Udfil is about remembering and the landscape. It’s an animation-based artwork created especially for the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but – being formed from universal stories and a multi-millennial time frame – is relevant anywhere and everywhere.
Taking twelve vanished species as focus it holds a lens not just to what we’ve lost – but also to the traces of the disappeared which linger on, both in the geology of the Clwydians and within us. It explores why these beings remain resonant for us today.
A walking artwork, it’s inspired by Aboriginal Australian ‘Songlines’ – dreaming tracks taken by ancestral beings as they ‘sung’ the world into being in the Dreamtime. Founded on creatures and heroes, these networks of stories and songs connect distinctive locations such as rock formations and water sources. Stretching thousands of miles and transcending verbal language, they have been sung for tens of thousands of years – and are therefore ‘memory maps’ which enable people to navigate Australia’s vast interior.
But more than this, Songlines constitute the way by which the land and its story is known – and remembered. Rod Mason, an elder of the Ngarigo people says;
Our ancestors didn’t have books, but we had good memory. We wrote our journey on the landscape and in the landscape, and even to this day we can read our story backwards from here.
We’ve got stories of the ice age, the animals that came, and the animals that went – animals you never see no more. So we’re part of the extinction world.
Udfil takes the form of a series of GPS embedded digital ‘totems’ inspired by the lost fauna of the hills of Clwyd and is accessed via a free smartphone app. The totems can only be brought to life through encounter within the landscape itself.
The interactive animated loops from which they are formed are fractals or mandalas formed from paper cut-outs depicting the creatures themselves, their bones (from museum collections) and their DNA sequences (yielded by contemporary science). Research shows that just looking at fractals (complex repetitive moving patterns) reduces both heart rate and cortisol (the stress hormone) production. Focussing on them deeply reawakens our sensory awareness, a capacity that is central to our connection with the landscape.
Scientific investigation also suggests that way-finding is a core function of the human brain and may be the foundation of its evolutionary architecture. And therefore that stimulating it through mind-mapping is highly beneficial for brain development and health.
Udfil then creates a mythology – based on scientific reality – for the Clwydian hills. For those who need one, it presents a reason to linger in the landscape. For those who do not, it will perhaps enrich their experience of this special place. For all it will enable a reflective journey through both time and space that propagates tolerance, revised perspective and enhanced well-being.