Ctrl + Alt + Shift, new perspectives in art and technology

This resource provides Stage 5 students with opportunities to investigate and interpret contemporary intersections between art, technology, storytelling, social change and collaboration by focusing on the practice of five Australian artists.

The 5 Australian artists include:

  • Tamara Dean
  • r e a
  • Joan Ross
  • Alexia Sinclair
  • Lynette Wallworth.

These artists create artworks that reconsider history and the role of the audience, address social concerns and shift perspectives. These learning resources support students to develop the knowledge, understandings and skills to make photographic, digital, film/4D and/or virtual reality artworks that are informed by contemporary artistic practice, the conceptual framework and the frames.  Students draw on these understandings to critically and historically interpret contemporary artworks by the five focus artists.  

Ctrl + Alt + Shift contains a learning sequence for each artist of between 4-9 lessons and a video interview to support investigations. The learning sequences can be taught individually, or they might be combined to create an extended program of work. There is no correct structure or order for completing the five learning sequences.  The learning activities can be differentiated and/or extended according to the needs of students. 

Teachers should note and complete the Audio Visual Materials in schools advice (DOCX 78.85 KB) and the Controversial resource information and permission note (DOCX 73.05 KB) before commencing the study of a controversial resource. 

Watch the video Tamara Dean Human nature (10:04)

For me, nature is home. It's where I feel safe.

Tamara Dean

For me, nature is home. It's where I feel safe. I go into the bush. And I feel like I'm in the right place. To be able to just walk out my front door and be able to enter a forest or a body of water and to create work in my own environment and to see it through new eyes each time I do it is just such a privilege.

My name's Tamara Dean. I'm a photo media artist. And I work with photography, installation, and moving image. I actually chose to study photography as a unit when I was in high school as a unit at TAFE. So we didn't have photography in our art department at school. So I did study art all the way through high school. And photography was part of that.

When I first went to University I went to the College of Fine Arts. And I studied studio art there for a year. But after that year, I didn't really feel like I was ready to keep going with my arts degree. And I ended up changing to a visual communications degree out at the University of Western Sydney.

And it actually took me quite a few years to come back to photography. I thought I was going to be an animator and an illustrator. I majored in illustration. And it took kind of working-- I was working on a magazine as an assistant designer. And did a night course in photography at the National Art School. And it reminded me of how much I loved photography.

And so what I started doing was photographing my friends and photographing the protest movement that was around me. And my friends were going to. And when I was photographing protests, I recognised that the professional photographers, the photojournalists I saw working just they just looked so proficient at what they were doing.

And whilst I learnt, I guess, the creative aspects of photography through my various degrees, I hadn't really got a very strong grounding in the technical part. And so I thought I'd approach The Sydney Morning Herald, which had a couple of photographers whose work I really admired, to see if I could do some work experience there. And that work experience led to a traineeship and then led to a 13-year career as a photojournalist in photo-documentary. Yeah.

The pivotal point where I started focusing on my art practice again was when I had my first child. So what I did was I began by doing a series called 'Motherhood'. And I had a number of friends who were going through the early stages of motherhood at the same time. And so I could bring my daughter along. And I sort of understood the rhythms of that time. And so I was able to create images.

And as a point of difference to the photojournalism, with this series, I actually started taking some control of the elements in the photograph. So I would set up a camera in an area where there might be nice light. And I'd get people to enter that area. And do whatever they're doing naturally. But there was certain, I guess, elements of staging that I started taking control of. And I guess, that was a bridge in a way from my photojournalism work to my art practice where, in the end, I have taken control of sort of everything.

So since I've been in self-isolation, I've been trying to continue to make work. And that's involved using myself, given I don't have any models that I can work with. And I guess, in a way, I'm creating more playful images. And they touch on the seriousness of the isolation, but they also just the act of photographing myself and having to run back and forth with the self-timer, it's a bit silly. And it's a bit funny.

So I kind of head out onto the block with my camera. And more often than not don't know exactly what I'm going to do. So this is where I set up my camera for the shot of me tumbling through the landscape. I had my camera trained here. And I'd put it onto the timer setting. And then I'd quickly run down. And place myself in the landscape. And so I did that all the way up here, a whole lot of different ones. And pieced it together at the end.

