Worlds Collide

Members of the art department faculty preview the virtual reality film Collisions before Lynette Wallworth’s visit to the Art History 102 class in April 2017.

Artist Lynette Wallworth Pushes the Boundaries of Virtual Reality

Lynette Wallworth is an Australian artist known for her immersive multimedia installations, which focus on the interactivity between humans and the natural world. Her works include Coral: Rekindling Venus, an examination of the ecologically threatened biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef, and Evolution of Fearlessness, an intimate portrait of 10 refugee women.

Wallworth’s most recent work, Collisions, is a 15-minute virtual-reality documentary film depicting the experience of an indigenous man who witnessed a nuclear bomb test in the Australian outback in the 1950’s.  The film was exhibited at Sundance Film Festival in 2016 and at Williams in 2017, when Wallworth spoke and met with students in a visit organized and sponsored by the Gaudino Fund.

Nyarri Morgan of the Nartu Tribe in the remote Western Australian desert. In Wallworth’s ‘Collisions,’ Morgan shares the story of his first contact with Western culture.

Collisions was available for viewing with VR headsets throughout the week before Wallworth’s visit at the Center for Education Technology in the new Sawyer Library. Wallworth’s public talk at Williams focused on the theme of crisis thinking vs long-term environmental stewardship, and the unintended consequences of technology. She also discussed the role of storytelling in shaping culture, and the use of both art and cutting-edge technology to imagine different futures.

In the course of her visit, Wallworth met with more than 140 students in Art History 102 as well as senior Studio Art majors and students in History (Living with the Bomb: American Culture in the Nuclear Age) and English (Documentary Fictions) courses.

She also participated in a dinner and conversation with filmmaker Jim Tusty on “Stewardship of Place and Stories: Bearing Witness Through Documentary Film and Oral History” with students, faculty, and staff.

“One goal of this dinner,” former Gaudino Scholar Lois Banta said, “was to provide an opportunity for students and faculty working in film and/or with stories, memoirs, and oral history in a variety of courses and departments to come together and talk informally with each other about their experiences and projects. A second goal was to provide students with an opportunity to interact with guest artists engaged in this process.”