An artist’s new perspective on Australia, from 700km above the Earth

Published 17 September 2018
Open Air by Grayson Cooke Still image from Open Air (credit: Grayson Cooke).

It’s a perfect match: an hour-long art/science video exploring the breathtaking beauty of the Australian landscape from space, paired with the sounds of experimental jazz trio The Necks, known for their mesmerising, slowly unravelling musical pieces.

Open Air pays homage to the elemental forces that shape the earth over time. Produced by Southern Cross University media artist Associate Professor Grayson Cooke, the film will officially launch at the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra this week (September 20).

“The project is basically visual music,” said Professor Cooke. “On one level it is a visual setting of the incredible 2013 album ‘Open’ by The Necks, a really symphonic work, and more than an hour in length.

“But the project is also a kind of creative earth imaging: it combines aerial photography of the paintings of Mullumbimby artist Emma Walker, with timelapse satellite images of Australia that I produced through working with Geoscience Australia and the Digital Earth Australia platform.”

An artist’s surreal view of Australia – created from satellite data captured 700km above Earth: Grayson Cooke writes for The Conversation.

The project has already garnered significant interest in Australia and internationally: the NASA Landsat team in the US published an interview with Professor Cooke on its website; now Open Air has been shortlisted for the prestigious Lumen Prize, an international competition celebrating excellence in digital art, in the Moving Image category.

It is one of only 31 shortlisted entrants from a pool of more than 900. Prize winners will be announced in a public event in London on September 27.

“The Lumen Prize is a significant player in media art internationally,” said Professor Cooke. “They hold exhibitions all around the world. I feel very privileged to have become a Lumen artist.”

Professor Cooke has been working alongside Geoscience Australia and the Digital Earth Australia platform since July 2017.

“We are very excited about the upcoming launch of Open Air, and have been proud to support Professor Cooke in developing this work,” said Dr Stuart Minchin, Chief of the Environmental Geoscience Division of Geoscience Australia.

“Digital Earth Australia is a rich public resource with a mandate to support innovative public access to environmental information, but we recognise that public engagement around understanding our natural environment is not just about the scientific facts, but also our feelings and emotions, so having an artist work with DEA data and staff has been a very rewarding experience."

Launch event:

Open Air will be launched at a public screening at the National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra at 6.30pm on Thursday September 20. Tickets $10. Visit NFSA Events for all the details.

Other screenings:

Open Air will be showing in the public program of the Spectra art/science conference in Adelaide, October 10-12.

Media contact: Sharlene King 0429 661 349 or