Artists Give A New Perspective on Australia, from 700km above the Earth

Artists Give A New Perspective on Australia, from 700km above the Earth

It is a perfect match: Revered trio The Necks, known for mesmerizing, slowly unravelling musical pieces, and an hour-long art/science video project exploring the breath-taking beauty of the Australian landscape from space.  
Open Air pays homage to the elemental forces that shape the earth over time. Produced by Southern Cross University media artist Associate Professor Grayson Cooke in collaboration with esteemed Mullumbimby artist Emma Walker, Open Air is an hour-long film that combines stunning time-lapse satellite images of Australia with aerial photography of Walker’s works, set to the soundtrack of The Necks 2013 album ‘Open’. 

The project has already garnered significant interest in Australia and internationally – it premiered at the National Film & Sound Archive in Canberra last year, the NASA Landsat team in the US published an interview with Professor Cooke, and Open Air was also shortlisted for the prestigious Lumen Prize, an international competition celebrating excellence in digital art.

Watch the trailer for Open Air
‘I’m thrilled Byron audiences now have a chance to see Open Air,’ said Professor Cooke ‘On one level it is a visual interpretation of the incredible album ‘Open’ by Australian cult band The Necks, a really symphonic work, and over an hour in length.’

‘But Open Air is also a form of creative earth imaging; merging time-lapse Landsat satellite imagery of Australia, with aerial macro-photography of the paintings and processes of artist Emma Walker. When you put them together, these two vastly different forms of aerial earth imaging combine to produce a complex, beautiful picture of a changing planet.’
Landsat satellites have been imaging the surface of the Earth for over 40 years. They circle the Earth in 90 minutes and return to the same place every 16 days. The image data generated on these orbits is used by researchers and the private sector to track environmental change over time. Professor Cooke has been working alongside Geoscience Australia and the Digital Earth Australia platform using these images since July 2017.
‘We are very proud to have supported Professor Cooke in developing Open Air,’ said Dr Stuart Minchin, Chief of the Environmental Geoscience Division of Geoscience Australia. “Digital Earth Australia is a rich public resource with a mandate to support innovative public access to environmental information, but we recognise that public engagement around understanding our natural environment is not just about the scientific facts, but also our feelings and emotions, so having an artist work with DEA data and staff has been a very rewarding experience.’
Emma Walker’s paintings are abstract but highly reminiscent of the Australian landscape. They feature carved, burnt topographies, rich ochre fields, and the flat expanse of salt pans. In Open Air you see these paintings in formation; the ground takes fire and burns, earth minerals like graphite, iron oxide and carbon – raw materials of paint and colour – flow down channels in marine ply like sediment towards the river mouth. 
‘When I watched the final cut of Open Air I had tears pouring down my face,’ said Emma Walker ‘I think it’s the closest thing to what astronauts talk about – seeing planet Earth from space and how unbelievably precious, varied and exquisite it is. To have played some part in this project by adding my work, materials and processes, set to music I love – it’s quite an honour to have been part of Open Air.’

Open Air will screen at Byron Theatre on Friday 22 February at 7:30pm followed by a Q&A with creator Grayson Cooke and artist Emma Walker, hosted by Peter Wood, Arts Northern Rivers Executive Director.