Shrinking into the Void

On 1st September 2011, I represented the College of Fine Arts in UNSW Inter-Faculty 3 Minute Thesis Challenge the Gibson’s Compass. Each researcher had 3 minutes to discuss their thesis topic which was judged by a  panel. I argued that it is the fear of disappearing into the void that stops 90% of Australians from visiting the desert in their lifetimes. Each contestant was allowed one Powerpoint image. This is my image and my talk.

Why don’t 95% of Australians go to the desert? Is it the fear of shrinking and disappearing into the emptiness? It’s flat, yellow and brown. At the moment, it’s green, too green to shoot a horror movie… Mad Max was cancelled and blamed the rain for ruining the arid landscape!      (0:27)

From here, your skin has a green tinge cast by the fluorescent lights. If we turned off the lights, you’d have no colour at all and you’d disappear into the gloom.                                                                                                      (0:40). Also from here, you look this small! (Show gap between my thumb-index fingers). I know you’re not that small, you know you’re not that small, but my perspective trained-brain, shrinks you down and down… Try it yourself! How small am I in your perspective vision?  (like a scene from “Honey, I shrunk the Audience”)              (0:53)

To test theories of perception and colour, and to understand why Australians don’t go into the desert, I look down at the floor of the desert and not out to the horizon line where most people look. I record my experiments using time-lapse photography, stop-frame animation, drawings and videos. (1:25)

Some work explores colonial stories of exploration, particularly absurd ones like Burke and Wills who packed a wooden piano and an oak table to cross Australia!            (1:37)

And when Giles surveyed the centre of Australia, he named Ayer’s Rock and the Olgas… then ran out of water. Gibson, one of the explorers, offered to go and search for water if he could take Giles’s magical compass with him…  but for Gibson it’s a useless object because he didn’t know how to use a compass… he disappeared and his body was never found. Giles named  the Gibson Desert his memory.         (2:09)

These stories inspiredthe video Gibson’s Compass (indicate image on screen) in which I carried a useless object, a table on my head, alone, across a flat, soggy claypan, slowly shrinking into the emptiness.                                             (2:24)

By disrupting and re-imagining the perspective of the desert with notions of the absurd, my work opens debate and gives insight into why 95% of Australians, never go to the desert… Perhaps it is the fear shrinking and disappearing into the void.                                               (320 words)                        (2:46)

My smiley face is  3rd on the right, front row,  next to Hobbs and Cowdery. This is a group photo represented COFA in UNSW Inter-Faculty 3 Minute Thesis Challenge Final 2011.  Judges: Bernie Hobbs, Prof Nicholas Cowdery, Lily Serna and Prof Keith Mason.  I delivered my speech Gibson’s Compass (2:50mins) on 1/9/2011 at  4:40pm to a full house, Leighton Hall, UNSW.  I spoke 4th from 24 speakers.

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