Medusa takes its title from Théodore Géricault’s the Raft of the Medusa of 1818 and uses extracts from Georg Buchner’s Danton’s Death of 1835. It re-imagines the experience of climate refugees from the perspective of the ocean itself as they desperately flee across the oceanic waves in search of a new life. The waves transform into increasingly larger oceanic walls and immerse the viewer in the interior of their motion, a seismic effect of melting Antarctic and Arctic ice. A haunting voice invites the solitary viewer to watch the unfamiliar oceanic terrain from the top of a two metre high viewing platform. It questions the viewer, as if their certainties are pushing the oceanic walls around them closer. It is installed as an architectural installation in a section of the former 1740 Savoy cavalry headquarters in the centre of Turin.

The possible is always dependent on what confronts us and what resources we have to address it. Climate refugees face the most uncertain of possibilities as they often move across hostile spaces to face the barest of hopeful outcomes. Such movement is intensifying as the incidence of climate extremes, such as droughts, are wreaking havoc on people’s vulnerable ways of life. For example, few realize that the origin of the Syrian civil war in 2011 was an unprecedented drought that drove rural popula-tions into the cities to look for work and support, only to be met by brutal force. The resulting refugee surge into Europe and Australasia resulted in the majority of the Syrian population now living outside Syria. The aesthetic challenge this experience poses for art is immense.

Medusa avoids representing the refugees themselves but focuses on their unprecedented experiences. It offers as its subject the oceanic experience of a Syrian refugee, her terrifying ocean crossing from Indonesia to Australia, the disconcerting sounds of rescue by a Norwegian tanker helicopter and subsequent refusal of entry to Australia. However there are no images of the refugee. Instead we are con-fronted by the climate itself, in the form of an unpredictable ocean whose behavior interacts with the audience’s uncertain movement across the installation space. Here, the possible is twofold, the oceanic and the human. In the installation, the immersive oceanic projection is algorithmic and goal oriented, based on an AI language that animates the unanticipated. The human is tentative, as the audience attempts to navigate its way across the totally unfamiliar oceanic terrain. Paradoxically, this refugee experience foreshadows the unimaginable one we all increasingly face as the planet and its atmosphere burn in unforeseen ways.

Project DirectorDennis Del Favero
Programmer: Alex Ong
Music: Kate Moore
Voice Over: Sacha Horler
Programmer: Alex Ong
3D stereoscopic single channel computer graphic installation, monochrome, stereo, 4 minutes in duration, also available as a 4K single channel video and NFT
Funded by the Australian Research Council through its Laureate Fellowship Program 2021-2025