Keywords for my art practice are innovation, aesthetic treatments, platform agnostic, and user experience design. I am a long standing Sydney media artist who has been innovating with film, video and interactive multimedia for 25 years. Working in collaboration and alone in Australia and internationally, my media artworks have widely leveraged most new media platforms and channels, from generative software (sub_scape with Sarah Waterson 2004-2006), Second Life multiple user world (Macbeth in 2nd Life 2014) to interactive projections (Bystander 2007, Live After Wartime Live with The Necks 2003, Encoded with Stalker Theatre Co 2011, Bloodbath 2010), and VR (The Rocks VR 2016, Bandami Web GL commission 2017). My groundbreaking collaborations include the pre-eminent Australian database imaginaries project, Life After Wartime (with Ross Gibson, the live-streamed gaming and social engagement project Wayfarer (with Martyn Coutts 2007-2009 voted one of the top 10 “simple, brilliant initiatives, enterprises and ideas that get on with the job of triggering and networking public association for public good” by influential blogger David Barrie in 2008.); a world’s first virtual and interactive Shakespeare in the Second Life project in Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters (with Kereen Ely Harper and Angela Thomas 2008); the live data visualisation and poetics engine ‘sub_scape’ (with Sarah Waterson 2003-2007), and the live video and roller derby data event Bloodbath in association with the Sydney Roller Derby League which premiered at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion in 2011 (with Linda Dement, Sarah Waterson, Nancy Mauro Flude and Francesca di Rimini). I have exhibited at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, The Performance Space at Carriageworks, the Blake Prize Director’s Cut, The Australian Centre for Photography, The Centre for Contemporary Photography Melbourne, the International Symposium for Electronic Art Sydney, Belfast and Helsinki, Experimenta, the Art Gallery of NSW and the Sydney Opera House amongst others. As a new media dramaturge, I have brought considerable experience to theatre groups such as Sydney’s Urban Theatre Projects and Stalker. I have also produced multimedia projects for a variety of clients including Badanami Centre for Indigenous Education, Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, Sydney Olympic Park, The Australian War Memorial, Landini Associates, the Museum of Sydney and the Justice and Police Museum. In 2018 I was busy with projects including producing and co-writing/editing a 3 channel video installation A Drone Opera (CarriageWorks 2019), consulting on a VIVE VR project for Urban Theatre Projects and co-devising the VR engine FoVoE. I am the Post Graduate Co-ordinator for Creative Industries at Western Sydney University and leader of Western’s Experiential and Immersive Research Lab. For a full biography and bibliography please go to http://katerichards.net/biography/
‘The lowlands flood’, the Booroborwongal clan warned the invaders. They settled anyway; floods regularly devastated the Hawkesbury colonists from 1780. In FLOOD, users in a CGI night-time flood-scape stand in rising and ebbing waters. Grasping luminescent pre- and post-contact objects suspended in the swirling darkness, triggers tales from many perspectives.
Floods are artistic and unconscious/dream metaphors for great forces sweeping away eras and structures, the turning-upside-down of the known world, the fear and horror of what lies beneath, of being dragged under and swept away. Invasion swept away so much of the culture, lives, crops, hunting and infrastructure of the Booroborwongal. The colonists’ destruction, clearing and ‘farming’ exacerbated flooding, the great river takes its revenge over and over.
Aesthetically, FLOOD is dark waters, atmospheric, mesmerising. Illumination comes from an aesthetic and design strategy in which local natural materials (bark, insects, fish scales, minerals, fur, cotton) are scanned using confocal microscopy which captures their natural luminescence. This bio-luminescence will be used to animate, texture and bring alive the night-time flood-scape and objects. The bio-luminescence represents the life forces of objects made from natural materials and that of the land itself. The water is made volumetric by swarms of fish and/or smaller debris.
The FLOOD user experience is to stand thigh-deep in the edge of the ebbing and flowing waters, feeling their force with the racket of the flood in your ears, the waters stretching into the dark infinity. There is a forest behind, sentry-like. In the water, you can spot suspended objects, alive with bio-luminescence, bedevilled by water spirits, flowing towards and slipping away from you. An indigenous tool, a nightdress, an old tin, a school pin. You grasp to hold the objects – with your right hand, a Dharug voice speaks; with your left, you hear a colonist. The voices rise and mingle with the flood; very close, or sweeping around, whispering secrets, fears, truths, hopes, anger.
