Friday, 24 November 2017

GeriActivists Prototype Launch

After months of preparation, The GeriActivists 360° film ‘prototype’ was finally revealed to invited locals at St Marys Community Centre, last Thursday, 16th Nov.

The adventure in virtual reality featured the ideas of local people, aged over 55, who contributed as script writers, actors and dancers, performing together in Coachmans Park. Filming took place during October and it was illustrated with futuristic 3D animations of Queen Street.

The contributors imagined a future Coachmans Park to be a peaceful place with water fountain play areas, overlooked by trees as well as bustling local food stalls and shops, topped by vertical community food gardens. And, if The GeriActivist’s virtual reality dreams become real, then Coachmans Park in the future will continue to brim with public amenity.

The VR prototype was a ‘proof of concept’ for the film’s producers, illuminart. The Blue Mountains and Adelaide based creative team members worked alongside Western Sydney University staff and student interns to realise the dreams of local St Marys people.

The illuminart team were astonished by the response of over thirty St Marys elders, who eagerly gathered to view the film and proposed other VR ideas. At the event, the participants viewed the film through VR headsets, tracking the 360°performance by turning on swivel chairs. The guests also enjoyed the seriously delicious lamingtons from Cath’s Cakes and a cuppa while they discussed the film and all things St Marys.

Here are just some of the comments, suggestions and ideas that came in response to seeing the film:

“I loved it, I really enjoyed using the headset and looking in all directions.”

“I love to be near water, fountains, flowing creeks, waterfalls. I can be calm and peaceful. I would like to see more introduced into public parks and community centres-places where people get together.”

“I see the post office making deliveries by drone as many as hundred drones delivery parcels.”

“I would like to see a trip down the main street from prehistoric times and dinosaurs and ancient plants and landscapes, then indigenous culture, then settlement and building with all different cultures and their sounds and dances and game, moving like a parade with a sound-scape into the future with views of sky, lots of water, lots of plants, including food plants (native and non-native).”

“Commemorate a key feature and function of St Marys from the past. Colonialists originally called it ‘Cow pastures’ & Sydney-siders used to picnic and visit in the past mostly due to the St Marys Church on the hill.”

Many senior guests were very engaged and joined in activities to visualise different futures for St Marys. The process stimulated resident’s imaginations and prompted lively conversations about what we could do next to anticipate the future.

Judging by the resident’s reactions, it was clear that ‘futuring’ was meaningful for them, and not surprisingly, they expressed strong opinions about what should drive innovation and inspire future developments.

This prototype film and the subsequent conceptual and practical evaluation will inform the team’s next steps. And illuminart have plans underway to create at least three more VR film scripts over the next few months. We hope to be ready to start rehearsing, performing and filming early in 2018.

Illuminart Artistic Director and founder, Cindi Drennan said “elder residents of this community are showing themselves to be far from cynical about the future, and this method of community engagement, and participatory script and performance development, highlights that a co-creative process can be very effective at drawing out a range of responses. It opens exciting new ways to use technology and collaborative process, for more than just entertainment. Each step provides enlightenment about ways of using tools that are only just emerging, and that clearly will disrupt and change many of the ways that performance will be approached, directed and experienced in the near future.”

For more information about the project please go here:

The Geriactivists is supported by the St Marys Area Community Development Team, the Australia Council for the Arts and Create NSW.