Lynette Wallworth is an Australian artist/filmmaker most well known for her innovative use of emerging technologies. In 2017, she received a News & Documentary Emmy award for Outstanding New Approaches in Documentary Film for her virtual reality narrative Collisions (2016). Wallworth's works span virtual reality 360 film, feature documentary, and digital fulldome and interactive video installations, and have shown at venues and festival across the world, including the World Economic Forum, Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, the American Museum of Natural History, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, the Smithsonian; and the Sundance Film Festival, among many others. Her work reflects on the connections between people and the natural world, engaging viewers in an exploration of fragile human states of grace through immersive environments, interactive technologies with gestural interfaces, and narrative long form film.
Wallworth’s critically acclaimed works include the Emmy Award-winning virtual reality narrative Collisions, developed through the inaugural Sundance Institute New Frontier-Jaunt VR Residency; the 2015 interactive video installation Evolution of Fearlessness; the feature documentary Tender (2014); and the full dome feature Coral (2012), with accompanying augmented reality work. Her mixed reality work Awavena is slated to premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival's New Frontier program.
Wallworth's work reflects on the connections between people and the natural world. Often working in series or meditations on one theme, her measured pace suggests that patient observation might lead to richer understanding between ourselves and the natural environment. With each work there is a consistent experimentation using the latest technology. Wallworth manages to build a sense of community and compassion with these tools with a sense of beauty, revelation and wonder. The environments often rely on activation by the participant/viewer. The interplay between the moving image, sound, space and visitor as component elements in the ecosystem of a work is her primary focus. The activation of the work becomes a metaphor for our connectedness within biological, social and ecological systems.
Wallworth’s virtual reality (VR) narrative Collisions (2016), the first in a series of mixed-reality works, was awarded a 2017 News and Documentary Emmy award for Outstanding New Approaches in Documentary Film. Collisions tells the story of Nyarri Morgan— whose first contact with Western culture came in the 1950s via a dramatic collision between his traditional world view and the cutting edge of Western science and technology, when he witnessed first hand and with no context, an atomic test. The story — seen in the context of the Martu people’s careful stewardship of their land over hundreds of generations — provokes profound responses about technology, sustainability and the unintended consequences of our actions. Collisions premiered simultaneously at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in what was the world’s first large-scale synchronized screening of VR, and at the first theatrical screening of a VR work in the Egyptian theater at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. In 2016, Collisions was the first ever screening of a VR work at the Museum of Modern Art. Collisions has gone on to play in festivals around the world, including Tribeca, London, San Francisco, and Sheffield.
The film was developed when Wallworth was selected as the inaugural artist of the Sundance Institute New Frontier | Jaunt VR Residency Program. Collisions is a breakthrough production in immersive virtual reality cinema, filmed on Jaunt VR’s state of the art 3-D 360 camera and the first to be mixed at Skywalker Sound in Dolby Atmos - code was written specifically to achieve the needs of the production.
In 2017, Wallworth shared plans to turn Collisions into a five-part series, each episode focusing on a different indigenous community.
Interactive video installations
Wallworth's work Hold: Vessel (2001) invites the viewer to examine their relationship with the complex and immense natural world. Visitors hold a glass bowl and walk into a darkened room. The bowls ‘catch’ falling images of microscopic marine life and telescopic astronomical imagery from video projectors positioned in the ceiling. Hold: Vessel 2 (2007) follows on from Hold: Vessel 1, and uses footage indicating changes in fragile marine environments such as Tasmania’s giant kelp forests as well as footage from the 2004 Transit of Venus, a rare astronomical event, and historically an event that signals global scientific co-operation.
Evolution of Fearlessness (2006), commissioned by Peter Sellars for the Vienna Festivalis, is another intimate interactive installation. In this work, Wallworth filmed portraits of several women residing in Australia‚ but originating from countries such as Afghanistan‚ Sudan‚ Iraq and El Salvador‚ who have lived through war‚ survived concentration camps or extreme acts of violence. Wallworth wanted to show women who had a quality of resilience. The installation is designed for a one-to-one experience. When a person approaches the work they walk down a hallway and step up onto a platform before a doorway that pulses with blue light. There is an area of the video that is lit up and when a person puts their hand on the video the interactive system responds with one of the women placing their hand on your hand. This creates an intimate relationship between the video image and the visitor. This work is a sequel to Wallworth's earlier work Invisible by Night (2004) which presents a projection of a life–sized grieving woman whose eternal pacing can be interrupted by the viewer.
