Arts Centre hosts ‘a probe we’re sending into the future’
By Stephen A Russell
The Age February 28, 2022 — 1.49pm Published here
Two years from now, 14,400 souls will be projected giant-sized onto the dome of Hamer Hall for one minute each across 10 days. Described by conceptual artist and director Robert Walton as “a probe we’re sending into the future,” this holographic work, Child of Now, will be scanned from a diverse array of contributors and depict the life cycle of a 101-year-old.
“It’s not just an archive of what people look like and how they move,” Walton says. “It’s an archive of people’s visions, hopes, dreams, and apologies to the future.”
This big dream began in a tiny room in the belly of the Arts Centre, where Walton sat down with First Nations consultant and co-writer Claire G. Coleman, the author of speculative fiction novel Terra Nullius.
“I tend to think of the world in dystopian terms,” Coleman says. She describes herself as a pessimistic optimist: “I expect the worst is going to happen, but I always hope that someone will stop it.”
Coleman wants this work to expand our understanding of altruism to include as big a group as possible, not just humans. “I’m not a social worker, politician or an environmental scientist. I’m an artist, and so the only way I can do it is through my art.”
Through this multi-sensory work, the pair want to provoke viewers to consider radical empathy for future generations. Walton says he “was thinking about my family scattered around the world, and there’s no young generation at the moment. So I realised that our little culture will stop at a certain point. It made me feel like we were going extinct”.
Coleman facilitated meetings with local First Nations elders, who asked that the work reference the Yarra. “The river runs through our veins,” Walton says.
In a prototype form presented in February, Child of Now was a mesmerising immersive artwork in itself. Invited contributors responded to questions verbally and gesturally, guided by narrators Uncle Jack Charles and Tahlee Fereday. The creative team behind the scenes included environment designer Anna Tregloan and sound designers Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey. They’re still experimenting with the rapidly changing technology required to capture participants’ likenesses, and the project will gradually expand, inviting thousands more to contribute.
Walton and Coleman hope it will lead to a street party of sorts as the work beams onto Hamer’s roof. “At the end of 10 days, of course the child is going to die, spoiler alert,” Walton says. “And that moment is going to be emotional; a beautiful vigil.”
To find out more about how you can get involved, go to robertwalton.net/project/child-of-now
Stephen A Russell is a freelance writer and imported Scotsman who loves film, theatre, good food and grand design.Connect via Twitter.