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Discovery: Hurley + Euphoria

The emotional discovery of new environments and cultural experiences intertwine to reveal insights into the human condition. In ‘The Man Who Made History’, Nasht explores how Hurley combines artistic flair with realism to transport us into remote locations and thrilling circumstances. In Euphoria (2014), King employs a distinctive narrative style to capture the intellectual experience of a group of anthropologists, operating amongst a panoply of tribes in Papua New Guinea. In both texts, the composers link discovery to adventure, curiosity and an engagement with the forces of nature. Yet Nasht and King also elucidate the values informing their subject’s actions, commenting on the complex matrix of human interconnections that are integral to the processes of emotional and intellectual discoveries. 

It is through the intellectual discovery of the natural world in ‘The Man Who Made History’ that Hurley’s artistic sensibility emerges, inspiring him to capture a vision of this truth in images of the unique grandeur of the Antarctic environment. The re-enacted voiceover from the point of view of Hurley in ‘my fingers froze and often I was swept away by fierce gusts or reduced to crawling on all fours’ portrays the strenuous conditions that Hurley endured in his filming of, Home of the Blizzard (1913). Overlaid with black and white archival footage and accompanied with sustained low-key musical notes, the voiceover reinforces the struggle between man and nature by linking discovery to the hero’s journey. Also, Nasht foregrounds Hurley’s intellectual process of discovery through a new means of cinematography, revealing Hurley’s use of light and perspective to help us discover the wonder of this remote location.  Metaphorically, in the words of Joanna Wright (Royal Geographical Society), it makes us feel as though ‘when you look at the ice, you feel like you could walk into it, and touch it, and hear it, and smell it’. The tone of awe accompanies the use of second person to reflect how Hurley’s photographs from the Shackelton Expedition have catalysed intellectual and emotional discoveries across history and the sensory appeal indicates how humanity’s engagement with nature extends beyond a fixed, two-dimensional object. Subsequently, Nasht challenges us to see the paramount potential held within the mechanical apparatus of a camera where Hurley’s artistic precision is able to encapsulate the binding forces of nature.

Similarly, in Euphoria, the captivating delight in the intellectual discovery of nature combines with insights into anthropological enquiry to offer fresh perspectives on the lives of the Kiona tribe in Papua New Guinea.  The imagery in ‘she didn’t notice the tree until she was inside and the flame lit the room. I heard her let out a big American wow’ captures the sense of wonder as the anthropologists Bankston, Nell and Fen arrive in Kiona and experience the majesty of the rainbow gum tree. The contrast between Western and tribal lifestyles and beliefs generates a discovery of new environments that make them appreciate the synergy between nature, tradition and culture. This notion is further explored in the emotive diction ‘you’ve only been there eight weeks. But at that moment the place feels entirely yours. It’s the briefest, purest euphoria’ where Nell reflects on the empowering elements of her role as an anthropologist in a unique culture. The personal connotations of ‘yours’ are aligned with the exhilaration of ‘euphoria’, paralleling the reaction to Hurley’s earlier works and linking the emotional process of discovery and transformation to an engagement with unknown realms. Both King and Nasht explore this fascinating connection with nature intertwined with the discovery of new cultures and how that acts upon the human condition by inspiring respect and evoking a determination to embrace the possibilities of emotional and intellectual discoveries.

In Nasht’s ‘The Man Who Made History’, Hurley’s pioneering efforts with colour provide a modern spectacle into the intellectual history of war where discovery can involve confronting, harrowing experiences that contrast to the feelings of elevation and wonder in the Antarctic. Nasht’s use of a montage of shots accentuates the brutality of the Battle of Flanders where Hurley’s discovery of war, its blood stained battlefields and utter futility inspires him to try to depict the reality of trench warfare on a ‘giant canvas’. We can see that the emotional nature of war involves a personal risk but also how Hurley is determined to explore ways of using the medium of photography to capture his version of the truth. This is reinforced by Nasht’s inclusion of a collection of stills documenting Hurley’s innovative use of colour. Furthermore, the agitated tone in ‘to include the event in a single negative, I have tried and tried but the results are hopeless’ reveals Hurley’s frustration with the limitations of a singular image as he tries to discover ways of representing the horrors of war that rightfully honours the experience of the Australian troops. Hurley’s desire for a deeper artistic truth positions us to see the complex layers associated with the presentations of historic events. We can see how this aspect of controversy is instigated by his inherent subjectivity, which accompanies his idealistic vision. Hence, it is through this emotional and intellectual discovery of the nature of representation that Nasht positions us to see Hurley’s ability to transcend art and war history and become part of both.

