A hero image from "Belongings" project.


What if you had to leave your homeland forever?

Creating a deep connection with the stories of six refugees, Belongings is an experiential exploration of displacement, resilience and hope spanning decades of global migration.

That combination of privacy and intimacy and choice is a very powerful use of the technology. And a very important one.

Jo-Anne Birnie-Danzker, CEO & Director, Biennale of Sydney

I think that the experience is thought provoking and beautifully humane, showing us all how we are connected rather than divided by our differing but similar backgrounds. I also firmly believe this is an experience that our international audience of delegates and the public must see and experience in our gallery.

Dan Tucker, Curator, Sheffield Doc/Fest

The Project

The centrepiece of the 21st Biennale of Sydney on Cockatoo Island was an artwork by influential Chinese contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei titled Law of the Journey. Consisting of a 60-metre black inflatable life raft housing more than 250 anonymous figures, its size and construction brought into focus the overwhelming scale of recent global refugee crises and the manner in which identities are lost and histories are erased.

Speaking about the situation at the time, Weiwei stated: ‘There’s no refugee crisis, only a human crisis… In dealing with refugees we’ve lost our very basic values. In this time of uncertainty, we need more tolerance, compassion and trust for each other, since we are all one, otherwise, humanity will face an even bigger crisis.’

Reflecting on this notion, we asked ourselves how we could convey the humanity of this piece to a broad audience and bring a local context to Weiwei’s work. Our response was to produce an experiential narrative installation called Belongings, developed with the help of our friends at Google’s Creative Lab.

Integrating traditional documentary storytelling with emerging technology, we harnessed the power of each medium to offer a contemporary take on how digital techniques can promote empathy between cultural and language groups in a surprisingly intimate way.

Official Program
Interactive Innovation Award - Finalist
Art Program - Official Selection
DocLab Official Program
Official Selection
Finalist - Video: Best Use of Interactive Video
Finalist - Apps, Mobile, and Voice: Integrated Mobile Experience
Finalist - Apps, Mobile, and Voice: Culture & Events
Made with our friends at Google

What We Did

The technology underpinning Belongings is a massive orchestration of elements; at the heart is a Node server that delivers content to our audiences’ mobile phone, in no less than 7 different languages. Combining interactivity, WebGL motion graphics and streaming media, across the physical space and the web.

Our responsibilities included:

  • Production: Creative Direction, Project Management, Editorial
  • Design: Brand, Mobile, Experience Design
  • Video: Editting, Compositing, Motion Graphics
  • Software: WebGL GLSL, PixieJS, Javascript, Node
  • Hardware: Projection, Customised Open-WRT Firmware

Distil Immersive live and work on Gadigal land. We acknowledge and pay our respects to past, present and emerging Traditional Custodians and Elders of this Country and we recognise the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.