Saturday, October 12, 2013

Superhighway across the Sky

Michelle Blakeney, Jason Davidson and Jenny Fraser
Screen Artist/Curator Jenny Fraser is about to realise a touring project to Canada that has been in the works for 9 years. Superhighway across the Sky is the title of an online Indigenous media arts project from Australia presented by the Blackout Collective who will tour with the work and present at the imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival in Toronto, Canada, 16 to 20 October.

The project features artists whose work focuses on the production of an inter-connected expression. The intention is to facilitate an in-depth discussion to be shaped largely by the online residency participants, but potentially covering notions such as: non-linear storytelling, authorship, audiences, accessibility, new media literacy and, the past and future potentials of online digital storytelling.

Three artists were commissioned by artist/curator Jenny Fraser (QLD) to undertake online residencies to research and develop new work and create a new web-presence. Working from their own home states and territory, the artists, Christine Peacock (QLD), Jason Davidson (NT) and Michelle Blakeney (NSW) have also engaged other creatives. The Aboriginal writers that have been commissioned for the project are Mary Graham (QLD), Ross Watson (QLD) and Peter Morin (Canada).

The Blackout Collective is a group of creators from all over Australia who fluidly communicate and contribute towards screen- based culture locally, across Australia, and internationally. “Australia, in itself is a big brown land, so it is difficult for us to maintain face-to-face contact even in our own country. It is important professionally and spiritually for us to travel together, and engage with Native Canadian artists at the festival, as we struggle in a very niche artform area in our own country, and are usually excluded from mainstream new media exhibitions” said Jenny Fraser.

The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is an international festival in Toronto that celebrates the latest works by Indigenous peoples on the forefront of innovation in film, video, radio, and new media. Each year, the festival presents a selection of the most compelling and distinctive Indigenous works from around the globe. The festival's screenings, panel discussions, and cultural events attract and connect film makers, media artists, programmers, buyers, and industry professionals. The works accepted reflect the diversity of the world's Indigenous nations and illustrate the vitality and excellence of our art and culture in contemporary media.

Christine Peacocks 'LANDED' project has been selected for competition at the 14th annual imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival, and the blackout collective will also present as a group, participating in a panel on new media arts, along with attending other forums, screenings, meetings and industry gatherings. Landed has a focus on international conversation, using the wisdom of local elders in South East Queensland to engage Aboriginal peoples in a dialogue concerning concepts of sovereignty. “Three women, two Indigenous and one non-Indigenous shared our skills to create the Landed website. Our focus is not the production of excellence or innovation, we rather inspire continued use of tools available to us, and interaction through conversation, to honour our ancestors, each other, land and all her creatures” said Christine Peacock, from Wolvi in Queensland.

Michelle Blakeney presents a new video work 'A lot of lost survivors' which features an historic photographic collection for members of the Stolen Generation who were instituionalised at The Bomaderry Aboriginal Children’s Home in New South Wales. “Aboriginal families are only now recovering members from forced separations; photography provides a link from the past to the present that is immediate and powerful” said Blakeney.

The focus for Jason Davidsons work is on chem trails, which are the chemical footprints that are left in the process of geo-engineering. Titled The Chemtrail Phenomenon, the project leaves the viewer with questions about the various chemtrails in the ACT and Northern Territory where he is based. Jason Davidson says of his artworkThe chemtrail phenomenon, is my documentation project, a contribution that is aimed at helping to educate the community about chemtrails and the importance of respecting our planet.

This is the first year that a group of Indigenous New Media artists have toured to the imagineNATIVE festival but fundraising for the project began in 2004 and over the years more inspiration and motivation came, when Native Canadian artist curator Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskew invited Jenny Fraser to contribute an online art project towards his curated project 'Storm Spirits'. “Storm Spirits focuses on Aboriginal artists whose work inhabits and maps out these intersecting spheres of influence and who contribute unique forms of vitality to the dynamic and essential interplay between Indigenous traditional knowledge and contemporary Aboriginal culture” said Ahasiw in his curatorial essay, 2005. Ahasiw passed away before the project was launched, but Frasers project 'unsettled' went onto receive an honourable mention in the New Media category at the imagineNATIVE film and media arts festival in 2007.

