Chris Ai a.k.a Daszhi on a new model for emerging artists
We hit the ground running right from the get-go. Introductions aside, I knew nothing about my seven collaborators save for their respective talents and disciplines. From videography to VJ-ing to composing and various forms of writing, any and everything seemed possible. With an arsenal of ACMI’s AV equipment at our disposal and a team of highly skilled mentors overseeing our progress, it felt like we had the means to produce whatever we’d been dreaming of, but never had the means to, as young artists.
Of course, this had to be within the temporal limitations of what a two-week residency could accommodate.
The real challenge was getting a roomful of budding and ambitious creatives, each with their own aesthetic and stories to come together to create a single unified vision within ACMI’s studios. This we spent the entirety of the first week hammering out, amidst a couple of up-skilling and trailer-making sessions interspersed.
What did we want our audience to take away from our art?
Would there be live elements? An endurance piece perhaps?
Would it be sophisticated enough?
Which of us was in-charge; was a formal leader required in a collective?
How would the space be utilised and designed?
Where and how would all the pieces fit?
In retrospect, I do think it was quite a feat — what the eight of us achieved as a unit. The concept ‘Last Active’ emerged from a series of early ideas assorted in a round-robinesque method, those of which include a car crash pulled apart into different moments, the mundane breached by tipping points and the recurring niche favourite, an A.I. robot with its personal lemonade stand.
Looking at those ideas again in all seriousness, the eventual focus on contemporary perceptions of time and memory across physical and digital spaces seem like a natural end-point, paved by an amalgamation of the aforementioned, deconstructed and assembled in what can only be described as both an organic collective process, and a digital smorgasbord that is Google docs.
‘Glitch’ was the keyword which resonated with us, as was the water motif and imagery of synapses firing off. Our work would be presented as an installation:
‘Will we be remembered accurately through our curated digital spaces i.e. social media, do our memories maintain their integrity and are they even precise to begin with?’ These were the questions we decided to pose to our audience and to approach through our installation’s visuals, audio, text and immersion.
Into our second week, another two days was spent locking in ideas and discussing the spatial design. This left us tight on time for both production and bump in; needless to say, as a writer and performer who spends weeks fretting over the rhythm of a single line, this was disconcerting and I can only imagine what this entailed for my collaborators who had less than 72 hours to process, edit and bring the work to the screen.
Weather conditions on the first morning of production resulted in a switch-up of our off-site filming, and we found ourselves shooting the visuals for my spoken word segment at Port Melbourne. Its expanse of grey, subdued in appearance, would serve as a contemplative backdrop. This was hours before either my writing or vocal recording was finalised, and the time spent undulating to the sea’s currents did in itself shape the direction we eventually took with the piece. Supposedly summer, I still emerged from the water between an hour or two later on the verge of hypothermia, though, I do retain it as quite a fond experience — a glitchy memory, in like, submerged under tides of saltwater.
The following day’s filming took place in the vicinity of ACMI on the riverbanks of Yarra, though you’d be hard pressed to discover it so from the final cut of the poetic piece and its inspired experimentation with diffused lighting. A third animated piece featuring illustrations and voiceover in a digital landscape would unify the physicality of the two live-captured pieces with the overarching theme of digitally triggered memories.
Concurrently, progress was being made in the installation space, with paper sculptures cascading down from the ceiling to glitchy, mesmerising projections of text, synapses and geometric designs. The space was developing a pulse of its own, under many discerning eyes, ears and hands, all engaged in nurturing an idea into a full-blown entity. This is what the program set out to be, and what the installation, I believe, achieved.
And really, that is what I am most thankful for about this program.
The opportunity to meet, work and create with a team of highly-experienced mentors and fellow emerging artists is one that I will cherish as a transformative experience and memory. One that hopefully maintains its integrity in the years to come.
Chris a.k.a Daszhi
INTERMIX IS PROUDLY SUPPORTED BY THE NAOMI MILGROM FOUNDATION