Storytelling holds deep significance for self-determination, culture and connection to Country. How might technology help amplify First Nations voices?
At Google Creative Lab, in collaboration with Magabala Books, we created Traces, an installation that brings yarns to life with art by Kamsani Bin Salleh and poetry by Kirli Saunders. Taking audio signals like pace, volume and pitch, a visual alphabet of markings unfold in response to the voice.
This was a First Nations led project with all decisions steered by Magabala. I worked across conceptual development, experience design and art direction to help bring our vision to life.
In Indigenous culture, voice is powerful. Traces is a voice-to-art experience, with poetry by Kirli Saunders and art by Kamsani Bin Salleh.
Signals like volume, pitch, pace and intonation are extracted from the voice. In real time they unfold into infinite visual compositions that reflect Country.
Traces is an inclusive visual language and celebration of the Indigenous oral tradition.
Kamsani first drew a set of markings and defined their relationship to each other. Based on this 'alphabet', our team built software to generate unique compositions in response to a user's voice from a microphone input.
1. Embrace the ‘liveness’ of the voice
It should not feel like a fixed motion graphics piece
2. Low barrier to entry
It should not be intimidating or prescriptive
3. A sacred space
An experience with meaningful content and interaction. One that doesn’t reward volume, and embraces listening.
The user experience looped from listening to Kirli’s recorded poetry, to speaking into the microphone which generated dynamic compositions. Bird sounds filled the room, gently activating the resting state to help lessen the fear of a blank canvas when speaking.
Traces was showcased at the Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid 2022. It was situated in the Tide Room which has 9 projectors across a uniquely faceted ceiling. I created accurate 3D drawings to mock up our experience.
Across three nights, we had live spoken word performances by First Nations artists including Kamsani Bin Salleh, Kirli Saunders, Dub Leffler, Nardi Simpson, Teela Reid, Daniel Browning, Dakota Feirer and Jasmin Seymour. They each activated the artwork with stories of Country. Traces created a powerful space of quiet reflection, pause and connection.
"Traces was a unique opportunity for creative exploration and partnership - this is our story, our connection to Country and the traces we leave behind only momentarily."
Studio: Google Creative Lab
Team: Jonny Richards, Kieran Browne, Louise Richards, Madi Talbot, Nicci Hurwitz
Partner: Magabala Books
Collaborating Artists: Kamsani Bin Salleh, Kirli Saunders
Photography: Jeremy Shaw