To begin with, there was a little crevice sort of underneath a very prickly bush that I put myself in. And then I went back to the camera, have a look on the back of the camera, see how that works. And through the process of actually doing that, I came to realise that there could be this interesting way of moving through the landscape. And if I multiplied my body in post-production, it could look like a whole lot of people moving through the landscape.

And I started down in that bush. And then I moved up through the landscape where there was a tree trunk. And I thought that could work quite well to sort of look like I'm tumbling over.

And as I started building on this idea and imagining, I kind of got this feeling. You know, when I go out, when I've gone out on those short periods during the self-isolation, I sort of feel like, you know, you don't know where the virus is. And I'm sort of fleeing from this invisible threat. And I thought that kind of could work quite nicely with me sort of running through the landscape kind of from this invisible threat. And so I thought this sort of sense of tumbling down the hill could work quite well.

But it gives you an idea of how a scene, which is quite still, and it doesn't have a lot of energy into it. By putting my figure in there and moving it throughout the image, I'm starting to create a narrative. And the culmination of that little part of the shoot ended up being the image I created was this image, which I made in Photoshop.

So ultimately, I've got that locked off camera on a tripod so that it remains in the same spot. And I've been able to use Photoshop to copy myself out of each of the images and paste them into one using essentially that natural backdrop as a backdrop. And ultimately, leading to this image, which kind of has this sort of energy and a sort of fantastic element to it where I'm sort of tumbling and looking like-- yeah, it just sort of has a playfulness, but also a sense of foreboding for me.

And I've manipulated the colors a little bit. I started with quite a green hue. And I mean, I'm really inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite painters. And often in the paintings that I adore, there's this sort of magenta, this red that comes up through the shadows. And that's what I've aimed for in the final image.

Whilst I created this image, which had a very particular way about it, I also tried out a whole lot of other things that didn't work. And I think it's really important to experiment. And often, you know, there can be the most amazing things that come out of that sort of experience.

The environment has been of paramount importance to me for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I wrote a letter to the council about my concerns about what was happening in the environment. When I finished high school, I went and protested forests being logged.

And since I left The Herald and have focused more on my art practice, it's become a time for me where I realized I was able to use my voice in a way, my vision as my voice. The first step is really trying to create works that make people question and think about humans in relation to nature. And the fundamental point really I'm trying to make with the works now, and I have been for a few years, is that humans are a part of nature. We can't continue to see ourselves as sitting outside nature. To do that is to our own detriment.

And if we can start to see ourselves as a part of something that is living and organic, and, you know, we rely on nature to live, I guess my work now is sort of trying to make that point in different ways.

[Birds calling]

[End of transcript]

Students engage in critical and historical investigations to strengthen their understanding of Tamara Dean’s artmaking practice and produce a critical response to two of her works. Students engage in artmaking activities creating two photographic and digital media artworks that apply aspects of her practice and processes and reveal the relationships between humans and the physical environment.


Watch the video r e a Finding the form (09:02).

What I do as an artist is I take ideas, and I allow the idea to unfold and find the medium.

[Birds chirping]

[Music playing]

r e a

What I do as an artist is I take ideas, and I allow the idea to unfold and find the medium. As an artist who's working in technology, it finds the form itself.

[Music playing]

So I'm not an artist now who would say I'm actually a photographer, or I'm a video artist, or I'm a sound artist. I am an artist who works in an interdisciplinary cross-art form practice, who allows an idea to unfold and find the form that it needs to find to create a space so you can have an experience in it.

[Music playing]

My name is r e a. And I'm from the Gamilaraay, Wailwan, and Biripi people from the Central Western New South Wales, from the Warrumbungles area. And I live here on Dharruk country.

[Music playing]

When I was a kid growing up in Coonabarabran, my mom for some reason picked up that I was interested in art because I was drawing all the time. And then later on in years, I continued my art practice I guess as a hobby in some sense. I did have a strong relationship. It felt like it was an extension of who I was.

[Music playing]

I dropped out of school before I finished year 10. And I applied to go to the National Art School, and I didn't get accepted. So I threw all my art out, all my archival history and proceeded to just be in the world without art.

[Music playing]

I later returned to it really just by accident when I was about 25. And I went to the Aboriginal performing and visual art school, the Eora Center, in Redfern. And I was really lucky that Professor Michael McDaniel, who now kind of heads up the Jumbunna Center at UTS, was my history teacher. And it was through his encouragement that I thought about going beyond that because he asked me a question that nobody had ever asked me.

