ACMI recently announced the winner of the second Mordant Family VR Commission.

One of Australia’s leading artists, Joan Ross wins the second iteration of the Virtual Reality Commission for the proposed work Did you ask the river?, surpassing the proposals of five fellow artists. The Commission will enable Ross to transform her 2D animations into immersive VR worlds.

Joan Ross, 'BBQ this Sunday (flight paths)', 2011. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

Joan Ross, ‘BBQ this Sunday (flight paths)’, 2011, digital animation. Image courtesy the artist.

The Mordant Family VR Commission, Australia’s first Virtual Reality and mixed reality commissioning programme, was born out of a partnership between Australian collectors and philanthropists Catriona and Simon Mordant AM, ACMI and the City of Melbourne. Its inaugural edition in 2017 was awarded to Aboriginal Australian artist Dr Christian Thompson to develop Bayi Gardiya (Singing Desert). UNSW Galleries in Sydney is now holding a survey exhibition of Thompson’s work, “Ritual Intimacies”, until 14 July 2018, while his VR Commission will premiere at ACMI later this year.

The winners are selected by a panel of national and international industry experts co-chaired by Simon Mordant and ACMI Director and CEO Katrina Sedgwick, and including ACMI’s Chief Experience Officer Seb Chan and Senior Curator Fiona Trigg, author and developer John Allsopp, Curator of Digital Design at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum Natalie Kane, and Director of Shepparton Art Museum Rebecca Coates.

Joan Ross, 'Colonial Grab' (video still), 2015, single-channel digital video animation, colour, sound, 7m:38s. Image courtesy the artist.

Joan Ross, ‘Colonial Grab’ (video still), 2015, single-channel digital video animation, colour, sound, 7m:38s. Image courtesy the artist.

The AUD80,000-prize this year goes to Australian artist Joan Ross, for the development of her new proposed project entitled Did you ask the river?, an immersive exploration of Ross’ vibrant landscapes of colonial Australia.

In addition to financial support, Ross 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. Did you ask the river? will premiere at ACMI and an edition will be accessioned into ACMI’s collection.

Joan Ross. Image courtesy the artist.

Joan Ross. Image courtesy the artist.

Who is Joan Ross?

Sydney-based Joan Ross is an established Australian artist working across video animation, print, sculpture and installation. Her practice investigates globalisation and colonisation, with a particular focus on reconfiguring the colonial Australian landscape and drawing attention to the complex and ongoing issues surrounding first contact in colonial history.

Joan Ross, 'Future Hawke (what have we done to you)', 2018, hand-painted digital collage, 111 x 79 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Joan Ross, ‘Future Hawke (what have we done to you)’, 2018, hand-painted digital collage, 111 x 79 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Ross has exhibited extensively locally and internationally, including in “Today Tomorrow Yesterday” (2016) and “Recent Acquisitions” (2017) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, “Tracks and Traces: Contemporary Australian Art” at The Negev Museum of Art in Israel, as well as at the National Gallery of Australia and UQ Art Museum among others. Recently, Ross spent four months living and working in the Scottish Highlands for the Glenfiddich Artist in Residency she won in 2016. She is the recipient of numerous awards, grants and prizes, including Australia Council Projects and New Work grants. Her work is part of major public and private collections including the National Gallery of Australia, the Kaldor Collection, Campbelltown Arts Centre and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Joan Ross, 'The history of the other world', 2013, hand painted pigment print on cotton rag paper. Image courtesy the artist.

Joan Ross, ‘The history of the other world’, 2013, hand painted pigment print on cotton rag paper. Image courtesy the artist.

Winning the VR Commission will allow Ross to develop her two-dimensional animation work into a Virtual Reality immersive environment. Her proposed Did you ask the river? will be made in the style of a first-person video game. Participants in the game will embody an 18th century colonial woman, and will be able to explore an interactive three-dimensional extension of Ross’ “unsettling” colonial landscapes. ACMI reveals more about the project:

The basis of the work and concepts explored were developed as part of a Tactical Space Lab VR Studio residency, during which Ross collaborated with Harle in translating the engaging aesthetic of her collage works into a room-scale VR context. Through this incubator style studio, Ross and Harle were able to experiment with this mode of experiencing her work, test the allowances of the underlying game engine, and explore the implicit ethics and politics of the medium.

Katrina Sedgwick commented that Ross’ project persuaded the jury in that it emphasised VR’s “immersive and interactive qualities”, which would “enable her to challenge the viewer in different ways though an artwork that powerfully explored the ongoing legacy of colonisation”.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia


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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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