SBS and Google Bring Stories to Life for Sydney Biennale

SBS recently announced that it has partnered with Google’s Creative Lab and the Biennale of Sydney to create Belongings, an interactive installation for the 21st Biennale of Sydney that explores the issue of displacement through a unique lens.

Created by SBS’s Digital Creative Labs using technology developed by Google’s Creative Lab, Belongings shares stories and experiences of people who left their homeland, and almost everything they own, in search of a new life in Australia.

Belongings brings together diverse personal experiences through a single common thread: treasured possessions, with participants sharing their stories behind objects from the country of their birth that continue to hold meaning. The project marks the first life-scale interactive installation for SBS, which uses technology that allows audiences to use their smart phone devices to control a multi-user, large scale environment.

Marshall Heald, Director of TV and Online, said, “SBS is committed to exploring issues facing all Australians through innovative storytelling. Belongings draws on the theme of treasured possessions and memories to encourage greater understanding of the challenges faced by those who come to Australia to be resettled.”

For the individuals featured in Belongings, such personal items and memories hold huge significance. Damon Amb from Iran shares the story of his grandmother’s purse, while Lizzy Samba from Papua New Guinea recounts the sense of strength she feels from her mother’s necklace. Sabina Krusevljanin from Bosnia and Herzegovina continues to hold close a backpack she used while escaping Sarajevo and Parastoo Bahrami from Afghanistan, tells how revisiting her passion of creating beautiful hand-beaded baskets helps her look forward to her future. Due to her time living in different refugee camps, Amou Job lost everything she owned, and shares memories that help her to hold on to her past.

With the aim of connecting with Australia’s diverse communities, each story will be available in an additional six languages, including Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Hindi and Punjabi.

Using technology developed by Google’s Creative Lab – dubbed ‘XY-Fi’ – visitors to the installation connect to a dedicated Wi-Fi network and can use their smartphone as a remote control for the installation, selecting their preferred language and engaging with the first-account stories of each of the project’s participants through video and audio.

Tea Uglow, Creative Director of Google’s Creative Lab, said, “We’re interested in how we can use the technology that we’ve all become so familiar with – like mobile phones – to do something unexpected. When your own phone becomes not only a remote control, but also the way you can access personal, deeply emotive stories in your preferred language, as part of a public installation, we realise the magic of these devices in a completely new way.”

Jo-Anne Birnie-Danzker, Director and CEO of the Biennale of Sydney, said, “The Biennale of Sydney has, over the past forty-five years, played an indispensable role in Australia’s engagement with the world and provided perspectives from elsewhere on issues that matter. The 21st Biennale of Sydney, ‘SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium and Engagement’, under the artistic leadership of Mami Kataoka, is a compelling exploration of the most urgent issues of our day, among them, the unprecedented displacement and movement of people across the globe.”

The 21st Biennale of Sydney runs from the 16th of March to the 11th of June 2018 at seven locations across Sydney.



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