Published:  February 13, 2013

Each day this week we’ll be taking a look at a different innovative organisation leading the way in the fields of education, research, exhibition, community engagement and collaborative practice in Australian design.

Our third feature is on Experimenta. Read our features on Media Lab Melbourne and Queensland’s Griffith University, and its Bachelor of Design Futures.

Interview with: Abigail Moncrieff

How do you define Experimenta?
Experimenta is a not-for-profit organisation that has been around for 25 years and is dedicated to the presenting, promoting and commissioning of contemporary media art. Experimenta exhibitions are based on a biennial model and we present a major exhibition every two years, an International Biennial of Media Art, which launches in Melbourne before embarking on a subsequent two-year national and international tour.

Our recent biennial, Experimenta Speak to Me was held at RMIT Gallery here in Melbourne, as well as major venues across the city including the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Faculty Gallery Monash University, Federation Square, National Gallery Victoria (NGV) International, RMIT Project Space, Sofitel Melbourne on Collins, The Wheeler Centre: Books, Writing, Ideas and public sites across Melbourne.

We also hold one-off exhibitions. 2011 saw Experimenta launch an exhibition named Selectively Revealed in partnership with Asialink, this exhibition toured to a number of Asian countries over a twelve-month period.

What are your short and long-term objectives?
Experimenta is dedicated to commissioning new works by Australian artists. The Experimenta Commissioning process allows artists to realise significant and ambitious projects, with a focus on extending the artists’ practice. Experimenta’s past commissioned artists have exhibited internationally, been acquired by major public and private collections, attracted lucrative public commissions and received significant commercial success. So we are always looking to develop that.

Modern Vanitas - animation installation Katie Turnbull. Photo: Katie Turnbull

Who is your audience, and what do you understand about them?
Experimenta values having a broad audience and actively works towards providing access to contemporary media art and Australian screen culture. Experimenta believes that access to great art should not be geographically or economically dictated and believes that nurturing an interest in media art helps to promote an enduring appreciation of creativity and innovation. A strong component of our national tour is presented in regional areas. We provide engaging artworks and ideas to a broad public and emphasise audience experience in selecting works, providing interactive and participatory experiences to audiences of all age groups.

What is Experimenta modelled on?
I am personally inspired by the work of a Croatian group of Curators, named What, How and for Whom. The all-female-group work collectively to organise exhibitions, lectures and a wide platform of international projects with a curatorial platform drawing on philosophy, history and theory – they have spent the last ten years involved in the negotiation that it takes to work together. They have a revolutionary approach to their practice that is very inspiring.

What is your most significant achievement to date?
All achievements are important our most recent of was Experimenta Speak to Me, our fifth International Biennial of Media Art, on at RMIT Gallery and a number of venues around the city (from 14 September to 17 November 2012). For this exhibition, we presented work from 34 artists across the Melbourne CBD and from a number of countries, including USA, South Korea, France, Japan, Taiwan and Australia, bringing together works that offered multiple perspectives as to how we form connections with others and how we negotiate intimacy in our lives. The exhibition featured significant Australian and international artists, and has a focus on the Asia Pacific region.

Thumbnail: Telenoid – tele-operated android, Hiroshi Ishiguro Photo: ATR Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratory and Osaka University

When commissioning work and curating exhibitions, what is it that you are looking for in the artists that you select, and how do you go about discovering new work and artists?
We commissioned six new works for this biennial, four as part of our ongoing Experimenta Commissions program and two in partnership with other organisations. When we selected Australian artists Jess MacNeil, Christopher Fulham, Wade Marynowsky and Katie Turnbull, we were not only looking for artists with an interesting project but also felt that each of these artists would benefit from the commissioning process, both in developing their practice or allowing an opportunity to develop and build upon an existing project.

I always enjoy research and maintaining an awareness of what artists are making and opening up new conversations with artists. Travel is a big part of this – discovering new works and artists that we would like to work with for the biennial .

Increasingly technology is becoming more deeply integrated into everyday life and less confined to “traditional” platforms. What effect do you think this will have on people at an individual level, our relationship with technology, and the way that we coexist with technology in society?
One of the key things we have been looking at in Experimenta Speak to Me is where we ask these questions – as technology changes almost daily and becomes embedded in our lives in different ways, we need to keep looking at the way it affects our daily actions. We need to keep asking questions about what these new relationships are and, more importantly, what they offer us.

One of the things offered by the increase in connectivity and availability of the internet is its ability to form new online communities and thinking about social media and the way it can work in a public and social way – for example, in the context of the Arab Spring for example, where social media was instrumental in communication in the face of repressive internet strategies and the opportunity to organise groups of people.

Additionally, what role does art and design play in this social change?
Design plays a big role in shaping the form and the way we interact with technology; developing new products or interfaces that can change the way we negotiate technology. Art and design play a huge role in shaping the technological future, not least of all, the way in which artists can assist us in new ways of asking questions about what these changes might mean and what it is that we seek from these changes, asking us what it is that we really value in the way we engage with each other.

What is your vision of the future?
I often think about robots and what kind of impact this will have on our lives in the future. One of the works we presented as part of this biennial was Telenoid, an empathetic tele-operated robot, by roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro. It is a kind of Skype mechanism that connects two people in separate locations – it has a white, genderless, white baby appearance. It’s quite creepy in a sense but also fascinating – it has been rigorously tested with the elderly and isolated, and has worked very well in this context. I like that it is empathetic and designed to enhance connection between people.

Thumbnail: Telenoid – tele-operated android,
Hiroshi Ishiguro

Photo: ATR Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratory and Osaka University

Enjoyed reading this feature? You can find more like it inside desktop magazine. Click now to see this month’s subscription special.

2 Responses

  1. Corinne

    Would like to order the following Desktop magazines in hard copy,which were published on 5th December 2012 and 13th February 2013. Please advise on cost and availability.
    Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *