Friday, 25 May 2018

Latest update from ‘The GeriActivists’: Faith, hope and tranquility in Llandilo

In April 2018, the Llandilo Maltese Cultural Association (MCA) gathered together with illuminart, to make one of five short 360° films for illuminart’s future vision activism project, The GeriActiviststs.

The project, devised and developed by illuminart, brings community groups and creative seniors in St Marys together to envision and perform transformative visions as a series of nodes or scenes, with each one bringing in unique talents and viewpoints of the future.

Illuminart’s Blue Mountains and Adelaide based creative team, led by creative producer David Ryan, worked with the Llandillo community to articulate the dreams of local people identifying with Maltese cultural heritage. The Llandilo Maltese community trusted the film makers and supported our artistic process with good humour, being involved in planning, writing, recording a new song, and then performing on location at a local farm.

At first, it may seem counter-intuitive to ask seniors where they see their community in 2068, but when you really think about it, who better to ask? “We don’t have a crystal ball to gaze into the future but we can make one” quipped one of the elder participants.

The community came together at the Psaila home in Londonderry, to shoot a film clip using advanced 360° film technology. The Virtual Reality film clip expresses hope for their children’s, children’s, children’s futures. These shared Maltese visions will be illustrated with futuristic 3D animations of the local area.  Andy Busuttil from the band Skorba, joined in the conversation to help compose the group’s thoughts into song with Maltese and English lyrics. He also recorded the song with the voices of the MCA Choir singing acapella.

North-western Sydney, once a gentle expanse of dairies and market gardens, is now the frontier of urban sprawl. Deliberately, the illuminart team have ventured to Llandilo, just beyond the developer’s burning front. They have done this to stimulate and awaken yesterday’s farmers before their heirloom farms become tomorrow’s housing estate. Their work begins over coffee and cake at the local hall.

How much do governments or developers consider the sociocultural impacts of the new suburbs they’re mapping? How can we compel them to consider the pre-existing cultural character of a place and respond to the needs of sustainable development?

The mood in the discussion becomes sober at times as the Maltese elders consider the challenges that lie ahead for their children’s children’s, children but David guides them back to their strengths of legacy and heritage.

“Development is often thought about in the short term. We are asking you to project your ideas, twenty… fifty … years in the future! Really, it’s about continuation.”

The Maltese market gardens of Llandilo, lying quietly just over the horizon from Marsden Park, hold endless stories of largely Maltese adventure and family. The creatives of illuminart listen to the seniors and arrange their ideas into one of five short films. Each of the five 360° pieces represent a different geographical pocket of Western Sydney but ask the same question: “What can the future be?” These 360° VR films collection will tour to libraries where members of the public may view them for free and to share a kind of community-wide consciousness of futurism.

The project has behaved, as so many community creative projects do, by stimulating connection in the through the process of engagement, sharing ideas and planning. Woven throughout ‘concept’ and ‘process’ is what David knows is the prime objective: to awaken that community to the value of their own humanity and cultural heritage. The participants play with ideas and become almost childlike in their imaginings. This project is good for them.

As David Ryan points out, it’s really the purest of methods: “We’re using a camera, and a microphone, and we’re telling a story.”

Another of our group members emphatically adds, “Except we’re not making it up. It is there, and it all happened.”

And because of illuminart’s thoughtful work, we’ll remember it.

Written by: Roz Chia
Edited by: David Ryan & Cindi Drennan

The GeriActiviststs project is funded by The Australia Council for the Arts and Create NSW. When complete, the immersive artworks will be displayed at community events and libraries in Penrith and St Marys. The virtual reality performances are also viewable on-line with a VR headset.

For further details on the project please look here or contact