Wallworth followed these works with a third in the series called Duality of Light (2009–2011)—commissioned by Adelaide Film Festival—where the viewer has an encounter with a stranger whose ethereal presence reminds them of their own mortality. Further interactive installations include Still/Waiting 2 (2006), where the video is both unsettled and revealed by the presence of the viewer with dramatic movement of enormous flocks of birds from the South Australian flinders Ranges. Another focuses on the audiences engagement with powerful human emotions such as grief, loss and the re-emergence of hope seen in Duality of Light (2009). In 2010, Wallworth was invited to the Netherlands to create video imagery for the Hungarian composer György Kurtág's piece, Kafka Fragmente. Her visual imagery accompanied the performance the work. In the same year she developed interactive she developed interactive video for the English National Opera performance of Elegy for Young Lovers directed by Fiona Shaw.
Video and Film
Lynette has produced a video work on permanent display for the Immigration Museum Victoria called Welcome. In 2012 she was invited by the Martu people of Western Australia to develop a new video work for their exhibition We Don’t Need a Map from a journey taken with them into the Western Desert. This work called Still Walking Country or "Ngalaju Nyurri Parra Yarnkuni" was first shown at the Fremantle Arts Centre.
Wallworth’s feature documentary Tender (2014) follows a community group in the Australian town of Port Kembla as it seeks to establish its own not-for-profit, community-based funeral service. The film went on to win AACTA (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards) for best televised documentary, the Grand Jury Prize at France Televisions FIFO 2015, and was nominated for a Grierson Award in the UK.
The not-for-profit funeral service Tender Funerals is now fully functioning and runs from the old Port Kembla Fire station, refurbished as a funeral home.
Wallworth's 2012 work CORAL Rekindling Venus creates an immersive film experience in a digital full-dome planetarium. The film uses underwater footage of coral reefs and sea life to portray a fragile ecosystem under threat from global warming. The work was launched on the Transit of Venus 2012, and screened in 23 different cities worldwide during the week of the Transit. It screened as part of the World Science Festival NYC, the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and at the Sundance Film Festival 2013 as part of New Frontier. New York-based composer and performer Antony Hegarty wrote the song "Rise" for the film. The music of Max Richter, Tanya Tagaq Gillis, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Fennesz and Sakamoto, also feature in the film. She developed a companion artwork for CORAL in the form of a set of interactive posters that are triggered into life by a mobile phone app called coral RKV.
Wallworth's work has been exhibited at the World Economic Forum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, the Royal Observatory Greenwich for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, the Vienna Festival, the Auckland Triennial, and the Brighton Festival among many others, as well as various film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, and Sydney Film Festival. In April 2009, Wallworth’s largest solo show in Australia opened at the Samstag Museum of Art as part of the BigPond Adelaide Film Festival.
For her work Collisions, Wallworth was awarded a 2017 News & Documentary Emmy award for Outstanding New Approaches - Documentary and was named as one of the “100 Leading Global Thinkers” of 2016 by Foreign Policy magazine for immersing audiences in the destructive power of nuclear weapons. In 2016, Wallworth was awarded the Byron Kennedy Award for Innovation and Excellence the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA), as well as the inaugural Sydney UNESCO City of Film Award. Wallworth’s feature documentary Tender won the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Award in 2014 for best televised documentary, the Grand Jury Prize at the Oceania International Documentary Festival, was nominated for the 2014 Grieson Award and garnered Wallworth a nomination for the 2014 Margaret Mead Filmmaker award. Wallworth has been awarded an International Fellowship from the Arts Council of England, a New Media Arts Fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts and was the inaugural recipient of AFTRS Creative Fellowship in 2010.
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