Scripture for a smoke screen: Episode 1 – dolphin house

Australia, 2022

Commissioned by ACMI and SAMSTAG

Artwork ACMI commissions First Nations

“I’m interested in exploring the gulf between lived experience and its representation, and how identity and ideas around intelligence are constantly being shaped, amplified or flattened through the experience of surveillance and misidentification.”

In the 1960s, scientists tried to talk to dolphins. The experiment was backed by NASA, who were investigating ways to communicate with extra-terrestrial life. One intelligence test attempted to determine self-awareness by seeing if the dolphins recognised themselves in a mirror.

Amrita Hepi draws on that trial in Scripture for a smokescreen: Episode 1 – dolphin house, seemingly seducing her own image. She dances with an inflatable dolphin, attempting to communicate with it through voice and movement, paralleling the intimacy between one of the researchers, Margaret Lovatt, and a male dolphin, Peter, during the experiment.

Not only does Amrita lampoon the absurdity of teaching marine mammals English, she uses the study to expose the way Western knowledge systems – language, ethics and science – are imposed on people and cultures through colonisation. Through choreographed dance and moving image, Amrita explores what happens when we’re constantly under surveillance, and when assumptions about us are presented to the world through someone else’s viewpoint.

Amrita Hepi is represented by Anna Schwartz Gallery

Scripture for a smoke screen: Episode 1 - dolphin house is commissioned by ACMI and Samstag Museum of Art/University of South Australia

Director and choreographer: Amrita Hepi

Producer: Zoe Theodore

Director of photography: Luke Smith

Art director: Anna Pogossova

Composer: Daniel Jenatsch

Editor: Luke Smith

VFX: studiosteps

Gaffer: Steve Schofield

Best boy: Feliz Maude

First lighting assistant: Jonothan Martin

First assistant camera: Tim Stockon

Production assistant: Annabelle Wass

Hair & makeup artist: Kahealea Coleman

This work contains First peoples content

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In ACMI's collection

Previously on display

19 February 2023

ACMI: Gallery 4



Amrita Hepi


Luke Smith


Zoe Theodore



Production places
Production dates

Collection metadata

ACMI Identifier


Subject category

Digital Art

Curatorial section

How I See It: Blak Art and Film → Zone 2





Object Types



Two-channel video installation


7264 times

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If you would like to cite this item, please use the following template: {{cite web |url= |title=Scripture for a smoke screen: Episode 1 – dolphin house |author=Australian Centre for the Moving Image |access-date=19 June 2024 |publisher=Australian Centre for the Moving Image}}