Living Data

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned
that this program contains images and voices of deceased persons.

Living Data

Evolving conversations  

University of Technology, Sydney Main Entrance Foyer, 3 Sept 2014 - 20 Nov 2014
In Ultimo Science Festival, Sydney3-12 Sept 2014

Presentations INDEX

  Vikki Quill

Calligraphy for me is a dialogue on the nature of mark making and embodiment. It is a dynamic practice, demanding whole body engagement. With brush in hand, I 'enter' the expanse of paper like a protagonist on stage and allow the ebb and flow of internal tides to direct where and how the brush lands.


Vikki Quill: Ocean Ancient Chinese character. (left) Chinese ink on paper
(right) Motion captured by Jason Benedek for Oceanic Living Data by Lisa Roberts, 2014



This is an elemental practice: paper, brush, ink and body. The ancient Chinese characters I work with are strong and vivid. Although the work itself is over in an instant, the preparation must not be rushed. Before putting brush to paper, I slowly and fully imbue my body and mind with the thoughts and feelings that arise from contemplating the character's journey from post Neolithic times to my connection with it in that moment.

The character for 'Ocean' is comprised of two elements. On the left is 'water' giving the character its meaning. The element on the right is purely phonetic, giving the character its pronunciation. It is made up of a woman kneeling with her arms crossed and wearing a headdress. She has nipples clearly seen in the ancient character, indicating she is a mother. In ancient texts, this element may have related to 'dark' or 'darkness'. There is such rich imagery to work with in this character.

The practice of calligraphy is perfect as it is. It does not need to be modernised, its elemental nature assures its place in contemporary culture. And yet, the simple act of gesturing the character in the motion capture laboratory has for me, liberated it, inviting us to delve deeply into the nature of writing as expression.

Every time Lisa sends through a new compilation of the animated gesture, I wonder which is the more faithful to my original impulse: a paper and ink work or (as in the current rendition) the star-like lights dancing underwater with a school of fish.

These ancient characters and the practice of calligraphy may not immediately spring to mind as a vehicle to reflect on climate change. Nevertheless, as I watch my gestured character swim with the fish, I feel about as close to my original impulse for a work on 'Ocean' as I could get. Throughout the video these swirling stars connect us with sea and land. They move like emissaries on a mission to uplift and bind imagination with the natural world. They guide us gently through ocean warming data and finally unite all involved. Their dance at the end is an invitation to ponder on the marks we wish to make.

Vikki Quill


Bio: Vikki Quill practised calligraphy in Tokyo for eight years, working with Kikkokai, the Oracle Bone Writing Association, specialising in the Post Neolithic and Bronze Age writing systems.