By taking his work on the road via the Digital Odyssey project, Walsh enabled rural and remote communities to not only be exposed to contemporary art, but to also engage actively with the production and presentation of artwork using highly advanced technologies. Alongside recreating major works from the artist’s earlier practice, Digital Odyssey allowed the generation of new digital artworks that reflected concerns and interests of particular communities. By consulting and collaborating with each community along the tour, the project fostered a traditional form of cultural exchange, but employed advanced digital technology. Drawing on local history, current concerns or local stories, the project generated works of art that echo back to the community something of itself, creating a site-specific and localized response.
Living in a motor home, the concept of ‘home’ became fertile ground for a new artwork. Upon meeting recent immigrants from Bhutan, China, Europe, South Korea, and Turkey, a new body of work known as Home in which people from diverse cultures and backgrounds articulate their personal ideas of ‘home’ came to life. The project was collaboration between Walsh, the artist Hiromi Tango (Walsh’s wife), and local communities. A collaborative work titled Who’s Average? created on the Digital Odyssey tour offers a community portrait of sorts. Walsh invited people to have their photo taken standing behind two white rods at heights representing Australia’s national average: 178.4 centimeters for men and 163.9 centimeters for women. At one location 120 men, women, and children participated. Images are composited and printed life size to create a panorama of Australian difference. Who’s Average? reflects the concerns of regional communities who often perceive that governments in city capitals make decisions based on ‘statistical averages’, without concern for their specific needs.
Digital Odyssey is not simply a presentation of Walsh’s work at various, albeit often remote, locations or the creation of new works with communities. The project is the tour. The epic nature of the project and the huge distances traveled, the landscape, people and experiences the artist encountered, which became a rich source of stimulus and collaboration. Walsh joined a group of celebrated Australian artists including Sydney Nolan, Hans Heysen and Fred Williams who had explored and made work in and about Australia’s remote rural communities.
All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.