Thursday, 13 November 2003


perception, body, space & landscape transformed by the moving image

Transfigure is a new major international exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image featuring fully immersive virtual-reality environments, interactive installations, large-scale projections, video and computer animations, and new media art by 15 leading artists from 6 countries.

Transfigure explores various transformations of perception, body, movement, space and landscape, as mediated by moving image technologies.

Visually dazzling, experiential, interactive, dynamic, reflective and richly suggestive - the range of startling works in Transfigure transfix our gaze, transform our perceptions, and transmute our imaginings of our future nature.

Transfigure is a showcase exhibition for the participating artists' (and their collaborators') virtuosic command of film and new media technologies.

The development of cinema throughout the past 110 years is inextricably linked with developments in a range of film production technologies. The recent transition from mechanical, chemical and analogue processes to those that are electronically and digitally based has provided artists with an extraordinary range of creative opportunities. As digital data, the fundamental elements that constitute the cinematic experience - space, time, light, sound and motion - are now infinitely malleable and endlessly reconfigurable.

Many of the works also provoke questions about the broader, often disquieting, implications of the ever-accelerating technological revolution that defines our time.

In ACMI's Screen Gallery, Char Davies' ground-breaking immersive virtual environments Osmose and Ephémère and Stelarc's Prosthetic Head (a cheekily loquacious computer-generated conversationalist) provide the thematic focus for Transfigure: technology, body and landscape.

Thirteen other works by prominent Australian and international artists have been selected from ACMI's Collection to further explore sublime tensions between technology and nature, space and perception, identity and image.

Curated by ACMI's Senior Producer/Curator New Media Projects, Alessio Cavallaro, Transfigure is the fourth major exhibition presented in ACMI's Screen Gallery.

exhibition highlights

Australian artist Stelarc has spent over 30 years exploring prosthetic, robotic biotechnological and virtual interfaces with the human body. In his latest work, Prosthetic Head a large, animated version of his own head invites visitors to the gallery to chat with him. Using recent developments in speech programming and facial modelling, the head behaves uncannily like a person holding a conversation. It can respond to both personal and philosophical queries. The head also sings, flirts and recites poetry. Prosthetic Head raises fascinating questions about identity, awareness and embodiment in a time where actual and virtual realities are increasingly mixed.

Ephémère and Osmose by Char Davies are immersive virtual environments featuring real-time 3D computer graphics and interactive 3D localised sound. The interface for the works consists of head-mounted displays and real-time motion tracking based on participant's breathing and balance. Entering a range of virtual worlds it is possible to explore an entire landscape including a tree and the interior of its leaves, float through the forest, or descend into subterranean depths among translucent roots and rocks. One can also sink through a pond into an oceanic abyss, or rise above a forest clearing and into clouds above.

Gina Czarnecki's Infected begins in darkness; a small streak of light expands into a series of more complex shapes, eventually revealing itself as the body of a dancer. The image manipulation techniques that the artist has used turn the dancer's movements into blurred and stuttering visions of multiplicity, warping and stretching gestures until flesh takes on an almost liquid appearance. Is this a futuristic vision of the human body infiltrated and changed, 'infected' by biotechnology, or is the reverse happening? Is the human body, the warm-blooded body of sinews and emotions, infecting the 'pure' light of technology?

Described by the artist as the 'kama sutra meets industrial robotics', All is Full of Love, is a music video by Chris Cunningham for Icelandic singer Björk, and reveals a landscape in which the cold beauty of technology melds sexually and sensuously with the organic world. Through a body of work that presents cinematic visions as grotesque as they are beautiful, prodigious English artist Chris Cunningham has amassed a unique reputation in contemporary moving image art.

A single event - a bird deciding whether or not to leave its nest - is played out with poignant simplicity and breathtaking suspense in Robert Gligorov's work Bobe's Legend. As man and bird share this moment - for the nest is the space of the artist's mouth - the shifting metaphoric elements of the image come into play. Robert Gligorov was born in Macedonia, but lives and works in Milan, Italy. Heis celebrated internationally for his artistic practice in photography, video and installation.

In recent years, as digital animation tools have been used to create impossible cinematic worlds, these same tools have been used to visualise the scientific and medical worlds with previously unimagined accuracy. Drew Berry is one of the world's foremost animators working in biomedical visualisation. In body code he concentrates on exploring the human body at a cellular level. In Berry's work, we encounter a visual landscape that is strange and other-worldly, even though as viewers we know that his animations are scientifically exact.

Rapt is a computer animation created from hundreds of images produced when artist Justine Cooper underwent six hours of MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanning. Neither bound by gravity nor blocked by the surface of the skin, the 'camera eye' flies through the body, exploring interior vistas like a spaceship cruising through nebulous galaxies.

Also as part of Transfigure cyber visitors to ACMI are presented with acmipark - the world's first virtual extension to a cultural institution. An enthralling 'on-site' and online multiplayer 3D game set within the simulated and imaginary spaces of ACMI and Federation Square - including an extensive series of mysterious virtual environments. acmipark is a game-based extension of the physical architectural spaces of ACMI. Through acmipark 64 online visitors at any one time will be able to adopt a character and move through 3D simulations of ACMI's interior and environs. As players descend below ground level they will depart from the real world simulation, and discover a cavernous and mysterious series of sound chambers, where they will be able to play with interactive sound components, creating unique compositions.

Transfigure includes: acmipark by selectparks (Julian Oliver, Chad Chatterton and Andrea Blundell) (Australia); Departure by Ian Andrews (Australia); body code by Drew Berry (US); chromos by Paul Brown (England); Rapt by Justine Cooper (Australia); All Is Full of Love by Chris Cunningham (England); Infected by Gina Czarnecki (England); Osmose and Ephémère by Char Davies (Canada); Bobe's Legend by Robert Gligorov (Macedonia); Sodaconstructor by Ed Burton (England); Orka by Steina (Iceland); Prosthetic Head by Stelarc (Australia); Gift by Mike Stubbs (England); Landscape by Tamás Waliczky (Hungary); and superpermanence by Vikki Wilson (Australia).

Further information

Claire Butler
Communications Coordinator
[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2415 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 654
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