Yandell Walton’s art is both delightful and socially aware

We chat to the Aussie artist about her contributions to the incredible Digital Graffiti Festival and her work.

It’s unfortunate humans don’t always pay attention to important, pressing, potentially dangerous issues (after all, they take effort to solve, sigh), but at least our laziness means we get to enjoy the beautiful efforts of the bold, bright, social warrior and artist Yandell Walton. 

Last year, the Aussie video artist wowed Digital Graffiti Festival - the projection-based annual festival that takes over the white walls of Alys Beach, Florida - with her ‘Best of Show’ piece Human Effect, a striking, fun and endless engaging warning of humans’ effect on nature. 

And, this May, she was back with Bon Voyage and, one of the four special recognition winners, 1/1500 (shown, with Yandell in front). As one of the residents - along with Sean Capone and Keaton Fox - who were invited to Alys Beach for a seven day exploration of the site and collaboration, Yandell had the opportunity to tailor her work to the site. And she certainly made the most of it. 

Here, we’ve chatted to Yandell about her thoughts on the festival and the rest of her remarkable work. 

Image: 1/1500 and Yandell Walton

Mimi Launder: How does Digital Graffiti differ to other festivals? 

Yandell Walton: “A lot of the light festivals are different to this. This is just focusing on projection in a concentrated space. And there’s less ambient light than there is in other festivals in normal cities - and the quality of the buildings to project onto is better. That’s why it looks so good. It’s amazing.” 

Image: Bon Voyage for this Digital Graffiti 2016

ML: What did you think about the residency?

YW: “I loved it.  It was all about considering the architecture. We were there for 7 days and we had some ideas. It was just really about experimenting, throwing some stuff up, choosing a site, and then trying to do some mock-ups and then projecting that onto the site as well. We had time to map the sites, and experiment.

“I had been a finalist maybe three times. But I had never seen the space. And I had not really seen images of what the work looked like, and I had no idea that anything - like the issues you have, such a brightness, with doing work in an urban setting - that you just don’t have them here.

"I was worried that some of the works would be misrepresented. But now I know, since seeing the site, that all of them look fantastic in that space. But it was awesome to be able to visit next year because then you understand.” 

Image: Transitions, a site-specific projection in Melbourne. 

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ML: How did you come up with the specific pieces for the festival? 

yw: “The work is totally talking to this festival and this audience. it was inspired by being overwhelmed with the amount of plastic waste in this country overall and - just when I was visiting Alys, there were so many water bottles, just everywhere!

"I shot the bottles during the residency with my iPhone. I was going to reshoot it in a proper studio, with proper lighting, but it didn’t look as good - at all. There was a big sun room in the house in Alys beach, overcast and loads of natural light. There was a black tray and I put water in it, so they would move around.”

Image: impermanence. Watch the full video. 

ML: What drew you to the Digital Graffiti festival?

YW: “It’s working with architectural spaces, within a 3 dimensionality, it’s immersive  A lot of the time it’s about spectacle, and entertainment, and decoration.

"I’m so interested in getting people to consider ideas, think about concepts and be challenged by the work. And [curator Brett Phares] has done a really good job, a good mix of the two. These sort of festivals you need that large spectacle work.

"My other work that won the prize last year was called Human Effect. It was all plant life growing on the wall. When you got close, part of the plants died and when you got further away, they came back alive. A really strong message that everyone gets.

"I’m really trying to inspire social change too - and what a fantastic platform to do that in these massive festivals."

Image: Human Effects. Watch the animation here.