ACMI awards Christian Thompson $80,000 VR commission

Dr Christian Thompson. 

Visual artist Christian Thompson has received ACMI’s inaugural Mordant Family VR commission, worth $80,000.

Thompson is formally trained as a sculptor, but also uses mediums such as photography, video, performance and sound in his work.

The ACMI commission, created in partnership with arts philanthropists Simon and Catriona Mordant and the City of Melbourne, will allow Thompson to extend his practice into virtual reality for the first time.

Thompson's proposed work, Bayi Gardiya (Singing Desert), will invite the audience to walk through the landscape of his childhood, where they will see him singing in his traditional Bidjara language – a language that has been recognised as extinct.

“This is an exciting initiative for Australian art and I am honoured and humbled to be awarded the inaugural commission,” said Thompson. 

Thompson was selected by a panel that included Rebecca Coates, director of the Shepparton Art Museum; futurist and entrepreneur, Mark Pesce; director of cultural development at Paris’ Centre Pompidou, Kathryn Weir; ACMI chief experience officer Seb Chan and ACMI senior curator Sarah Tutton. The panel was co-chaired by Simon Mordant and ACMI CEO and director Katrina Sedgwick.

“We are thrilled that Dr Christian Thompson is the inaugural recipient of the Mordant Family VR Commission,” said Sedgwick.

“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.”

Simon Mordant said the imagination and quality of the proposals 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,” he said.

In addition to financial support, Thompson will receive advice and support from ACMI in the development phase, as well as a work space in ACMI X. Bayi Gardiya will be presented to the public and an edition accessioned into ACMI’s collection.

The Mordant Family VR Commission is worth $240,000 over three years. Entries for the 2018 commission will open towards the end of 2017.