He said, what are you going to do when you leave here, r e a. And I said, I'm going to go to Tranby, or I'm going to go and do another TAFE course. And he said to me, but you don't need to do that. You can go to university. You've got all the skills you need.

And I said, no, I'm not smart enough to go to university. And so it was through his nurturing and support. And he opened that door for me to have an interview there. And the rest is history really.

Later on, after I'd finished art school and been thinking about my work in a broader context, I made the work Poles Apart, which was paying homage to my grandmother. But it was also about looking at the broader relationship to the Stolen Generation and how Indigenous women never got to find their way back to country and how lucky I was that my grandmother had that knowledge and knew where she come from.

And I guess the work Poles Apart of which I'm the body in that is representing that loss plays this part in the work as the body trying to escape from somewhere from another part of the country, a country that's not my country, to find my way back to where I come from. But I'm lost. And in that loss, there's a whole lot of experiences that are happening for me. But there's also this kind of constant anxiety that I'm going to be found by the people that I'm working for or the place that I am staying, and that I'll never get back to country.

So there's this kind of juxtaposition between this relationship between the excitement about escaping this place but the anxiety about being found and having to go back to it. And I thought that a lot of these women who were in those positions, who when they were finally allowed to leave at the age of 18, they never found their way back to country because they ended up on the fringes of cities and towns because they didn't know where they came from.

There's not always sound in my work. Like when I created Poles Apart, that work had sound. And by the time I finished the work, the silence of that work was much more powerful than me putting any sound. So the silence of that work was the important part of it.

Technology is really-- if you approach it in a way that it is about making mistakes, and you learn from the mistake, and you correct it. And once I got used to that idea of technology, I played more.

[Music playing]

It gave me kind of permission then to make lots of mistakes. And I think the thing that's really important about being an artist is artists make a lot of mistakes to make great work. You do not my great work from your first go because it's about a process of thinking about your ideas and thinking about how you want the outcome of the idea to be in its physical form.

[Music playing]

If I'm making a photograph and I want the photograph to have much more impact than somebody standing in front of it looking at it on the wall, and I want to have a sound element or I want to create some other ideas that will go in the space, then I have to also be willing to shift the visual idea. So my visual idea moved from photography to video work because video work allowed me to change the images, the motion, and the movement and gave it much more of a kind of physical experience.

[Music playing]

And through that journey, then I learnt that I wasn't an artist who made works about stories in a linear sense. I made work that was more about a conceptual idea, so moments, those little moments that make up a big idea.

[Music playing]

For me, being an artist is the voice that I needed to be able to creatively express the history that I come from and my family history and to continue on in a way that I can share that history in an academic space with Indigenous, and non-Indigenous kids, and anyone who's willing to kind of be open-minded and learn that experience, about those experiences, about our history because our histories have always been taught in parallel to each other and not as a connection. And they are so connected.

And until we understand how connected they are, then the gap that we kind of have between us will continue to be there. So if we want to change that gap, we have to make those connections. And we can only make it through understanding the collective history.

[Music playing]

[End of transcript]

Students engage in critical and historical investigations to strengthen their understanding of r e a’s artmaking practice and produce extended responses to the identified focus works. 

Students engage in artmaking activities that use appropriation and communicate personal and cultural meaning. They will also produce a 2D digital artwork and a silent film. 


Watch the video Joan Ross – Pushing the limits (10:32).

I'm an artist who works in every medium you can possibly find.

[Music playing]

Joan Ross

My name's Joan Ross. I'm an artist who works in every medium you can possibly find.

[Music playing]

From an early age I was always questioning things. I knew not to follow things mindlessly. It wasn't really encouraged by anyone, but it was supported because actually I did have a different way of thinking about things. So this continued on into art school where I questioned why work on canvas? What is art? What is painting? What is drawing? And just always tried to push the limits on materials. And conceptually what are all these things? And I didn't stick with anyone's ideas about it. I really looked myself to see what the answers were.

