Digital Odyssey

Artist: Craig Walsh (and regional communities)
Location: Touring exhibition/residency at eleven locations: Murray Bridge, SA; Winton, QLD; Cairns, QLD; Mackay, QLD; Woodford, QLD; Gladstone, QLD; Gerringong, NSW; Ballarat, VIC; Hobart, Tasmania; Alice Springs, Northern Territory; and Armidale, NSW, Australia
Year of completion: 2011
Researcher:
Kelly Carmichael

Digital Odyssey is an 18-month tour/traveling artist residency undertaken by the Australian artist Craig Walsh. The tour visited eleven locations around remote parts of Australia. The artist adapted and re-executed four major works for this project—Humanature, Cross-reference, Incursion and Classification Pending—and created new collaborative pieces en route. In January 2010, Walsh and his family began the tour in a converted mobile home that doubled as a digital studio. Walsh undertook preplanned residencies that lasted several weeks at a time in regional communities throughout the country. The artist worked in consultation with community groups to create and present digital artworks either adapting one of his existing major pieces or developing new work in response to local environments. A Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) touring project, Digital Odyssey partnered with local venues at each location to present events including public meetings, talks, workshops and master classes.

Craig Walsh is known for large-scale computer-manipulated imagery projected onto and in response to existing environments and public spaces in both urban and rural settings. These have included buildings, trees, watercourses, and shopping malls. Walsh has a hybrid artistic practice best understood as the exploration of unlikely ideas in unorthodox settings. His practice takes the form of temporary or permanent projection installations using a combination of cutting edge digital technologies to produce monumentally scaled works. Walsh’s practice delivers art as experience, as site-specific spectacles and moments in time.

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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.

Progress Agency