The project title is the namesake of song lyrics by Yothu Yindi from the 1996 hit single Superhighway. The recent passing of Yothu Yindi front man Dr Yunupingu, and project writer Ross Watson, will be honoured when Superhighway across the Sky is launched in Australia in 2014.

After the festival, Christine Peacock and Jenny Fraser will travel on to the UK and present at the conference in London. Titled 'In the Balance: Indigeneity, Performance, Globalization', the conference takes place from 24–27 October 2013. Held at Trafalgar Square, the conference is in conjunction with two international events: the Origins Festival of First Nations and a performance based exhibition, Ecocentrix: Indigenous Arts, Sustainable Acts and an extensive film programme is also included.


imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival

blackout collective website:

unsettled can be found at this link: conference


Monday, August 19, 2013

Vernacular Terrain II - a catalogue essay by Djon Mundine

Vernacular Terrain II

One Night the moon
Came a’rollin by
Drove a big cart
across the night sky
One night the moon
Came a’rollin by
Called all the dreamers
To come for a ride.

One Night the Moon, Rachel Perkins Director, 2001.

Christine Peacock and John Graham’s animation ‘Boy and Moth’ tells a type of classic morale tale of where knowledge; enlightenment and special powers of perception are placed on an unwitting unsuspecting innocent hero for them to wonder at, enjoy, and rationalise and come to terms with. Aboriginal art is art made by Aboriginal people whatever its form, scale, practice, or material. Certain inherent features of a technology can shut particular people out from access to it; from knowledge or a system of power associated with it.
Our world is aptly described within the title Vernacular Terrain; a moulded landscape of pathways, sites of aggregation, collection, and settlement. A variegated terrain of the personal and social, more so than spatial. Where information, ideas, expressions, feelings and concepts are ambiguously connected to sites and people and yet exchanged or discarded; overpowered and subsumed or escaping to fly free; in a constant state of flux, a temporal and spatial state of being.
Our landscape is strewn with sites of specific actions, people and their stories both creative and destructive. Aboriginal people have always sat uncomfortably in Australian colonial history and Aboriginal art sits somewhat incongruously in ‘white-Australian’ western art history, our very contemporary existence a challenge to both.

This land is mine
All the way to the old fence line
Every break of day
I'm working hard just to make it pay
They won't take it away from me Father 

[Written by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody],
One Night the Moon, 2001.

Some would tell us that new technology is supposedly race, gender and politically neutral yet we know how by its very ‘newness’ it reinforces; the stereotypes it supposedly refutes. Are we making old art with new technology? Certainly it appears cyber art forms move faster than laws, experiences and concepts than people can keep pace with.
Jason Davidson’s mechanical, heavy metal, graffiti X-ray animals jar the eye yet line up with the Wadeye [Port Keats] traditional society’s youth culture. Here the community is dominated by two warring extremely visible street gangs ‘The Judas Priests’ and ‘The Evil Warriors’ despite an intense Aboriginal religious life, language retention and many other ‘traditional’ practices. It is in these communities that Asian ‘Kung Fu’ action movies were the most popular films. Where the language of the script was rendered irrelevant, and the constant fight sequences; where the small defeat the powerful, good overcomes evil and those aggrieved achieved some form of justice is were the meaningful connections made between the movies and the communities.

This land is me
Rock, water, animal; tree
They are my song
My being’s here where I belong
This land owns me
From generations past to infinity
We’re all but woman and man
You only fear what you don’t understand
Tracker Albert Riley, [Written by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody],
One Night the Moon, 2001.

