Big Skies Theatre R&D




28 August to 4 September 2017: a multidisciplinary crew of creatives, led by Stalker Theatre Company’s creative director and Big Skies Collaborator David Clarkson, spent a week together as artists-in-residence at historic Bundanon, near Nowra, NSW, to workshop an immersive theatre event we hoped could be ready for the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing in 2019. Unfortunately the 2019 production missed out on funding – but we’re keeping on keeping on with it nevertheless!

Bundanon was our first R&D gathering, but one of many we’ll participate in  as we develop this production. That’s some of us in Danielle Bluff’s photo at the top of the page: from left, artist/curator Djon Mundine OAM; new media interaction artist Andrew Bluff, from the Creativity & Cognition Studios, UTS; designer/producer Annamarie Dalziel; dramaturg Margie Breen; Stalker‘s artistic director David Clarkson;  interaction/software designer and musician Andrew Johnston, also from the Creativity & Cognition Studios, UTS; animator and programmer Boris Bagattini (aka Chris Wilson); and writer Merrill Findlay. Absent from this photo are artist Julie Vulcan and animator Simon Rippingale, who also participated in the Bundanon workshops, as you’ll see in the photos below.

3D interactive content for this project will be set in Wiradjuri Country in inland NSW, so our next R&D excursion will be to Bathurst, Parkes (including the Parkes Observatory) and Condobolin. Lots of ideas and some very lofty ambitions … but we need to do much more talking, research and planning – and submission writing – before we can tell you anything more.

Our thanks to Bundanon Trust and Create NSW 360VR Initiative and other supporters for making this residency possible.

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Bundanon Homestead, once the home of visual artist Arthur Boyd, Yvonne Boyd and their family. The Boyds bought the property in the 1970s and later gifted it to the Australian people. It is now managed by the Bundanon Trust, which also hosts the residencies and many other activities on Bundanon and adjoining properties.
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The artists’ studios in Bundanon’s Artist in Residence Complex where we workshopped Stalker Theatre’s 2019 production.
More of Bundanon’s Artist in Residence Complex, including the Writer’s Cottage and the dance studio (the two buildings on the right).
Some of the local wildlife as seen from the Writer’s Cottage.
Workshopping Big Skies in one of Bundanon’s visual arts studio: from left Merrill Findlay, Annamarie Dalziel, Andrew Bluff, David Clarkson, Andrew Johnston, Djon Mundine, and Boris Bagattini (aka Chris Wilson). Photo by Margie Breen.
Visual artist Julie Vulcan (far right) joins us to talk about her ‘Dark Spaces’ project.
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Djon Mundine testing out the latest kit: this HTC Vive VR headset from the Creativity & Cognition Studio’s ‘toy box’ gave us each a room-scale ‘total immersion’ experience of The Blu, a 360 video artwork by Los Angeles-based studio Wevr. The goggles took us deep into the ocean to land on the deck of a sunken ship to commune with a blue whale, jelly fish and other virtual marine life. So ‘real’ you could feel the ship wreck moving in the currents!
More 3D goggles from the CCS ‘toy box’, these ones allowing Margie Breen to catch holographic Pokemon-type thingies created using Microsoft HoloLens.
Andrew Johnston and Simon Rippingale enjoy a quiet smile: from profundities to utter silliness, we covered the lot at our Bundanon retreat!
Seeking data and inspiration from beyond our Bundanon studio. The search continues …

April 2017: Big Skies Collaboration‘s co-founder Merrill Findlay visits Sydney to see Stalker’s Creature: Dot and the Kangaroo at the Opera House and attend a reception hosted by Stalker board member Professor Emerita Di Yerbury AO.

Reception at board member Di Yerbury’s apartment in April 2017. From left Merrill Findlay, Cristabel Syed (co-director), Katherine Budd (now with Opera Australia, Brisbane), Di Yerbury, Kate Hosking (actor/musician),  David Clarkson (creative director), Peter Kennard (composer), John Romeril (writer), and Virginia Hyam (producer). Photo by Stalker’s rigger, designer and technologist Alejandro Rolandi.

November 2016: Stalker Theatre and Creativity & Cognition Studios showcase some of the outcomes of their recent collaborations in the UTS Data Arena, a 360-degree interactive data visualisation facility in Ultimo, Sydney. As the university’s web site explains, “Viewers stand in the middle of a large cylindrical screen, four metres high and ten metres in diameter. A high-performance computer graphics system drives six 3D-stereo video projectors, edge-blended to create a seamless three-dimensional panorama.”  Some of the prototypes showcased at this event will be integrated into our Big Skies production in 2019.

David Clarkson addresses the audience before they are immersed in Stalker’s Data Arena Showcase at UTS.  “Awe, delight, breathlessness, and sheer astonishment” the blurb on the banner reads.
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Some of those present at the Data Arena Showcase, including, in the foreground, Andrew Johnston, co-director of UTS’s Creativity & Cognition Studios, who co-created the Showcase works.

October 2016: Writer Merrill Findlay meets David Clarkson beside the Macquarie River in Dubbo the morning after a performance of his 2012 work Encoded, at the Dubbo Regional Theatre.

Read Merrill’s blog post, Doing the Arts/Science/Techno Thing in Inland NSW, about this meeting and the making of Encoded.

The Dubbo meeting: David beside the swollen Wambuul-Macquarie River in the Spring of 2016.

15 April 2016: A year after discussing the Big Skies Collaboration concept with composer Peter Kennard back in 2015, Merrill finally pitches her ideas to Stalker Theatre’s David Clarkson and other potential collaborators at Carriage Works, in Eveleigh, Sydney.

Squeezing into the Carriage Works lift (with bikes) after our first Big Skies meeting: from left, Andrew Johnston, Andrew Bluff, David Clarkson, Peter Kennard, Christine Macmillan, and Ann Finegan. Photographer Merrill Findlay can be seen in the lift mirror!


April 2015: Writer Merrill Findlay and composer/musician Peter Kennard meet in a Canberra cafe between performances of Monkey: Journey to the West at Canberra’s Playhouse Theatre, to discuss the Big Skies concept. Peter was Monkey’s composer, songwriter and musician at the time. He was also working with Stalker Theatre — and one day mentioned Big Skies to his old mate, Stalker’s creative director David Clarkson. Many emails and phone conversations later ….

All photos on this page by Merrill Findlay unless otherwise stated in the captions.


Page created by Merrill Findlay on 3 September 2017. Last updated 8 September 2017.