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Did you ask the river?
7–31 March, 2019
ACMI, Melbourne
Mordant Family Commission VR


Did you ask the river? is the second Mordant Family Commission VR, a three-year program worth $240,000 that supports Australian artists who have never worked in VR before to create new works in this medium, funded in partnership with philanthropists Simon Mordant AM and Catriona Mordant AM, the City of Melbourne and ACMI.

Joan Ross’s work is deeply critical of the colonial history of Australia, using open narratives, disruptive chronologies, and faux playful collaging to re-vision nineteenth-century European aesthetics. Her acclaimed video works combine visual elements from a variety of early colonial Australian paintings and contemporary life, so as to re-conceptualise and problematise our relationship to both. The resulting videos are irresistibly beautiful, while illustrating the brutality of colonialism’s legacy through a lens of black humour.

Developed in collaboration with Dr Josh Harle at Tactical Space Lab in Sydney, Did you ask the river? sees the engaging aesthetic style of her collage works translated into a room-scale VR context. Participants are given the agency to alter the landscape with implements and sweeping gestures, as their virtual body mirrors their physical movements.