Linear Artists: Lynette Wallworth

I first heard of Nyarri’s story on a hunting trip with the Martu women painters in the Western Desert. Hearing that I had been to Maralinga where Britain tested atomic bombs in the 1950’s, Nyarri’s wife Nola turned to me with what felt like an instruction:” You have to talk to Nyarri.” A year later I did just that and I heard a short powerful parable that Nyarri had waited almost his entire life to share. So, this work was born, as a thought or an imagining.

When I first saw Virtual reality technology I knew how to make Nyarri’s story come alive. I have worked in immersive environments for over 20 years and I felt VR was the technology I had been waiting for. I love new technology. I love the moment when the viewer experiences a new sensation for the first time. I know that moment gets seared into memory. I also believe in the power of story to reshape us collectively. I think the two belong together. VR may soon hit in a big way, very possibly to become ubiquitous. In the window of time that exists before then I wanted to make a work that had protocols of meeting at its core. Nyarri’s world is only available to me to visit by invitation, and in this work through the technology, that invitation is extended to the viewer.

The agency in Collisions belongs to Nyarri. When I put the camera down in front of him he said, “It has sixteen eyes.” I replied that it has sixteen eyes and four ears. From that moment Nyarri let me know what could be seen and what could not be seen, what could be told and what was not to be told. The powerful sense of presence of VR makes everything personal. Nyarri knew who it was he was speaking to, he asked me often “Where will the Europe people be?” He wanted to send a direct message, one that aligns with the heart of this exhibition. He was sharing knowledge so that love for country and a will to care for it might be ignited in all of us who now call this country home.

So this work is something of a gift sent out from a private world. It contains an old story, held close till now. It is a technological message in a bottle sent out to a world that teeters on the edge of climate catastrophe shared with a fundamental hope that we will learn to contemplate more carefully the consequences of our actions and consider what we are leaving behind for the generations coming after us.

Lynette Wallworth is an acclaimed Australian artist and director whose immersive installations and films reflect connections between people and the natural world. She has won many awards for her work, most recently a Crystal Award for her leadership in creating inclusive narratives, in 2016 she was named by Foreign Policy Magazine as one of 100 Leading Global Thinkers.

Collisions, directed by artist/filmmaker Lynette Wallworth, is a virtual reality journey to the homeland of indigenous elder Nyarri Morgan and the Martu tribe in the remote Western Australian Pilbara desert. The Martu lived largely untouched by Western culture until the 1960’s.

Nyarri’s first contact with western culture came in the 1950’s via a dramatic collision between his traditional world view and the cutting edge of Western science and technology when he witnessed firsthand and with no context, an atomic test. Nyarri offers us a view to what he saw and, reflecting on this extraordinary event, shares his perspective on the Martu way to care for the planet.

COLLISIONS focuses on the needs of future generations as we dive head‐long into the fourth industrial revolution. Through the use of the world’s most immersive technology in combination with Wallworth’s world‐class storytelling, the audience of Collisions is invited to experience an alternative understanding of long‐term decision making via one of the world’s oldest cultures. It highlights our inability to imagine the unintended consequences of our actions —provoking thought around the environment and the sustainable use of the world’s resources with a view to the generations to come. Collisions is a story we urgently need to hear as we struggle to develop a meaningful response to the human‐induced climate change of our shared planet.

Awarded an Emmy for Outstanding New Aproaches to Documentary Collisions has been shown at The World Economic Forum, Davos, the Skoll World Forum, the UN in Vienna at the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty meetings, the Timbie Forum on Disarmament, Washington, the Australian Parliament, the Global Climate Summit, Washington and the UN General Assembly Committee Meeting on Disarmament ahead of a resolution to ban nuclear weapons.