Franz Fanon wrote of how colonialism and racism are a form of violence that is embedded through every facet of colonial cultural expression, so subtle and pervasive as to be invisible. To make his point he described the cruel disjunction of a black man [himself] watching the film ‘Tarzan’ [1932] with a black audience in French colonised Martinique, watching the same film in a ‘white’ audience in Paris. Overcoming racism through the appropriation by coloured people of film histo-graphies and critique lies in the roll-call of Jenny Fraser’s wittily titled work ‘name that movie’ vignettes of Hollywood films.
Postcards were already a ‘holiday item’ when the ‘Box Brownie’ camera technology democratically liberated photography for the masses [including some yet to be identified Aboriginal people] in 1900. Popular among a myriad exotic postcard images were those of the stereotyped primitive other. Andrew Hill’s composition reverses the gaze to unveil the stereotype of the westerner we see exposed in all its true ugliness.
Our historical landscape; our terrain; pathways to enrichment and positive adventures, through British colonisation became unguarded openings to the heart of our societies and our dreams. R E A’s dream sequences alternate from soft pleasurable, ‘prenatal’, almost indescribable experiences and memories to the jarring equally unbelievably brutal inhuman colonial violence - ‘Maang [Message Stick]’.
When the British visited the Australian continent in 1770 there were at least 250 distinct languages living in a myriad of ‘vernacular’ groups and differing cultural and physical environ-niches across Australia. Through the colonisation processes, over the last 200 years, a flattening of this terrain, to some extent, has happened. However Aboriginal people continue to still live, work, create and dream in an extended number of ancient and new pathways, lifestyles, expressions, contemporary dreaming tracks and song-lines. We remain in a persistently optimistic, confident and extremely visible outlook on our futures as part of a modern vibrant contributing Aboriginal culture life.

essay by Djon Mundine OAM
April 2008

For VT2, an international digital touring exhibition by IDA 
(International Digital Art Projects)
opened at QUT, Brisbane, May 2008.

the Blackout contribution to VT2 was co-curated by Jenny Fraser and co-presented by cyberTribe

Download the Catalogue here 

VT2 presented vibrant, innovative screen-based and photo-media works from international artists alongside Indigenous Australian new-media artists, building on 2007’s Vernacular Terrain exhibition.
For the first time a group of Aboriginal New Media Artists are included in the annual tour of International Digital Arts courtesy of Artist / Curator Jenny Fraser (QLD), also including work from: r e a (NSW), Jason Davidson (NT) and Andrew Hill (QLD) and a collaboration by Christine Peacock, John Graham & Rebekah Pitt (QLD) with Djon Mundine (NSW) offering the Curatorial Essay for the tour.Founded by Stephen Danzig in 1999, IDAprojects was the first nexus of its kind providing a platform for academia, research technologies and professional art practices in building a new discourse. For the past eight years the IDA program has grown to feature a national and international touring exhibition with an aim to present leading artists from around the world who engage in new media arts and research technologies.  Launched in Brisbane on May 1, the project reflects a global commitment to exploring cultural identity through leading professional arts practice in digital media from Curators Stephen Danzig, Lubi Thomas, Xu Da Wei, Matthew Perkins and Pauline Doutreluingne along with cyberTribe / blackout curator Jenny Fraser.  QUT, in partnership with IDAprojects and the Beijing Film Academy has developed this international touring exhibition which was also presented throughout Asia – including the Beijing Olympics Cultural Festival – and later included a tour of regional Australia.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Artists announced for 'Superhighway across the sky'

blackout and cyberTribe present a new online art project titled 'superhighway across the sky' and are pleased to announce that Christine Peacock, Jason Davidson and Michelle Blakeney were selected to complete online residencies to research and develop new work.

Stay tuned for further announcements throughout the year.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Aboriginal New Media Artists excluded from international event, ISEA Sydney

Aboriginal New Media Artists have been building on exhibition momentum over the past 15 years, but now brought to a stand still having been excluded from ISEA Sydney. ISEA which is an acronym for International Symposium of Electronic Arts has been running since 1988 in the Netherlands, and it tours to different host countries every year or so. The last time it was hosted in Australia was 21 years ago in Sydney, 1992. ISEA Sydney 2013 has been organised by an Australian-based committee with very little Aboriginal New Media Arts input, despite a face to face meeting between artists and ISEA Sydney interests in 2011. 

Instead, the Sydney ISEA Curatorium have blocked Aboriginal New Media Arts entities such as the Blackout Collective, which is a group of Aboriginal creators from all over Australia who communicate fluidly and contribute towards screen-based culture in new ways. 

Jenny Fraser says “even if we didn’t have a name, such as blackout, we would still be a collective, because we work in a minority artform, in the minority Aboriginal art industry and we all struggle to represent as new media artists, with very little support or inclusion in Australia”. 

