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Parragirls Past, Present


Unlocking memories of institutional ‘care’

Immersive Narrative Experience, 23:05 minutes. 2017.

with Alex Davies, Lily Hibberd, Bonney Djuric, Jenny McNally. Co-produced by Jill Bennett.

The project offers a very personal perspective on the Parramatta Girls Home, a former state-controlled child welfare institution situated at the convict-era Parramatta Female Factory in western Sydney. Up until the early 80s, ‘children at risk’ were held and subjected to unwarranted punishment and abuse.

The largely neglected, inaccessible three-hectare site has been recently recognised as one of Australia’s most significant heritage places. Its history traces back to early European settlement, it was the first destination for convict women sent to colonial Australia who had not been assigned to settlers.

The project is a close collaboration with the former residents, giving them the opportunity, for the first time, to tell their stories and by doing so, rewrite the public history of this site of trauma, which has been largely ignored until now.
As a narrative cultural heritage project, it presents itself as a digital reconstructed reality where photographic veracity is partly suspended in an uncertain and dissolute world of recollections.

With one trend in CGI to generate ever more realistic depictions, this project takes a deliberate step back and makes use of a primitive reconstructed reality, the point-cloud representation. It is to achieve a visual language, which in my view, is compatible with how episodic memory operates. It is mutable, reconstructed and fragmented.
This aesthetic sets the tone and creates the atmosphere for a somber narrative that is meant to engage a viewer on a emotional level to ultimately promote empathy towards the affected women telling their stories.

As a trans-media work, the project is configured as a Virtual Reality experience, as a site-specific audio walk, a radio play and for the large-scale cylindrical immersive environment EPICylinder at the Expanded Perception and Visualisation Interaction Centre next door.
The EPICylinder is one of the most advanced facility of its kind. It provides a unique delivery platform for ultra high resolution digital content at a real-world scale for up to 15 viewers at a time.

  • Art Director and Production Design: Volker Kuchelmeister
  • Sound Design/Editor: Alex Davies
  • Writer/Editor: Lily Hibberd
  • Writer/Narrator: Bonney Djuric, Jenny McNally
  • Narrator: Lynne Edmondson Paskovski, Gypsie Hayes, Denise Nicholas
  • Co-producers Jill Bennett, Bonney Djuric, Lily Hibberd
  • Commissioned by the Big Anxiety Festival 2017 (Jill Bennett)
  • South by Southwest SXSW, Austin Tx, 9-17 March, 2018.
  • The Big Anxiety Festival UNSW Art & Design-EPICentre, 20/9 – 11/11/2017.
  • Check-In Lounge Riverside Theatre Parramatta, 12-21/10/2017.
  • Growing Up Digital, invited by NSW Mental Health Commissioner. Town Hall Sydney. 28 Feb 2017.
  • International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership & International Conference, Hilton Sydney. 2 March 2017.
  • TheMHS Learning Network Inc, Hilton Sydney, 31 Aug 2017.
  • Forthcoming: Affect and Place Representation in Immersive Media: the Parragirls Past, Present Project. Kuchelmeister, V., Hibberd, L., Davies, A. Electronic Visualisation and the Arts EVA, London, July 2018.
  • Generation and real-time visualisation of high-resolution RGB point-cloud data for place representation in immersive applications. Course track Siggraph Asia 2017, Bangkok. 27 – 30 Nov 2017.
Related Project:

Topography of the Unseen