Transcript of Lynette Wallworth – A different future


LYNETTE WALLWORTH: I'm Lynette Wallworth.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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