The fantastic adventures of Ling Change

Maryanne Lynch investigates the multimedia possibilities of Transit Lounge with digital artist Keith Armstrong

Transit Lounge, Keith Armstrong/Ross Anderson

Transit Lounge, Keith Armstrong/Ross Anderson

Foyer: a place of impermanence, change, transition. Right now I need a coffee to settle my stomach. Black cushions, black cave; crawl into Saturday morning. Recovery via Art. Glossy fake turf; two screens beaming out licorice colours. Someone sticks their head around a temporary wall: “Excuse me, can you please tell me where the workshop…?” De-dede-de-de makes a happy kitsch-pop tune. Multimedia artist Keith Armstrong and I meet and greet each other.

We are in a space within the space of the Metro Arts foyer, Edward Street, CBD of Brisbane, an artifical space constituted by an installation of sound, vision, dance, 3D animation and captioning. The 2 of us begin to chat while lolling on cushions in the surrounds of this thing called the Transit Lounge: a world of many worlds and crazy characters. Keith: originator, digital video artist and artistic director.

Ling Change: a strong young woman who commands attention and investigates other worlds and ways of doing things.

What was the impetus for the project? I was on a Metro residency in 1998-99 and at the same time participating in the Jabiluka protests. In both instances I came face to face with the question of change, ie what are the conditions in which individuals or organisations can flourish and how are these conditions realized? This question’s also a bit of a follow-on from my previous project, Public Relations [from the IMA’s Art on Line series]; I’m interested in how systems lock together and influence their constituent parts and vice versa.

So, in the residency I wanted to look at how the tenants of Metro Arts might interact with the greater environment within which they operate so as to achieve a dynamic between diversity and equilibrium. I went around and spoke to tenants asking them open-ended stuff like, “How do your private ethics impact on your organisational management?” and “Do you play games?”

The Humatix: unemployed cleaners who live in decommissioned toilet blocks and dance to any available audience in the hope of picking up a tip

How did you focus this? Originally I was going to use the whole building as an installation but narrowed it down to the foyer, which allowed external traffic as well. And I conceived of the installation as a nonlinear world which would be affected by audience activity. So I’ve located it in an area where the environment is always changing and yet people have some ownership, however abstract, of the space.

The Cock Blockies: mummylike characters permanently coiled in lotus position in the tunnels of the honeycomb plateau

What was the authoring process? I wrote a script, with Lisa O’Neill (choreographer-dancer) in mind, and together we began to build storyboards. The script had the fundamental idea of a series of different worlds, with a description of each one. There were some adventures but it was a totally absurd piece. Some people asked me if I’d been on acid when I wrote it!

Lisa was very instrumental in the characterisation of the inhabitants of the worlds. She took it in directions I didn’t anticipate, such as giving a cartoonlike quality to the characters. We shot her in a TV studio, putting the 3D camera in the same spot it’d be in in the animated world.

I sketched the environments and then Sean Young, Andrew Goode and Ross Anderson [3D modelling animators] developed the Y-frames in 3D. It was at a later stage that we decided to render them in a cartoonish style. This wasn’t only because of Lisa’s work but also because I wanted something of that quality that The Simpsons and South Park have and, again, the ‘reality’ factor of the original renderings somehow flattened out the narrative.

Young Macduffles: suave salesmen who are forever seeking new opportunities to sell their product, the honey drink ‘Core’

Why did you develop a narrative? I wanted to play around on the boundaries of artistic and commercial design and to create an installation that had a broad appeal. Given the conceptual underpinnings, I wanted people to engage with the ‘artwork’, not just look at it. Of course, the narrative isn’t linear; this would’ve been contrary to my interest in change and how it is measured. I’d like, ultimately, to make a play station.

Old Macduffles: slaves who package ‘Core’ in the niche markets

What was the role of sound? Guy Webster [composer] came in to the project at a later point—mostly due to money or the lack of it! (We all contributed hours of unpaid labour and got a lot of in-kind support from the likes of QUT and Apple.) He basically had a responsive role although he contributed lots of great ideas. We decided that we’d go for a ‘music’ rather than ‘sound’ style, a soundtrack, this year’s model so to speak. He worked with miniatures of the animations and with Lisa.

Rinston, Bruce Canon & Dogs: preoccupied, unaware and insular neighbours of Ling Change

How did you structure the space? Originally I’d wanted to use the whole foyer. However, once you bring in the screens, you have a problem with light so Callum Lui [installation designer] created this cavelike structure we’re sitting in. These cushions invite people to relax and not have an us/artwork dichotomy. I’d intended a walkthrough space but this is contingent on the door at the far end being left open by Metro! The space is more enclosed than I’d originally envisaged; hence the turf as one way of bringing different environments together.

The large screen hanging above us shows the narrative as it unfolds, detours and so on. The smaller screen set up like a TV gives background information about the worlds and the characters, and the captioned thoughts of the main character Ling Change. It also includes a digital garden, the state of which is affected by the audience, and which in turn affects the narrative journey. So movement, temperature, sound and light make the flowers bloom or wither away, and these changes influence the adventures of Ling Change. The interactive code was created by Gavin Sade [interactive designer] on a Director [multimedia authoring] system, and the engine of it all is in the basement below the foyer.

The Fiscalities: narrow minded empirebuilders who restrict others but themselves get stuck on the honeycomb plateau.

Our conversation dwindles to its end. Keith and I sit there, watch the flowers grow, see the Humatix do their dancing-girls routine once again in sexy short uniforms and brassy wigs, give each a goodbye after a short black, and go our separate ways. In transit: on the go, between destinations, journeying into the…

Ling Change Thinks: line dancing is so passe

Transit Lounge, Keith Armstrong, Lisa O’Neill, Guy Webster, Callum Lui, Sean Young, Ross Anderson, Andrew Goode, Gavin Sade, Nat Abood, Raniah Haydar, Metro Arts (foyer), Brisbane, May 26 – June 19

RealTime issue #32 Aug-Sept 1999 pg. 29

© Maryanne Lynch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 1999