[Lever noise]

My video works are completely layered. There are so many things going on all at once, and I think if we look at "Colonial Grab," we see we've got a woman playing a poker machine. We understand gambling as a metaphor. We understand chance, but what really strikes me in that work more than anything in terms of the layers and the symbolism is where the colonial woman makes ikebana, which is Japanese flower arranging, out of the Glover's trees which still have the Aboriginal people in them from the original paintings. And she does this in an act of total disregard for indigenous history and culture. And again it's pretty much a metaphor for the greed and ignorance and insensitivity of the colonials.

Look, I think a lot of those early colonial works are very beautiful. I have a love-hate relationship. I actually find them both wonderful and disgusting at the same time.

[Breaking glass]

Landscape is actually a way to engage with a wider audience, and so with the works that I've made, particularly the video works, I've really wanted to engage not just with the art world but with the general public who love landscapes. All of these early colonial works have a type of invested meaning, and I feel that very strongly. And I want to use the traces of that because I have a very strong message that I want to get across. And I want to do it in the lightest way possible.

[Bird noises]

I initially didn't like the idea of trying to make art work in virtual reality, but I think it's incredibly important to use new technologies to stay relevant for a start. But also to experiment and experience it. So I did a week workshop with a professional VR person, and when we finished and people came around to look, I noticed that they were just obsessed with how big the flowers were growing. They weren't interested in the concept, they had a real me, me, me attitude. And actually, I didn't enjoy it. I thought, this isn't a place for art.

And, if we fast forward, I was in the middle of an interview about this. We were discussing it, and someone asked a question. It was just like a light bulb went off. And I said to my friend, when is this ACMI commission due, and he said, tonight at midnight. I said, I've got a great idea. Do you think we can do it? And he said, let's try. Anyway, so we actually did do it, and we received the ACMI Mordant commission to make a really big VR work.

So my idea was, if we look at people's me, me, me attitude, we can help them, we can show them how that attitude actually destroys the world. So within that work, you embody the colonial woman, and you can do all sorts of things. And almost everything you do, as you grab and grab for more things and try more things out, you actually destroy that the whole environment that you're in. And really very much a description of what's happening in the world right now.

I think it's really important not to be scared by new technologies and not to think you can't do it. So if you came up with a really good idea, you might be able to facilitate someone helping you to do it. You don't need to think all the time that you need to do it fully yourself. There is not any hope that I could have made a virtual reality work without an incredibly great technician. We often are asking other people to help us with what we're making. It all doesn't have to be your own hands on.

Which also brings me to one of the things that I find really interesting is that the ability to draw realistically is no determination of a creative person. If you are a film maker, for example, there is no way you need to draw anything other than stick figures. And, if it was up to me, this would be changed in kindergarten at schools, and people would start to learn that creativity is about imagination and about expanding your mind and the way you think. It's not to do with being able to draw a vase.

[Water sounds and music playing]

So in my most recent video, I give you a mountain. Really, initially comes from the work that I won the Sulman Prize with, which was looking into a museum. And that work was called, "oh history, you lied to me." And it talks about the retelling of history from a certain point of view, not often being the actual truth. And that again, we must question what actually happened.

I used Sarah Stone's image of the Leverian Museum to start this work. So when we come into this work, we're at a flooded museum, so there's water. We see a bird fly into the next room, so we start to follow this bird. And as the bird goes in, for example, it loses its head. So in this next room, there's a lot of headless birds, and the headless birds talk about our future in terms of the environment. If we're not careful, we are actually going to lose complete species, and we already have.

But on the other side of this room is colonials with their heads in jars. And again, a lot of these things don't need to be described, so you need to actually watch it. And you start to feel the vibe of it. I have Watkin Tench. He made diaries in 1788. And I've had a voiceover man use his words to tell part of a story about how their attitude to birds in those days--


--call of a roman sea eagle. This rare recording could be gone in a heartbeat, so call 1-800 birdsong to get your copy before it disappears.

Joan Ross

This moves all the way through a whole lot of different rooms. There's another image that I've appropriated which has an Aboriginal man mowing the lawn while a colonial couple hold balloons. And again, it's just wrong, and anyway, you move through there. And then you see a colonial man try to hand another man a mountain, and as he does, it crumbles. Because people don't own land, believe it or not. And so eventually, actually all the mountains crumble, and these men crumble as well. And all that's left is their heads on the ground. It's a very, very layered video.

