled person in this scenario is struggling and requiring help and this situation in which I am playing and exercising my agility and strength.
First Solo Flight was originally posted to Facebook along with a story and has since become the heart of my memoir If You Really Love Me, Throw Me Off the Mountain. The theme I was exploring in this film is the relationship between independence/freedom and interconnectedness. The film itself is pieced together from footage from 5 different cameras: three at the takeoff, one at the landing and the go pro attached to my paragliding harness. The flight itself happened because of the invested and creative support of a team of incredible instructors and the close friendships that formed between me and the other pilots learning to fly the same week. Interconnectedness made both the flight and the film possible. But the drive to be able to fly solo came from the perpetual craving I have for independence. A feeling of autonomy is a constant drive for me, and it is always vulnerable. From the moments when I need help, to the times when help is thrust on me. Being overtaken on a regular basis by the assumptions and lack of accommodations made by the society I live in. Autonomy is precious. But to achieve autonomy at the expense of what is possible with interconnectedness is a loss of beauty. I made First Solo Flight to celebrate and explore the potency of moments and relationships where autonomy and freedom are in harmony with interconnectedness.
This film is a tribute to Catherine Frazee, filmed while I visited her in Baxters Bay, Nova Scotia.
I noticed that there were trails of quartz in the rock the day before filming that looked like keloid scars. A sudden pucker of stone, brightly colored, announcing an event. On both skin and stone, a scar is a mark of a violence. In stone, however, the time it marks is significantly more vast. I determined I would follow these timelines the next morning while the tide was out. The rocks were damp from the rain, and spongy from the layers of shale, where water flows, not just over, but also through the rocks. The camera, and therefore the landscape, remains still.
I don’t know what to call the way I move. It isn’t entirely a crawl, or exactly a lumber, it certainly isn’t a walk, which I have heard described as a controlled fall where face-planting with the ground is prevented by each subsequent footfall. I am never falling. My center of gravity is low, the dynamics of my momentum distributed equally between four limbs. It's more of a scramble, perhaps even a type of loping which is a slow canter in the repertoire of a horse’s natural gaits. A movement in three beats which distributes the momentum across four limbs. I lope because I am partially paralyzed. My hands do what my feet cannot, my arms do what my legs cannot, my legs do what they can, and this is how I roam wild places without my wheelchair. This is also how I feel the world in rich and sensual detail. My palms pressing into the slick stone, my fingers petting the rough edges of the quartz, my eyes close to the variations of color in the grey day. Detail that is inaccessible to the camera in it’s fixed position. The frame is reset with each segment of progress and to film that, I set my iphone in a tripod and went the entire length that frame could capture before I disappeared. Then I loped back to the camera, carried it with me across the path I had just travelled, and set it up at the point at which it had recorded my disappearance and moved further along.
I press forward to the edge and down the slope, where I decide I can press no further on this day, in these conditions. So I rest and gaze across the stone channel straight out to the Atlantic, which is licking and lapping its way in-land. The wall of rocks (which themselves will be entirely submerged in the span of several hours) blocks the camera's view to the ocean. The camera captures me as I enjoy the view, the wind idly ruffling a strand of hair untucked from my bun. I left the scene deliberately unedited (and therefore unmediated). It is between you and a spectacular edge of time.