Open Air

“Open Air” is a project produced by media artist Grayson Cooke, with the paintings and processes of Australian painter Emma Walker, and with the music of Australian cult band The Necks. Through a partnership with Geoscience Australia, the project also uses Landsat satellite images of Australia from the “Digital Earth Australia” program.

In 2018, this project was shortlisted in the “Moving Image” category for the Lumen Prize, a prestigious digital arts prize in the UK.


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>>> “Open Air” was launched at the National Film and Sound Archive‘s Arc Cinema in Canberra on September 20th at 6.30pm.

>>> The film was also shown at the Mercury Cinema in Adelaide on October 11th as part of the Public Program of the Spectra art/science conference, organized by the Australian Network for Art and Technology.


This project seeks to creatively image the forces that shape the Earth. It uses aerial imaging on two vastly divergent scales to produce two different material manifestations of these forces; the forces of sedimentation, of precipitation, of the firing of the land, the pulsing of water courses, and of recent anthropogenic change as well, of urban sprawl and the cultivation of the land.

Firstly, the project features motion-controlled aerial photography of the paintings and processes of Emma Walker. Walker’s paintings are abstract but highly reminiscent of the Australian landscape, they feature carved, burnt topographies, rich ochre fields, and the flat expanse of salt pans. In this project we see these paintings in formation; the ground takes fire and burns, earth minerals like graphite, iron oxide and carbon – raw materials of paint and colour – flow down channels in marine ply like sediment towards the river mouth.

Set against these painted landscapes are time-lapse images of Australia as seen by Landsat satellites. Landsat satellites have been imaging the surface of the Earth for over 40 years. They circle the Earth in 99 minutes and return to the same place every 16 days. The image data generated on these orbits is used by researchers and the private sector to track environmental change over time.

“Open Air” releases these images for aesthetic, intellectual and emotional purposes, showing country as a living thing. We see the incredible pulsing of water through the Channel Country; the Diamantina River and Cooper Creek work like veins that pump water from the tropical north down to Kati Thanda Lake Eyre. We float down the Eyre Peninsula, down coastlines of ancient sediment, as the Southern Ocean pushes immense cloud formations across the land.

The album “Open” by The Necks provides the soundtrack for the project. At times sparse and dry, at others symphonic in its intensity, the music provides an immersive aural backdrop for thinking in to the phenomena that shape this continent.


>>> The NASA Landsat Science team published an interview with Grayson on their website.
>>> dLux Media Arts conducted an interview with Grayson and Emma for their “Constellations” podcast series.
>>> Grayson wrote an article about creative uses of satellite imaging for The Conversation.