[Thunder and music playing]

When I'm working, I allow my subconscious to be really involved, and actually that's where a lot of my ideas come from as well. It's during times of not thinking and observing, so I spend a lot of time observing the natural world and watching people. And I never go into ideas with I must come up with a new idea. I just see it as a progression, so there's always something in play in the background just looking for what might happen next.

[Music playing]

[End of transcript]

Students interpret aspects of Ross’s artmaking practice to understand how she works across a range of new technologies to explore ideas and issues relevant to the world. They produce an extended response using the conceptual framework.

Students engage in artmaking activities to create a photomontage landscape that applies aspects of Joan Ross’s practice and processes and reveals the relationships between history, truth, and narrative. 


Watch the video Alexia Sinclair – Storyteller (10:36).

Costuming has been an amazing device for me to do storytelling

[Music playing]

Alexia Sinclair

My name is Alexis Sinclair and I'm an artist. And I'm best known for my colorful photographic work that is very hard to describe. When I was growing up, I did ballet from when I was four to 14. And when we would do ballet, our teacher would sit down and she would describe how the music should make us feel, and she would describe a very complex story that we were trying to tell with our performances. And that really started to inspire the way that I worked.

When you look at my work, you can see, there's a lot of roleplaying. And I often do work with models who are dancers. They have an amazing grace about them that really adds to the romance of my work. I was fortunate that my parents took me to lots of places that were historical buildings and grand old gardens and that sort of thing. And through visiting those places, I think that I really started to form a vast imagination and I guess the combination of fantasy with dance, and then visiting these huge fantastical places led to me making fantastical works.

Like everybody, I think, in any mainstream school, they study art, and I did, and you get to have a little bit of a taste of every kind of creative field that there are. And when I finished up high school, I went on to study at the National Art School. And I wasn't interested in drawing, and I kind of knew that I wanted to either be in sculpture or photography.

But it's a very traditional art school and they made you draw. And you had to draw for three years, and if you failed drawing, you found everything, which I hated as a teenager. But it really came to drive the way that I work today. There's a lot of illustration in the work that I do. And sitting down and sketching out ideas has become an amazing tool for me.

They also made you do all of these other subjects, like print-making and painting. And you'll see in my process that actually, everything I've ever learned is a big part of my process now. Photography is really just the documentation of what I do at the very end of a very long process, of little bits of who I'm crafted to be over the years.

When I first went to art school and I was really trying to find the artist that I came to be, one day I went to the library and I found this whole section on the artist called the Pre-Raphaelites. And I really just fell in love, and I started to discover these artists who were Victorian, and they were looking back at an era before themselves. So they were looking at medieval stories that had a lot of costuming and these medieval sets, and I started to think about how I could relate in my own work to other periods.

I started by looking for costumes, and when I started doing photographs rather than paintings, I realized that the costuming itself looked really rough that I was hiring. And that's really the beginning of when I started to think, I'm going to have to start to learn how to do dress-making and put time into this. And also, I noticed that if I hide anything, any kinds of props or anything, they would just sort of appear in other people's work after I'd already produced work as I grew in popularity.

And so that sort of led to me starting to think about how I really need to craft my own image from beginning to end, from the dressmaking to the prop-making to the backgrounds, because I'm really putting my own unique stamp on every single thing. And the other thing is that you never really find exactly what you're searching for. You have this image in your mind and you're trying to work towards that point. And going and searching for other things is often-- you don't kind of get the result that you were looking for in the beginning.

I was really interested in this very new thing called Photoshop, which was early '90s, and just nobody really knew very much about it. And that led to me going into honors, master's, and all sorts of stuff. Not so much to study those things, but to have labs that I could be in. It was sort of a cheaper way for me as a creative to have an environment that I could visit and be inspired by other people and ask questions. And again, start to add new layers of technology to the way that I worked. And so that's when I started to do, digital illustration and all that sort of stuff.

So when you look at my work, it's really a combination of things that are very traditional crafts. There's lots of painting in the backdrops, there's all the hand-beading and the costuming. And then it ends up as a very, very polished pieces where there's not a strand out of place, and that's happening in post-production.

When people walk into an exhibition of mine, I came to realize that they were most interested in particular artworks when they could sort of-- they could walk into a room and they could experience the piece from a distance and it would have an impact, but they would move closer to the work and they would start to analyze little pieces of the work.

