Activated ArtWalk arrives for Derby

ALTERNATIVE VIEW

Add some culture into your derby footy experience with Roebourne artist Sutu’s latest exhibition of augmented reality.

  • The Sunday Times
  • 29 Jul 2018
  • Story Gail Williams Go to www.activateperth.com.au for more details on the walk.

PICTURES: RYAN WHEATLEY

When Perth city streets spring to life next Sunday with flying teapots, robots falling in love and monsters spewing out little people, the artist who developed the app to make it all possible will be 1500km away.

Stu Campbell — known to his legion of fans as Sutu, the artist who developed the world’s first augmented reality comic book, Modern Polaxis — will instead be chilling out with cherished friends in his happy place, Roebourne.

Those friends are the indigenous young people whose creativity was unleashed when Sutu joined their community seven years ago.

Working with the Yijala Yala Project, implemented by arts and social change organisation Big hArt, he spent hundreds of hours with 40 kids aged 7-14 to create an interactive comic called Neomad, an epic sci-fi adventure for iPad.

It won several awards, including the 2016 Gold Ledger Award and an ATOM Award for best game and best multimedia production in 2013.

Next Sunday, tech-savvy pedestrians on the way to Optus Stadium for the AFL derby clash will see some of the other work produced with the Roebourne community.

By downloading Eyejack, the free augmented reality app Sutu developed with his business partner Lukasz Karluk, walkers ambling between Forrest Place and Matagarup Bridge will see 17 artworks explode with animation and sound at the touch of a smartphone or tablet. It’s all part of the Activated ArtWalk project launched by the Activate Perth group.

In curating the exhibition, Sutu worked alongside Perth artist Alex Hare and local producer Simon Te Brinke.

They collaborated with local and international artists to give another view of reality to existing murals — such as the female cricketers mural at the WACA — while others come from their existing EyeJack catalogue.

But while he says it would be great to be at the launch, Sutu, a self-described workaholic, is working on yet another project from his remote home.

“It’s kind of nice having the desert at the end of my

street,” he says. “I walk two worlds.

“A lot of this fantasy sci-fi stuff is just a way to explore new creative processes that are not bound to any specific kind of outcome, I guess.

“And I like working with young people and empowering them with skills and seeing them evolve.”

The Tasmanian-born artist has been walking those two worlds since he put it out to the universe — on the streets of Melbourne back in 2010 — that he wanted to work with indigenous people.

By then he had already earned a big name in the art world for his designs for streetwear label Mooks, and his installations at the National Museum of Australia.

He’d thrown in a high-paying job in Queensland as creative director for the Australian Defence Force, working on training material for the MRH-90, the most advanced tactical troop transport helicopter of the 21st century.

And he’d set a revolutionary new art-world benchmark with his web comic, Nawlz, which saw 300,000 people a month clicking on, earning a string of awards for innovation and web design.

The 24-episode adventure, which follows a cyber graffiti artist through a sci-fi universe, is still being exhibited around the world, making Sutu a hot ticket for artist-in-residence gigs, keynote speaker at engagements and freelance jobs from Vienna to Berlin. It’s no wonder he wanted to clear his head from the clutter of exploding images, overlaying virtual realities, paranoid time travellers and stories that unfold backwards.

“I needed to go for a walk,” he says.

“And I didn’t want to walk in the city. I wanted to walk right out of the city, to a place that I had never been to before.

“So I put it out telepathically. I knew people who had worked with Big hArt and told them quite specifically what I wanted to do.”

The job offer in the Pilbara came 18 months later, changing his life and those of the kids he worked with, who he has seen grow into their teens.

The remoteness is certainly conducive to creativity. He’s made a virtual reality film called Mind at War, which has its Australian premiere next month at the Melbourne International Film Festival; and he was commissioned by Steven Spielberg during the making of Spielberg’s latest film, Ready Player

One, to create a virtual reality experience based on a nightclub in the film.

Having bought a house in Roebourne last year, Sutu and his wife, Chynna, have no plans to move on.

“Chynna has helped many kids to get scholarships with the Yiramalay Foundation to go to school between Fitzroy Crossing and Wesley College,” he says.

“It’s an exciting program and two of them have got further scholarships with the Melbourne Theatre Company and four of the boys starred in a short film last year that won the best short film at the Sydney Film Festival.”

Anne-Maree Ferguson