The Jolt of the New: Making Video Art in Arnhem Land

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This essay describes the ways that an indigenous aesthetics of the new informs emerging forms of digitally-driven creativity in Aboriginal north Australia. Central is the media art project Christmas Birrimbirr (Christmas Spirit), which began as an ethnographic experiment with digital media and ritual aesthetics. Taken up by Yolngu collaborators as something new and exciting, the project explores uses of video art and more supposedly traditional media to produce ritual in a gallery setting. The imagistic dynamics of the project gave rise to dream visions and ritual innovation resulting in the production of a Christmas unlike anything previously seen in Arnhem Land, or for that matter, anywhere else. The aim of thinking through the idea of newness itself is to get closer to a sense of what the project leader, Paul Gurrumuruwuy, means when he says about our media work: 'When you make gamununggu (ochre painted sacred design) yuta (new), you make it talk'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-371
Number of pages17
JournalCulture, Theory and Critique
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


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