I've always been really interested in detail and I've always worked with medium-format and large-format cameras. So adding symbolism in work through costuming has been an amazing device for me to do storytelling within the work about particular characters and the themes that I'm working on, but also to draw people into the work and to make them sort of talk in pieces.

These days, I'm really particular about what commercial projects I will take on because I just have so limited time. If I had to think of a special one, it'd probably be the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I received a traditional letter in my PO box, and it was inviting me to be a part of a project called The Art of Saving a Life. And now we're approaching 30 world-renowned artists to help produce artworks that would shine a light on our need for vaccines in third-world countries.

So it's something that I personally aligned with, and they basically said, we're giving each artist a theme that is something that is a medical thing like polio or some kind of a-- everyone gets their own, and you get smallpox. So the challenge was to take a theme, which is Dr. Edward Jenner when he created the first vaccination, and they wanted me to have that thing within this artwork. But I also wanted it to appear everywhere.

I was trying to think, how can I show smallpox is present in the work without showing some poor person covered in pustules and actually showing death itself? So as I was researching, I discovered that the Chinese have referred smallpox as heavenly flowers, and I thought, well, flowers is a really beautiful symbol that I can disperse throughout the work, and it allows journalists to talk about smallpox in a way that people can sort of stomach as they're reading New York Times.

It has a central figure, and she's really representing the aristocrats. And her role is to show that aristocrats can catch smallpox, and so can the young boy who's on the other side of the artwork. That disease does not care about class, and that is something that spreads throughout all levels of society. So she's a central figure and it bleeds through to the historical frame. And then the flowers and then the bottles in the background have tiny little skulls that are photographed with flowers, and they represent the life and the death within life.

So the work is-- yeah. It was very symbolic. And it allows journalists to pick up that work and it gives them something to talk about. It's bigger than the drier subject of vaccination. Don't think anybody who goes through the art school knows exactly what they want to be. You're going to art school to develop into something special.

When we're young, we're so influenced by the people around us and the things that we see, especially now with things like Instagram. But you really have to step away from that and you have to think about your inner self and be true to yourself and not care about what other people think, and just think, I'm-- it's not perfect now, but I'm going to keep working on it and I'm going to put in those 10,000 hours and I'm going to polish this and become that thing that's in my imagination.

[Music playing]

[End of transcript]

Students engage in critical and historical investigations comparing the conventions of the Pre-Raphaelites and the work of Alexia Sinclair, They interpret signs and symbols used to convey meaning and investigate appropriation.  

Students engage in artmaking activities creating a series of symbolic digital portraits that convey a narrative inspired Alexia Sinclair’s practice.


Watch the video Lynette Wallworth – A different future (12:14).

Story is crucial and core to human existence.

[Music playing]

Lynette Wallworth

I'm Lynette Wallworth.

[Music playing]

I work with technology, most recently with virtual reality, augmented reality, but also any form of film and immersive installation. So my interest is how to get people inside of the work.

[Music playing]

Our technology changes our brains as we develop it. so our capacity to perceive something in 3D or in an immersive environment. Initially, when we're exposed to those things you feel this moment in your brain where you don't really quite know what it is you're looking at. And that's when those new synaptic connections are going down, where we're perceiving what's going on. And we know that from the beginning of film.

Like when film first started to be shown to people, they couldn't perceive it as something different from reality. You've got those very early scenes of people running out of a cinema as a train was approaching it on a screen because they thought that what was coming at them was really coming at them. And we laugh at that because we think it's amusing.

But, actually, it still happens to us, just not with the cinema screen because we're used to that. It happens to us in virtual reality. It's happened to me. I've been sitting inside of a space in virtual reality and tried to reach out and touch a table that actually isn't in my physical reality.

[Music playing]

If I ask you about the first time you experience virtual reality or the first time you experienced any new thing, your memory of that is going to be stronger because that's when those new synaptic connections were made. So if I can link that moment of indelible memory with content that I think is really meaningful and important, then you will always remember it. So that's what I try and do. I keep tracking the technology and coupling it with powerful stories so that they become seared in people's memories.

[Music playing]

I studied painting at art school, three years of painting. I did some photography, and then I did postgrad in photography. I kept shifting because I was searching for a relationship with the audience. So a relationship with the audience when you're a painter is-- I don't know how you make that connection. It's a passive relationship with the audience.

