URBANA — The first of the free showings of University of Illinois Professor Deke Weaver’s “Tiger” multimedia project is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana.
It’s the fifth entry in the veteran writer-performer, designer and media artist’s lifelong series called “The Unreliable Bestiary.”
The process for such a media/storytelling project starts with a lot of reading, Weaver said. Then it’s on to personal experience.
“I like to go to places where these animals live in the wild. In 2015, I went to India to try to see some tigers. In 2018, I went to Thailand,” he said. “I was trying to get to Bangladesh, but those plans kept falling apart.
“These physical experiences come up against all the reading I’ve been doing, and that churns everything up in different ways.”
“Tiger” is meant to make the audience consider a world where these cats are extinct or exist only in zoos.
He said he imagines a time, possibly not so far in the future, in which the glaciers that feed the Ganges River receding to nothing.
“At the same time, the vast delta through which it meets the Bay of Bengal is being overtaken by the sea, which is rising at a rate to displace a significant portion of the world’s human population in the century to come,” he said.
With a couple of long flights, Americans can travel to “the last stronghold of tigers in the wild and spend days straining to catch a glimpse of one; a world in which the number of remaining wild tigers is exceeded by the number of captive ones.”
“I’m writing these stories with the clear intention for them to be told out loud,” Weaver said. “They might read OK, but it’s the rehearsing of them, finding the rhythm with the stories and how they fit in with the video and sound and context,” and performing them live is the goal.
One striking image is the head of a tiger in a box.
“I reconnected with my photo teacher from grad school. Turns out her dad was a big game hunter,” Weaver said. “This particular tiger head had been something connected to her childhood. She named him George. And she still has him in a Tupperware bin stashed in her closet.”