Badanami Centre’s innovative online outreach tool Field Of Dreams (FoD) utilises two Virtual Reality (VR) platforms, 360 video and WebGL. Designed for off- and on-site engagement, FoD deploys an appropriate Aboriginal design language and user experience (UX) to highlight WSU, its Council of Elders and its potential for Aboriginal students.
FoD is comprised of a WebGL landscape showing the WSU campuses. The WebGL enables users to fly between campuses and watch videos of elders, academics, professional staff and students. Some of these videos are 360 degrees showing immersive learning environments such as The Moot Court. There is a gameplay – follow a series of video clues to best understand the tertiary learning cycle. As users watch the videos, their message stick fills up with symbols that explain the learning cycle in a culturally appropriate ways. FoD is designed to be used with VR goggles onsite at Open Days, and before, during and/or after student/teacher engagement with WSU. Visitors to classrooms can use the online tool to explain aspects of WSU; teachers can show and discuss videos about the various disciplines on offer; students can navigate the VR landscape, identify the campuses and learn about the aims, priority and forms of education available to them at WSU.
This project contributes to the building of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander excellence at Western Sydney University including in its methodologies of cross-cultural co-creation.
Produced by Kate Richards, Experiential and Immersive Research Lab, HCA WSU.
“Gondwana” is a galaxy of the imagination created using astronomical visualisations from the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Mt Stromlo, Canberra. It is a playful riff on astronomical data, scientific research, cosmology and allegorical discourses.
Realised in a games engine by James Hudson of Nocturnal, with an immersive interactive interface using handheld navigation and augmented reality ‘heads up’ display.
Astronomical visualisations are combined in aesthetic, striking and original ways. The galaxy is complete with fictional constellations imagined for the southern skies. My aim is to explore the premise that the universe is complex and ecological in the sense of a generative system – it is outcome and process. The universe is not just an engineering equation but is informed by creative intelligence, ordering principles, patterns, significance and aesthetics. Does it posses a kind of intelligence with aesthetic qualities as well as mathematical ones? What can folk sciences and naive ontologies offer current astrophysical problems? How can we come to terms with a universe that is expanding and accelerating, from each point in it? I am working experimentally with astronomical visualisations (3d), scientific language, cosmology (current theoretical dilemmas of mythical proportions) and folk sciences (Aboriginal and classical), to explore the gaps and connections between science and spirituality, fact and speculation. Exhibited at DreamWorlds – Australian Moving Image in Beijing and regional China 2010. http://www.dreamworlds.com.au/
Developed during a residency at the Research School for Astronomy and Astrophysics, ANU with help from Professor Brian Schmidt and James Hudson from Nocturnal.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth interpreted in Second Life
FOUL WHISPERINGS, STRANGE MATTERS brings Shakespeare’s world renowned and extraordinarily influential play Macbeth into a virtual worlds environment. This is an appropriate, timely use of pop culture as an adaptive bridge between classic texts and new media technology. The poetic use of metaphor, image and symbol that permeate Shakespeare’s language can be brought to 3D life using the online world as a discursive design space where visitors experience the motivations and emotional journey of character, and explore and make personal sense of the universal themes of Shakespeare. In Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters a prelude at the arrival grove sets the tone for the visitors’ exploration of seven scenes depicting Macbeth’s journey. Visitors engage with the participatory potential of Second Life to remake, co-create and mash-up Shakespeare. Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters’ inworld roleplay studios enable visitors to take part in group play and workshops that are exploratory, spontaneous and performative. A virtual world is a flexible, living, real time environment where things can change, appear and disappear and visitors can interact with real agency. Foul Whisperings is a fabulous cutting edge example of the potential of online media to breath life into old texts, taking classic narratives to new realms of possibility with diverse, unexpected and educational outcomes – off the page onto the virtual stage! DOWNLOAD A PDF ABOUT THE PROJECT