Future Present Desert is a new video installation from the long-term, ongoing collaboration between media artist Gretta Louw and the Warnayaka Art Centre, an Aboriginal owned and operated art centre in the remote Warlpiri community of Lajamanu. Located 900 km south of Darwin, at the edge of the Tanami Desert in central Australia, Lajamanu was founded only in the mid-20th Century. Prior to this time, Warlpiri people lived on their lands in the complex traditions of their ancestors, cultivating and protecting the land, as it protected them. In less than a single lifetime, the community has been faced with the challenges of extreme outside pressures and a constant stream of new technologies from cars and permanent housing to television and phones, through to the current age of digitalisation, portable telecommunications devices, and the internet.
Future Present Desert is a surreal journey through the overlapping narratives and dreams of the Warnayaka artists and Lajamanu community members in the piece, reverberating with the struggle between culture and technology; digital colonialism; the devastation of imperialism and racism; and the hope of empowerment and resistance (also as offered through media). Traditional ghost stories and Dreamtime figures flow seamlessly into contemporary narratives about intimate encounters with fear and UFO visitations. Referring to an earlier collaboration between Louw and Warnayaka - a networked performance screened live at Art Laboratory Berlin and the Warnayaka Art Centre in Lajamanu - the piece asks the question; is the desert still the desert in a digital world? The desert may seem far away, but the astute viewer realises that the desert, and digitalisation, is in fact everywhere.