Despite the use of cutting-edge technology, Lynette Wallworth’s virtual reality film Collisions has been a long time coming. The film tells the story of Martu man Nyarri Nyarri Morgan, whose first encounter with Western culture came when he witnessed the explosive effect of an atomic bomb test in the South Australian desert.
In a sold-out event by The Wheeler Centre and ACMI, Nyarri Nyarri Morgan and Nyarri’s grandson, filmmaker and Martu leader Curtis Taylor, joined Wallworth to discuss art as resistance, our collective need to listen to Indigenous stories, and the numerous collisions that went into making the virtual reality film.
Witnessing an atomic bomb seems surreal and otherworldly. Nyarri described the destructive effect it had on the land, killing the kangaroos and turning the creek water grey. The impact of these tests has been felt around the world, and Nyarri’s story has been shown at disarmament meetings internationally. However, the impact Western culture has had on sacred land is not isolated to atomic tests. Today the Martu people are still fighting the construction of a Canadian-owned uranium mine in the Pilbara.
This mine, which was approved by Greg Hunt in 2015, would collide with the Martu community in an uncomfortable echo of the destruction Nyarri witnessed in the 1950s. It shows how, 60 years later, Australia still neglects to listen to Indigenous people and Indigenous stories. Wallworth’s film comes at a poignant time. If art plays any role in resistance, Curtis Taylor hopes that it serves as a reminder to resist the destruction we face today, as well as remember the destruction of the past.
Collisions are not destructive by nature. Nyarri is an artist. Wallworth and Nyarri spoke of collisions between artists and community. It is a Martu tradition for members of the community to paint together, creating expansive collaborative artworks about land and people. Keeping this tradition intact, Wallworth worked closely with elders from the Martu tribe to create the film and ensure Nyarri’s story was told correctly.
Australia will always face collisions of one kind or another. By listening to Indigenous leaders, and telling Indigenous stories, we can strive to make our collisions less destructive, and more collaborative.
Nyarri left us with a piece of advice — to take care of our land, and take care of each other. I hope Australia is listening.
– Emma Hardy
Emma hopes to bring something positive to the world: be that a smile, a hope, or a wallet handed in to Lost and Found with the money still inside.
The virtual reality film Collisions plays at ACMI until 15 January 2017. It’s a free event, but make sure to book in advance.
The venue is accessible.