Dr Christian Thompson wins inaugural ACMI Mordant Family VR Commission

ACMI has announced the winner of its inaugural Mordant Family VR Commission.

Aboriginal Australian artist Dr Christian Thompson is one of Australia’s leading visual artists and the first to win the new ACMI Commission focusing on the medium of VR (virtual reality).

Dr Christian Thompson. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

Dr Christian Thompson. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

On Thursday 25 May 2017, ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) announced Aboriginal Australian artist Dr Christian Thompson as the winner of the inaugural AUD80,000 Mordant Family VR Commission.

The newly established commission was created in partnership with Catriona and Simon Mordant AM, the City of Melbourne and ACMI, and builds on ACMI’s existing commissioning initiatives, such as the biennial AUD100,000 Ian Potter Moving Image Commission, which so far has supported the production of Angelica Mesiti’s The Calling (2014), Daniel Crooks’ Phantom Ride (2016) and has most recently awarded Soda Jerk.

 Christian Thomspson, 'Berceuse', 2017, three channel video installation. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

Christian Thomspson, ‘Berceuse’, 2017, three channel video installation. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

The Mordant Family VR Commission is a three-year commitment to Australian visual artists, encouraging cross-disciplinary collaboration to produce new and ambitious works using virtual reality (VR) and associated technology. The Commission is open to mid-career and established visual artists, and supports gallery-based practitioners to move into the reality of VR, to experiment and create works that push the limits of technology and engage audiences in new ways. It will be awarded annually with a grant of AUD80,000 for the development and creation of a new work.

In addition, the recipient will receive expert advice and support from ACMI in the development phase, as well as a work space in ACMI’s vibrant Southbank co-working studio for the screen industries, ACMI X. The works thus created will be presented to the public and an edition accessioned into ACMI’s collection.

 Christian Thomspson, 'Berceuse', 2017, three channel video installation. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

Christian Thomspson, ‘Berceuse’, 2017, three channel video installation. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

Dr Christian Thompson, who will be extending his practice for the first time into the medium of VR, was selected by a panel of national and international industry experts, including Director of the Shepparton Art Museum Rebecca Coates; leading futurist, author and entrepreneur, Mark Pesce; ACMI Chief Experience Officer Seb Chan and ACMI Senior Curator ACMI Sarah Tutton, co-chaired by Simon Mordant AM and ACMI CEO and Director Katrina Sedgwick.

Who is Dr Christian Thompson?

Dr Christian Thompson is an Aboriginal Australian of Bidjara descent, born in 1978 in Gawler, South Australia. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy (Fine Art) from Trinity College, University of Oxford, United Kingdom, a Master of Theatre from Amsterdam School of Arts, Das Arts, The Netherlands, a Masters of Fine Art (Sculpture) from RMIT University and Honours (Sculpture) RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia and a Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Southern Queensland, Australia.

Christian Thompson, 'Portent Serac'. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

Christian Thompson, ‘Portent Serac’. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

The London-based artist explores notions of identity, cultural hybridity and history, often making connections between these concepts and the environment. His work is an exploration of identity, sexuality, gender, race and memory. He was trained as a sculptor, but has developed a multidisciplinary practice that encompasses photography, video, sculpture, performance and sound. His live performances and conceptual portraits see him take the role of a range of personas, wearing handcrafted costumes in carefully orchestrated poses and backdrops.

Thompson has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally, including at the Royal Academy of Arts, London; The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford; The Sharjah Museum, United Arab Emirates; Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre, Bangkok, Thailand; and the 17th Biennale of Sydney, among others. His work is part of major public and private collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; Aboriginal Art Museum, Utrecht, The Netherlands; and University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane.

Christian Thompson, 'Purified By Fire'. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

Christian Thompson, ‘Purified By Fire’. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

For the Mordant Family VR Commission, Thompson proposed a new ambitious, virtual reality work entitled Bayi Gardiya (Singing Desert). The artist invites audiences to walk through the landscape of his childhood, where he will be singing in his traditional Bidjara language – a language that has been recognised as extinct.

In the announcement press release, ACMI Director and CEO Katrina Sedgwick said:

We are thrilled that Dr Christian Thompson is the inaugural recipient of the Mordant Family VR Commission. His multidisciplinary work and his particular exploration of sound, performance and image, make him especially well positioned to harness the creative potential of the 360 degree world of VR. This particular project and its exploration of language, space and place have the capacity to be remarkably potent when realised in virtual reality.

Christian Thompson, 'Twin Divination'. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

Christian Thompson, ‘Twin Divination’. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

Simon Mordant AM is quoted as saying:

The imagination and quality of the proposals we received was extraordinary. Christian’s proposal was unanimously selected by the judging panel as meeting all our criteria – a mid career established visual artist seeking to extend their artistic practice into virtual reality. Catriona and I are excited by the enthusiasm shown by such an established artist to engage with VR technology to further develop his artistic practice and can’t wait to see the work shown at ACMI, Australia’s only institution dedicated to film and digital culture and art.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

1707

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