Electric Skies: ‘It’s a beautiful dance’

Let your senses and imagination come alive as you surrender to the beauty of Electric Skies – that’s the advice Electric Fields musician and visual artist Zaachariaha Fielding has for audiences attending Adelaide Fringe’s 2023 drone spectacle.

Jan 27, 2023, updated Jan 27, 2023
Creative collaborators Zaachariaha Fielding and Heather Croall – Fielding's paintings have inspired many of the drone animations in 'Electric Skies'. Photo: Adelaide Fringe

Creative collaborators Zaachariaha Fielding and Heather Croall – Fielding's paintings have inspired many of the drone animations in 'Electric Skies'. Photo: Adelaide Fringe

Zaachariaha Fielding and Heather Croall have a compelling creative chemistry.

Fielding, one half of multi-award-winning electronic music duo Electric Fields, describes his first meeting with the Adelaide Fringe CEO and director as a “human, automatic vibration”.

“It’s always very, very important to feed off of that first dream of that relationship,” he says, adding that the pair share a desire to create work that engages all of an audience’s senses.

Croall explains: “The energy that we’ve always had from day one is we want to shift things. We’re conspiring to try and make life great.”

It’s no surprise, therefore, that after being involved in last year’s feature-length drone spectacle Sky Song, Electric Fields has again come together with Fringe to collaborate on the 2023 centrepiece ­– Electric Skies.

The new production, which will be presented in Pakapakanthi / Victoria Park on February 24 and 25, is an evolution of Sky Song and will meld music, art and 500 drones in an electrifying light show.

Like Sky Song ­– which followed five First Nations stories, created and told by the late singer, songwriter and activist Archie Roach – Electric Skies is centred around First Nations storytelling, but it is structured very differently.

“Last year, we had quite a lot of spoken-words stories – actually narratives,” says Croall. “This [Electric Skies] is more like, ‘come with us into a place and let everything go’. Don’t expect any sort of didactic storytelling; it’s just more of an experience…”

“Get lost in the frequencies of it all,” says Fielding, finishing the Fringe director’s sentence.

“This is a much more free-flowing. Get on the truck; come on a ride,” Croall continues. “Put all the worries of the daily grind away and come into this environment. We’re asking people to connect with the nature around them.

“Look up. If you look up into the sky, this infinity and these drones are coming alive almost like stars dancing, stars animating, and the canvas is the whole sky. And then there’s this amazing music that opens people’s hearts.”

More than 500 drones will take to the air for Electric Skies. Photo: Drone Sky Shows

Although best known as a musician, Fielding has also been working as a visual artist for several years and was a finalist in both the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards and the Art Gallery of SA’s Ramsay Art Prize in 2021. The drone art in Electric Skies is partly influenced by his paintings.

“We’ve worked a lot with images inspired by Zaachariaha’s paintings – like serpents – but also patterns that are inspired by the Electric Fields sound: infinity, fractals, symmetry, circles, the natural landscape and beautiful patterns in nature,” says Croall.

Fielding describes Electric Skies as a collaboration between humans and artificial intelligence: “It’s a beautiful dance. Technology comes from nature. We created that – like, what else can we create?”

The entire 30-minute soundtrack is composed by Electric Fields, meaning the duo (Fielding and producer and keyboard player Michael Ross) can take the audience into a world of their choosing and creation. Fielding, who comes from Mimili in the APY Lands, says he is excited that it represents different generations of his community.

It’s going to be a really beautiful thing for my community to see themselves on this platform

“So the people are the Aṉangu people, and we’ve got a few of our songlines in there that are very dear to this country and that are older than our government. And that is turned into art, and contemporary art.

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“Having these three different generations coming together as almost one generation, it’s just absolutely exciting to hear them. You hear them play with that memory of the past, in the present. It’s going to be a really beautiful thing for my community to see themselves on this platform.”

Electric Fields’ Michael Ross and Zaachariaha Fielding in their studio.

Fielding doesn’t just want his community to connect with the work; he wants each and every audience member to feel as if they are part of the artistic journey by bringing their personal interpretation to the piece.

“There’s an opportunity for oneself to go into a space of imagination or a space of just sitting in themselves and learning about themselves. That’s the outcome I want from Electric Skies: people having a sense of themselves a bit more.”

If you chose to participate in this production – or “get on the truck”, as Croall suggests – the creatives insist you approach the experience with openness and mindfulness.

“Don’t come with all your tabs open,” says Fielding.

“Don’t come with an opinion. You will not enjoy it if you come with that type of energy. Let it go. Don’t complicate it.”

Croall says Sky Song – the most-attended show of the 2022 festival – showed how audiences could have “a really beautiful emotional experience” at a drone show.

“People are surprised at how they feel connected to those drones moving around and forming images. The gasps. You hear the gasps! [With] fireworks, you know, there’s a big bombastic bang and a boom. These are just silent. They are just moving.”

While the drones won’t take flight in Pakapakanthi / Victoria Park until nightfall, the gates will open at 5pm and there will be food trucks and bars on site. Local First Nations musician Nathan May will also be performing.

“It’s a big outdoor park – you can get up and have a dance or you can just sit down and let it wash over you,” says Croall.

“People can settle in and that will see the sunset through and then, ta-da! Lift off! Three, two, one…”

Electric Fields and the Adelaide Fringe have partnered with Gluttony, Drone Sky Shows, Novatech, AEDA and the APY Collective to bring Electric Skies to life. It will be at Pakapakanthi / Victoria Park on February 24 and 25.

This story is part of a series of articles being produced with the support of Adelaide Fringe.

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