While the collective may be small in number, and spread across the country, many of the artists have represented at international electronic arts events such as ISEA, SIGGRAPH, Ars Electronica in Austria and the InteractivA Biennale in Mexico. This includes Aroha Groves (NSW) who was in ISEA Istanbul in 2011, r e a (NSW) in SIGGRAPH San Diego 2007, Genevieve Grieves (NSW) and Jenny Fraser (QLD) in ISEA/Zero1 San Jose 2006, and Jason Davidson (NT) in ISEA Helsinki in 2004. 

ISEA opened on Friday the 9th June with an Aboriginal welcome to country and performances for International and interstate guests at carriageworks in Redfern. “The Australian ISEA organisers consider the welcome performance as the be all and end all of an Aboriginal presence at ISEA Sydney, but really a welcome and performance are just a normal part of Aboriginal culture, which should occur at every significant gathering in our country, aside from that there’s a small exhibition of painters works that have a new life with animation, but where are the Aboriginal New Media Artists for ISEA in Sydney? Is this cultural apartheid?” said Jenny Fraser. 

“Not only have the Australian ISEA organisers excluded us from exhibiting at an international electronic arts event in our own country, but they have failed to manage the situation professionally. We jumped through their hoops and proposed new projects a year ago, and have been on the short list since December with significant budgets being offered, only to find out final rejection notification the day before ISEA started in Sydney. It’s been a huge waste of money upfront and good energy in trying to meet the deadline with little useful communication from the organisers” said Jenny Fraser. 

However, International guests are interested in Aboriginal New Media Arts and on Thursday June 13, some Aboriginal artists were provide with an opportunity to speak publicly at the ISEA conference as part of the Latin American forum panel titled ‘Re:imag(in)ing Indigenous Media Art Histories’ alongside Columbian practitioners. The discussion focused on histories of Indigenous Australian artists working with new media, and in particular the inroads and dialogues established in international networks. More broadly the session addressed issues of identity, representation and visuality in the so-called ‘Global South’. 

The panel was organised in a partnership between the Latin American Forum and an ARC Linkage project undertaken at the National Institute of Experimental Arts in Australia. Acknowledging that international publications and online archives dedicated to the study of media art are often dominated by white European and North American exemplars, and to further the discussion by drawing attention to the multiple trajectories that have sprouted from outside of the usual centres and dominant paradigms. 

Later in the year, the blackout collective will also present their new online art project ‘Superhighway across the sky’ at the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto, Canada. The artists selected to make new experimental work are Christine Peacock, Jason Davidson and Michelle Blakeney who will travel with artist/curator Jenny Fraser to Toronto to speak at the annual festival, and also travel on to London to present at the inaugural conference in the UK. 

The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is an international festival in Toronto that celebrates the latest works by Indigenous peoples on the forefront of innovation in film, video, radio, and new media. Each year, the festival presents a selection of the most compelling and distinctive Indigenous works from around the globe. The festival's screenings, panel discussions, and cultural events attract and connect filmmakers, media artists, programmers, buyers, and industry professionals. The works accepted reflect the diversity of the world's Indigenous nations and illustrate the vitality and excellence of our art and culture in contemporary media. 

‘Superhighway across the sky' will be featured with cyberTribe, an online gallery focused on nurturing digital art. cyberTribe has been at the forefront of exhibiting cutting edge and politically important artworks from Indigenous Artists internationally, both in its online gallery and other gallery spaces across the world. Over the past decade cyberTribe has brought together Indigenous artists from places across Australia, the Pacific, the Americas and elsewhere to participate in exhibitions of international standing. 

An important milestone for cyberTribe over the years includes winning the ABC Radio National Indigenous Cultural Centre/Keeping Place Award in 2009, for creating a unique place for Indigenous artists to create and exhibit new media work as well as more traditional forms. Museums Australia Director, Bernice Murphy, commented in the ABC RN announcement: “The award to cyberTribe reminds us all that Indigenous creativity needs to be supported in the most up-to-date forms – even in ‘regional cyberspace’ – as well as out back where communities are keeping fires of tradition and continuity burning strong.”


a previous article discussing cultural apartheid in Australia: 

'The Digital Dreamtime: A Shining Light in the Culture War' 



cyberTribe on facebook  

ISEA Latin American Forum #3  

ISEA Sydney 2013 


Past ISEA 

ISEA Sydney 2013 on facebook

welcome to the new web presence for the Blackout Collective based in Australia