b. 1957, Canberra; lives in Sydney, Australia
2017, duration 50 mins, looped
Commissioned by Transport for New South Wales
6am-3pm on odd-numbered days throughout May 2020
3pm-12am on even-numbered days throughout May 2020
Thought Train broadly references Wynscreen’s thematic platforms of Time, Travel and Place. It is an animated series of messages, silent whispers passing through time. The pulsing messages move from clearly representational to abstract coded patterns, experienced by travelers transiting Wynyard Station. The artwork offers an elegant visual experience that seamlessly integrates into the body of the space – a heartbeat within wall. It is a metaphorical representation of the way we articulate unconnected thoughts in relationship to travel or moving. Thought Train is a series of interconnected sequences leading from one thought to another, creating an endless loop.
The messages are drawn from songs, eavesdropping, train names, one side of a phone conversation and oblique questions. At times the words collect in a meaningful order almost list-like, then the next grouping shifts back to a poetic earworm. Individual random thoughts connect and gather momentum, becoming a thought train in a collective brain. Looking for a delicate balance between too much and too little, between understanding and confusion, between a need to know and uncertainty. What are the thoughts going through any one individual mind as it transits through the tunnel at Wynyard?
Eighteen unique sequences flow between black text on white background to white text on black. Each sequence transitions from text to an interstitial, small breaks or gaps in the continuous thought train. Existing as irregularly timed breaks in time, as liminal zones or manta-like states. Exploring a whisper travelling through space; the response of the text upon an imaginary surface; excessive compression and overlay in an attempt to create a solid form; a steamy surface works as meme, propagating the surface with dream-like historical memories.
The work can be simply experienced as a series of captured fragments. Or, for frequent passers-by, a conclusion may be found or pieced together, unfolding over many visits. There is no beginning or end, only the transitory.
Collaborator: Ian Hobbs, programming, After Effects, videography
Special thanks to Paul Kelly, Kasey Chambers, Missy Higgins and Martin Armiger for song lyrics.
Robyn Backen is a Sydney based artist and an Australia Council Fellow. Her recent body of work evolves from her research into the acoustics of ancient whispering architectures and their unique communication patterns of sending and receiving. Robyn has created many large public commissioned artworks, and her other works have been exhibited extensively, nationally and internationally. Her work is not bound by medium or scale, and ranges from large scale installations to smaller sound and light works. Conceptual continuity, however, is the constant, allowing the translation of ideas and messages into an eclectically bound body of work – a multi-faceted conversation.
Some of Robyn’s major works include Weeping Walls at Sydney International Airport, 2001; Delicate Balance, Ballast Point Park for the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, 2009; and Walls that Whisper, Museum of Australian Democracy at old parliament house, Canberra, 2009. She completed a commissioned performance for the Bundanon Trust Last Word 2012, and most recently she was one of the five international artists invited to collaborate and develop the touring artwork Nomanslanding, Sydney-Germany-Scotland, 2015–17. In 2014–15 she undertook a series of residencies and exhibited in the remote-regional Biennale Cementa15 in Kandos, NSW. She is currently engaged in a three-year project curated by SPACE3, WA, and ArtLAB, Sweden.
Robyn coordinates the Masters of Contemporary Art at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.