Create Space :: Andrew Burrell

2005, Melbourne, Australia

A few week before the ANAT New Media Lab Create Space had begun, Troy Innocent wrote the following to the associated email list: “Create Space: suggests that there is not a pre-existing space awaiting discovery but that it may be brought into being by deliberate/intuitive construction and active/passive interaction.”

I was immediately taken by this concept and from that point on decided that this would be the approach I would take to the lab – the creation of new spaces to broaden and inform my practice. With this thought in mind and unsure of what to expect, I set out for the Meat Market in North Melbourne.

I chose to take the train from Sydney to Melbourne in order that I could create a strong division between my normal space and these as yet uncreated realms of Create Space. Somewhere near the Victorian border I woke from a restless sleep (is there any other kind on an XPT?) to a grey-scale vision of massive willow trees gliding past my window. The sensation of movement was reversed. The train was motionless and the landscape moved below.¬† As they passed by, each willow made a distinctive sound – a deep, heavily dopplered “whomping”.

The next time I woke the train had arrived in Melbourne. Melbourne was a city that I thought I knew well, at least from a spatial standpoint. I had a strong map in my head, inscribed ten or so years ago when I had spent some time there. Armed with this map inscribed in memory I left the station for the hotel. None of the landmarks were making any sense. The lie of the land felt right but nothing else I remembered was there any more. I was trying to layer a space that had not existed for ten years onto one that exist at this present moment in time. The two spaces just did not match. Then a landmark I knew. The Hare Krishna restaurant on Swanson Street. From that one intersection of the two spaces I was able to place the Melbourne often years ago as a transparent overlay on the Melbourne of today. From that moment on I knew where I was and could navigate the Melbourne streets with only the occasional surprise where the two time periods were radically different.

And so the lab begins. Introductions are made. The are tours of spaces. I already have the feeling that two weeks is going to be a very short time and that this group of people is a particularly serendipitous mix.

The ANAT Create Space lab was a mixture of workshops, brainstorming sessions and skill sharing opportunities. Most importantly though, it was a two week period outside of normal routine and schedule, to develop practices on both a technical and conceptual level. Projects were developed and a number of strong works in the form of working prototypes were made. In order that I do not repeat information already available, the events, projects and outcomes of the lab are well documented at

The story of the Electronic Dog: Many events that arose out of the Lab were born from conversations over dinner or lunch. The adventure of the so-called electronic dog was one of these. My reportage of these events may be skewed through my perceptual and mnemonic inaccuracies, and for this I apologies, I can only hope that for comparison, another will tell this tale from their own perspective.

A week ago I could remember who had originally made the electronic dog. I had planned a sentence in my mind that ran – During an icebreaking workshop where we were building drawbots, ….. ….. made what would come to be known as the electronic dog – alas the blank on the page is also a blank in my memory. I suppose I overwrote the initial memory of the event with that sentence, leaving out the most important of details. Regardless, I can tell you that the electronic dog was indeed created and its sprightly personality did not fail to charm any in the room.

There came a pivital moment in the career of the electonic dog, which happened over a Chinese meal. I had before me an enormous bowl of pork and pickled vegetable soup and discussions turned to the security system in the hotel where we were staying. In any of the units (and this may not come as a surprise to most – except to those, like myself – accustomed to hostels and lounge room floors when they are traveling) you could watch channel 1 on the television and see what was happening at the main building entrance. What an opportunity for a bit of mischief a performance event, we thought.

And so it was. For at least three and a half minutes.

By way of a flyer under their doors, we would invite each of the buildings residents to watch channel 1 at a prescribed moment to witness the sanctioned performance team as they (through only the deepest sense of altruism) invited the viewers to become part of their own private spaces.

The event time came and we had prepared texts for the viewers to read on their televisions, introducing ourselves, and inviting them to either come down or call us on a number provided. Unfortunately, things did not go as plannned. The electronic dog, being the mascot of the sanctioned performers, did a little dance before the security camera as a sort of introduction to the event. A mistake, it would seem. As the dog danced happily for its audience a front desk clerk noticed what she assumed to be a bomb bouncing up and down on her black and white security monitor. It seems our little dog was being gravely misunderstood during his debut.

Shortly after the irate clerk had yelled a number of impolite words at us we we closed down by a good humoured security guard and a promising career was over like that. Last I heard, the electronic dog has been making cameo appearences on a desk somewhere in RMIT.

The two weeks of the lab were filled with many more memorable events, some of which have profoundly affected the way I think and work. Discussions with fellow participants, facilitators and the diverse range of other people encountered during this period have led to many new ideas set in motion in all of us. This space and time dedicated exclusively to developing practice has led to a whole new series of possibilities for my practice, and I know it has done the same for others involved. Personally I feel that I was able to look at my conceptual concerns through the varied outlooks of each and every one of those involved, giving fresh life, and new insight into my practice. I was also able to expand the tools from which I can choose to work, and now know the answer to some of the technical questions I was grappling with before the lab. Fortunately I have also developed a whole new set of questions to keep me moving forward.

Collaborations began at the lab that are developing over time. Friendships were also forged that I am glad to say are developing post-lab. On the last day of the lab, I had a moment of melancholia; soon I would be back in a space where all of ‘this’ does not exist. Adam Nash consoled me. “Hold on to the feeling of these two weeks for as long as you can,” was the gist if what he said, “It is a rare thing we have created here.”

And it was.

These words don’t do it justice. There should be so many more, but these are, I hope, a little bit of that space – preserved ‘- for at least a little longer.

Thank you to everyone involved.

The facilitators: Adam Nash, Jonah Brucker-Cohen and Katherine Moriwaki. Thanyou for your time, energy, insight and patience.

My fellow participants: Tim Plaisted, Somaya Langley, Matt Gardiner, Troy Innocent, Alex Gillespie, Sarah Neville, Trish Adams, Tim Barrass and Shiralee Saul. What an inspired mix of people, thank you so much.

Jane Hindson, project officer, whose dedication and input and support was, and is, invaluable.

Also thanks to everyone at ANAT who dropped in, either in person or remotely, and whose efforts made the whole thing possible – Melinda, Jen, Heidi, Mimi and Patrick.

Read more about Create Space here

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