With photography, it's the same. If you're move into installation, which I then did, you get the opportunity to have people move around in a physical space. So I went from painting, to photography, to installation of photography.

When you start to get to interactive, which is where I went to next, I started really thinking about how could I make a work that was incomplete unless the audience was in the work? And the first time I did that was in a work could Hold, which I made in 2001. And in that work, you carried glass bowls into a very dark space. And there were three projectors hidden in the ceiling. They were beaming like light beams a video down into the room.

So it's really you walk into a room with three kind of small columns of light falling to the floor. I put a special flooring in that space so you couldn't read that image on the floor. And I had a glass artist make these glass balls, which were really the shape of the lens of your eye. And it was white glass frosted. And early projection screens for cinema was frosted glass.

[Music playing]

So you're carrying really a little cinema screen in your hands. And you have to catch the image. So you complete the work. Without the viewer carrying the ball and finding the focal point in midair and revealing the image, there is no image to see. So this idea of making us all participants in the work as opposed to viewers is really why I shifted into the form that I work in.

[Music playing]

I made a work called Evolution of Fearlessness, which was at a time of one of those cycles that we have in this country around demonizing people who come here by boat, political refugees, people who are seeking asylum. And I was reading the-- I was reading articles about these people. And I thought to myself, the thing that an interactive video allows is for you to be present with someone even though they're not physically there.

And I am looking for an authentic response, both in the person I'm filming and in the person who is now a participant in that work. So in that my work is always involving the audience, I'm looking for the response in the audience.

So I gathered together these 11 women. Two of them were born here, but the rest have arrived here during different cycles of civil unrest in countries all over this planet. And what I wanted to do-- I didn't want these women to tell their stories. I just wanted to create a moment of meeting between strangers who are now living in the same place.

So the way you experience this work is you enter a room. And there's a book there which has just 750 words really about each woman. It's written deliberately in a very unemotional way.

So I removed any words from that that I thought were trying to elicit emotion. I had music in this work initially. I removed the music. I was deliberately not trying to trigger feeling from what is the hardest part of this work, which is what's happened to these women.

And then you approach a little doorway. It's an interactive doorway. And you can only be one person at a time. So it means you actually have to visit. You have to approach this doorway, walk up these two little steps, place your hand on this little beam of smoky light.

And when you do that, that triggers the interactivity in the work. So you get this sort of seamless transition from this smoky light to the activation of the work where one of these women who I filmed steps forward, the video of her. She's life-size. And she places her hand on your hand. So it's just this moment of touch between strangers. But she's looking in your eyes.

And what happens in that absolutely silent moment is people are completely undone by this simple meeting of strangers. I've seen people faint in front of this work. I've seen three people faint in front of a work which is doing nothing, where your hand is on basically a piece of glass.

But the film of this work is filmed in a sort of very sacred manner, where these women are walking down a long dark tunnel really, approaching a tiny little bit of light. And because of what they've been through, walking through darkness activates a lot of their history. So although they're not saying anything, they're carrying the world within, the world that they left and the world that they're now in. And when you meet that, you feel this incredible depth of humanity. And you can't ignore it.

And so I think we can overlook a lot of the time one of the most powerful-- for me is one of the most powerful-- parts of the work, which is emotional responsiveness. That helps us commune with one another. And sometimes you don't need a single word for that. But the interactive triggers can be so seamless that it creates what feels like a true meeting. And in a true meeting, your feeling will be engaged.

Initially, if you have a story to tell, look for your own stories. Look for the stories you know. Sometimes because you know a story-- it's familiar to you-- you think there's no interest in it. But it's only because it's become ordinary to you.

[Music playing]

Something you've known your entire life could be incredibly fascinating for someone who has never been exposed to it. Look to your own relationships because your relationships will give you an entryway into a storytelling.

[Music playing]

There's story everywhere. And it's just our inability to see the gold in it because we've become immune to it. That means that we might lose it. So my advice would be go incredibly local and have a look around the area you know better than anyone else. And you will find your stories there.

Art is a really extraordinary thing because most people are open to it. And it is amazing the doors that an artwork can open. That other people in economics, in trade, in other fields might demand access to art can swing open a doorway.

[Music playing]

And for me, because of the work I'm doing and what I care about, the people I'm working with to make that work, my view is if I can swing open that doorway, I need to have something important to carry into that room. So that's the work. And it's like wonderful work to do because the work travels the world. And the work shifts hearts because it's not talking about numbers and statistics, because it's landing you somewhere and helping you to see a different future.