Likewise, in Euphoria, King explores the optimism and dedication that emerges through the emotional discovery of cultural traditions of the Tam tribe as the anthropologists, Nell and Fen become a part of the Tam community. The passionate tone of Nell in ‘I am learning the chopping rhythm of their talk and the sound of their laughter, I quiz myself morning and night’ illustrates the kind nature of the Tam native, Karu who assists Nell’s acquisition of language and helps her discover the rich traditions and perspectives of this remote group. The use of the passionate tone conveys Nell’s feeling of wonder, evoking a reflective process of evaluation on her Western lifestyle and heritage. Moreover, we can see Nell’s bliss within this environment in the simile ‘I loved the sound of our two typewriters, it felt like we were in a band, making a strange sort of music’ which exemplifies the camaraderie between Nell and Bankston as they document the knowledge and insights about Tam culture. This parallels with Hurley where intellectual and cultural discoveries positions us to see how passion allows research to be linked to personal identity.

In ‘The Man Who Made History’, Nasht shows Hurley’s immersion within the colonial enterprise of the Papuans to reveal how moral issues, insensitivity and power differentials

can undermine a process of intellectual discovery. Seuna Malaki’s, a village representative’s emphatic tone in  ‘it just destroyed our trust, our pride and our identity’ generates a sense of empathy for the Papuan people as victims of colonial supremacy. This racial exploitation is accentuated by a subsequent panning shot of cultural artifacts and background tribal music, which embodies the vigour of Papuan culture and contrasts it with Hurley’s bitter indignation, conceited behaviour and sensationalised misrepresentations of cannibalism. Ironically, Hurley’s film ‘Pearls and Savages’ provides insight into native Papuan ritual and lifestyle, allowing the legacy of the Papuans to be reclaimed to some degree. Consequently, we can see that by scrutinising the emotional and intellectual discoveries of those in the past, there is a moral imperative associated with the discovery of new environments.

Similarly, in Euphoria, King explores how the publication of Bankston’s book preserves the Tam culture but we are also left with Fen’s exploitation and lack of morality. The rhetorical questions in ‘stick it in the ground to rot? After everything I went through?’ illustrates the selfishness of Fen as Xambun, a Tam native – is murdered as a result of Fen’s theft of the totemic flute from the Mumbanyo tribe. King uses rhetorical questions to accentuate Fen’s irresponsible behaviour as the Tam natives grieve in heart-wrenching agony, asking if they can bury the flute with Xambun who was the equivalent of ‘Paul Bunyan, George Washington and John Henry all in one’. This allusion highlights how our selfishness can deplete our morals, generating lasting effects on others. Ironically, it is through the publication of Bankston’s book about Lake Tam which he ‘wrote with more conviction than anything in his life’ that we are able to see a sense of dignity emerge from his passion for being an anthropologist. Correspondingly, this draws a parallel to Hurley and his film ‘Pearls and Savages’ where King highlights how Bankston’s book helps us to rediscover the preserved elements of Tam culture whilst examining the nature of anthropology and the particular use of it by individuals.

Ultimately, it is through Nasht’s ‘The Man Who Made History’ and King’s Euphoria that we are positioned to see the invigorating forces of mother nature. Both texts symbolise the confluence of curiosity and wonder where the rewarding elements contained in the discovery of cultural environments and adventure offer renewed perceptions about ourselves and others.

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