16th Art Division New Face Award

Outback and Beyond

Media performance

Grayson COOKE/Mike COOPER [New Zealand/UK]


Outback and Beyond is a live electronic opera performed by Mike COOPER and Grayson COOKE. To COOPER’s blistering soundtrack of lap-steel guitar, deconstructed blues and electronics, COOKE performs a live remix of archival footage from the National Film and Sound Archive. COOPER also sings a libretto that explores the adventures of Charles TODD, the man who built the Overland Telegraph between Adelaide and Darwin in the 1870s. With an outback road-movie soundtrack, and footage from docu-dramas and feature films from the ’20s to the’ 50s, Outback and Beyond presents the audience with a series of micronarratives that recall the themes and aesthetics of the Western film genre. But crucially, it is a Western set in Australia’s outback, reflecting Australia’s own relationship to its land, its history and its peoples.

Reason for Award

Described by its creators as an improvised opera that resembles an Australian-style Western, this work does not break any new technological ground. But I could relate to their straightforward application of existing technology to blend archival footage with live performance in the service of referencing their country’s history and geography while contemplating its culture here and now. With its unpretentious reexamination of culture through individual expression and the use of technology currently available to anyone, this work is, I feel, worthy of the New Face Award.