[Music playing]

[End of transcript]

Watch the video Lynette Wallworth – The Story of Collisions (07:38).

If you hold story, you hold knowledge


So all of my work is based on relationship, real relationship, not a pretend relationship and not a relationship fostered to make a work. So first of all, none of the works that I've made with indigenous communities have I instigated. They've come about because I've been invited and I've responded to an invitation.

I mean, story is crucial and core to human existence. And who owns that story, whose story that is, should be part of all of our ethical understandings. So if you hold a story, you hold knowledge.

So I can't go anywhere and take any story. That's completely against what I think my work is about.


This is my grandfather, Nyarri Morgan. Nyarri says, welcome, you come from a long way away.

[Music playing]


Collisions is the third work that I have done with the Mardu people from Western Australia. The part of Australia that the Mardu people live in and have as their homeland is a part of Australia that, for a long time, people weren't looking to go there, to grow anything or to graze anything.

And so that meant that the Mardu people were left alone, they were amongst the last contacted in this country. They had their first contact with Western culture in the 1950s and '60s. So unbeknownst to them, I had worked with the Anangu people in South Australia, where Britain had tested atomic bombs in the 1950s in a remote part of South Australia.

This is also a part of our history, I think, that we don't necessarily know much about. So I was sitting in the desert with the Mardu people, and I was talking about this desert I'd seen in Maralinga, where Britain had tested atomic bombs in the 1950s in Australia.

And one of the women who was sitting around the campfire, they turned to me with this kind of laser-like look and said, oh, you need to talk to Nyarri.

So Nyarry was her husband. I didn't know then the story that I was to find out. All I knew was that Nyarri had some story to do with these tests in South Australia. And that now it was my responsibility to talk to him.

I had been with the Mardu people enough now to know that they interpreted everything in those first moments of Western incursion into their world, they interpreted everything according to what they knew, as we do. When you can't recognize something if you've never seen it before.

So Nyarri told me he'd seen this thing, when he was moving through a hunting route in the South Australian desert in the 1950s. And I said to him, what did you think that was? And he said, we thought it was the spirit of our gods rising up to speak with us.

And then he said, we saw that the spirit had made all the kangaroos fall down on the ground, dead. As a gift, we thought. A gift of hunting, of easy hunting.

So he said, we took those kangaroos and we ate them. And the people were sick, and their spirits left. That was, like, our first exchange. It was this incredible telling of a story which he had held very close to himself for 60 years.

So I said to him, what do you want to do with this story? And he listed a whole list of places where the story was meant to go, including Canberra, and Sydney. But Canberra was at the top of that list.

Unbeknownst to Nyarri, and actually any of the Mardu people, I had a relationship with the World Economic Forum, which has a gathering of most of the world's leaders in Davos in January each year. And the World Economic Forum had asked me to bring them a work. I hadn't yet seen virtual reality, so at the time I heard this story, actually the technology didn't exist to film in virtual reality.

But around 2014, the technology changed, as it always does. And there became the capacity to film in full 360, so that I could put a camera down in Nyarri's world. And you would feel like you were present there. And

In virtual reality, the thing that's really powerful about it is wherever the camera is, you would feel your head to be. So I can look at that camera, and when you're wearing a headset, I'm looking at you. So we carried this very cutting edge equipment into the community and Nyarri told this story.

And he talks directly to you. And he says, look after the land. Look after your life, look after the land, and look after it for the people who are coming. So you have this incredible, perfect, I think, encapsulation of the worst of Western technology not thinking about what's going to happen from this kind of decision we make at a crucial point in time. And set against this Australian indigenous thinking about caring for a place for 65,000 years. And we got to take that work and put it in front of world leaders. And he traveled with us, so he fulfilled his dream inside of that work.

[Music playing]

[End of transcript]

Using the frames, students  investigate excerpts of critical writing and build their understanding of visual arts specific language. They develop critical and historical interpretations of the focus artworks and use this knowledge to inform their own collaborative artmaking project that investigates storytelling, relationships and the local environment.



Please note:

Syllabus outcomes and content descriptors from Visual Arts 7–10 Syllabus (2003) © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2017.

Return to top of page Back to top