Dr Christian Thompson AO

Bayi Gardiya (Singing Desert)

  • XR
  • Virtual Reality
  • Visual Art
  • Experiential

Artist Dr Christian Thompson AO is the last surviving speaker of Bidjara, a recognised lost Indigenous language. He approached us to develop a new media art experience to tell his story and preserve this traditional language forever.

Christian wrote the song, Bayi Gardiya (singing desert) in Bidjara, which tells of the degradation he has witnessed, of both the language and land of his childhood.

Christian collaborated with us to craft an emotive visual experience to complement the beautiful melancholic soundtrack he had written. The visual piece needed to help viewers empathise with Christian and be entirely immersed in his story. Virtual Reality was the perfect medium to do so with.

Bringing memories to life

We decided early on to create an entirely virtual experience rather than film any 360 video. The extra sense of connectedness and immersion with the environment is so essential to the artwork, and virtual worlds do this in a way that photographed environments aren't able to.

In Bayi Gardiya, light represents memory and language, and the evolving landscape represents the cyclical nature of life. In an art piece that is all about memory, we hoped to make something incredibly memorable.

A guided journey

We built and rebuilt this experience until we got it right. Each audio and visual element was meticulously crafted and timed to command attention at all times - orchestrated to ensure the user would absorb both the explicit and implicit narrative of the experience. The result was a highly emotional and therefore memorable piece. These heightened emotions are essential for the art piece to fulfil its goal of preserving Bidjara forever.

Cultural impact

Bayi Gardiya was exclusively featured at ACMI before being accepted as the first piece of non-traditional film inducted into the Australian National Film Archive, challenging perceptions and definitions of modern film. 

Bayi Gardiya was recognised as VR Film of the year at the 2020 Real World XR awards.