April 26, 2016


S. Shakthidharan

My three year position as Carriageworks Associate Artist has now come to an end.

I began my time here working on a rather wild idea: a multi-platform universe of stories, with its heart in Western Sydney.

Three years later, this idea has become a reality in Colony.

Colony is the truly epic grand narrative of one family line, over twenty generations. It spans pre-colonial times to the 22nd Century. This story is going to be told over the next decade, through a number of different artworks, on a number of different platforms. By its end, Colony will have portrayed an alternative history of Australia and posited a new, imagined future for the country.

Think of Colony as like the Marvel universe but with ordinary heroes instead of super heroes, and its centre in Western Sydney rather than downtown LA.

The Characters

The first story from Colony is When The Tide Comes In. It features Sam, a young woman living in a newly-imagined Sydney of the 22nd century. This is a story told through a series of short films set to music, supplemented by a graphic novel. The story began on 9 March and new chapters are released online with each new moon. Get started here.

Second Story

The second story from Colony has expanded on the Riz artwork, which was a live audiovisual show at Carriageworks in 2014 and a feature film at Sydney Film Festival in 2015. We created a series of music videos that extended the narratives of the ensemble characters from Riz – you can watch them right here!

The third and fourth stories from Colony are Myth and A Counting and Cracking of Heads.

Myth is the tale of a Yolngu woman who goes on a radical road trip from Western Sydney back home to Arnhem Land. It will be told on large screens around the world, through a commission from New York’s The Streaming Museum.


A Counting and a Cracking of Heads is a large scale theatre work, co-produced by CuriousWorks and Belvoir. It charts the breaking apart and reunification of a family from Sri Lanka to Australia.

A Counting and a Cracking of Heads

Keep up to date with Colony through any of the options listed here to know when new stories are released.

So -why did I do it? And why am I committing to such a long-term endeavour?

Well, there’s a few reasons.

Firstly, there’s my history as a community artist. I’m the Artistic Director of CuriousWorks, a Western Sydney arts company working at the juncture of arts and social change. I founded CuriousWorks ten years ago – that’s a decade of working with communities. When working with community, there’s no set art form. There is only the heart of what the community wants to say, and then a pulling together of the best art forms possible to support that particular story. The most important goal is to immerse audiences in the world of the story.

Secondly, I’ve grown up amongst the digital revolution and seen an explosion of art forms. Whilst I have great respect for the traditional boundaries that define theatre, film, music and gaming, I’m also incredibly excited about the way those boundaries are also breaking apart and simultaneously fusing with each other. Musicians, for example, can record long form compositions out of their albums, make films out of their video clips and performances out of their shows. Stages and screens can be found almost anywhere, and what we can put on them is bound only by the chosen frameworks of the artist. Critically, the technologies that enable professional-level digital work are more affordable than ever before.

Finally, there’s the influence of geography. I’ve been working in Western Sydney for a decade now. This is one of the most diverse regions on the planet. You can wander down the street and meet the whole world. You can stand on the street corner and think to yourself, as I do – that everyone here has their own truth. Their own way of being, built on widely different ancestral traditions that between them span something close to all of human history.

This is the great experiment that is multiculturalism. And somehow, pretty much almost all the time – despite what elements of your media might tell you – it works. Really. It works, day in, day out. We hang out together and we love our differences and we know that we have respect and curiosity in common.

And these kind of multiplicities – in collaborating with community, growing up in the digital revolution, working in Western Sydney – have influenced the kind of art I love.

I love art when it shows us a number of truths, brushing up against each other, occupying the same space. Ultimately, we all have to compromise somewhere, and form the best truth possible we can, given the circumstances we’re given. That’s how we operate – as humans, as communities. It’s how art is made, as it transforms from an unblemished idea into a messy, public, piece of work.

And so, my response to this array of influences has been to create Colony.

I’d like to offer a deep, sincere thank you to Carriageworks for their continuing support. Carriageworks’ artist-led approach is unlike anything else I have experienced in the industry. I did not have to fit my idea into any particular agenda, format, criteria or set of rules in order to be supported. Instead, I was only asked to be true to myself and discover my own, unique artistic vision. Without this kind of support, the genesis of something like Colony would not have been possible, because Colony is not an idea that fits neatly into any particular part of the current arts industry. It is something new, experimental and ambitious, and I’m very grateful that my time as Associate Artist gave me the freedom to bring it to life.

I’d also like to thank the team at CuriousWorks for being willing to go on this crazy ride with me as Colony grows: without them, Colony would not be able to achieve its potential.

Finally, I’d like to thank our supporters at CuriousWorks: Australia Council for the Arts, Arts NSW, Screen NSW and Nelson Meers Foundation. They make all of this possible.

Colony has just begun. I hope you are curious enough to jump on board, and enjoy the ride with us as it steadily gathers momentum.

Launch PartyWe had a fabulous launch party at Carriageworks in March – a big thank you to everyone who came along and packed the space out!