Designing Star Voyager

Star Voyager Exhibition.

Star Voyager Exhibition.

ACMI’s Exhibitions Manager, Chris Harris, and Curators Emma McRae and Sarah Tutton share their thoughts on the design of our latest blockbuster exhibition, Star Voyager: Exploring Space on Screen.

Emma McRae:  When thinking about the exhibition design for Star Voyager in the early days, we had ideas of it being a whole spacecraft in the gallery, maybe an abandoned ship that referenced films like Star Trek, 2001, or Moon. The design was always going to be a strong element in the show and we wanted a collaborative team including architects and exhibition designers.

Chris, what was it that drew you to working with Jan van Schaik and Paul Minifie from Minifie van Schaik Architects for this project? Do you think the design process was more integrated than it has been for other exhibitions?

Chris Harris: We recognized that the design needed to be something quite special for this show, because amazing ‘space’ design was a unifying aspect of all the moving image content we looked at. We needed something unexpected – when you both started talking about referencing imagined and real journeys into outer space, it seemed we need a design that would surprise visitors and take them to some unexpected places.

Star Voyager Exhibition. Image: Mark Gambino.

Star Voyager Exhibition. Image: Mark Gambino.

Minifie van Schaik appealed initially because of their designs for the Centre for Ideas at the VCA – both the external surfaces and the interiors, which were quite ‘other-worldly’. I also liked their work at the Australian Wildlife Centre in Healesville which turned the whole Centre into a multimedia exhibition space of sorts. To me, that building looks like it wants to take off and return to wherever it came from!

When I asked Jan to respond to our brief, he was excited by the possibilities. The initial response was completely left-of-field, and not very architectural, which was exactly what we were looking for.

The design process has been very integrated and collaborative, involving the ideas and input of the curators, architects, exhibition and lighting designers and various ACMI staff. This collaborative ethos underscores most of our exhibition designs here at ACMI, although obviously some shows allow more scope for it than others.

Star Voyager Exhibition. Image: Mark Gambino.

Star Voyager Exhibition. Image: Mark Gambino.

Sarah Tutton: There has been a lot of back and forth between Emma, Chris and I, with, Paul and Jan at Minifie van Schaik, and Anita Budai, who has been working on the more detailed aspects of the exhibition design. This close dialogue has led to a more rigorous integration of the overall design and the exhibition content, I think.

Chris, I liked how you once described Star Voyager as a montage, bringing together design, artworks, feature films, documentary, etc. in a way that doesn’t privilege one above the other. The balanced design of the show – for instance the terrarium in the Mission to Mars section is as important as the Soviet ephemera in the Rocket Science section – is very much to do with how we worked together as a team.

Come along and immerse yourself in the other-wordly design of  Star Voyager: Exploring Space on Screen. The exhibition is open from 22 September to 29 January, 2012.

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One Response to “Designing Star Voyager”

  1. True Blue 05. Oct, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Congratulations to all at ACMI, a great exhibition. Particularly enjoyed the history of early influences on space theory and books which influenced the early space films. The 3D animation is also particularly well executed. True Blue.

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