Harvard biologist E.O Wilson believes humanity’s greatest challenge is that “we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and God-like technologies”.

This is the focus of Experimenta Make Sense, an exhibition that showcases the work of 20 multidisciplinary Australian and international artists who mix traditional art forms with new audio and visual formats. Started by experimental film and video makers, Experimenta has been running since 1986. This year marks its move from a biennial to a triennial exhibition.

Committed to showing cutting edge approaches to art that often manifest in playful, quite bizarre – though always fascinating – pieces, Experimenta upends your notions about what art is and can be. In 2014, for example, an installation by Svenja Kratz brought the story of a girl, who lived in the 1970s, to life – literally – with her DNA.

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This year, Michele Barker and Anna Munster’s Pull is a walk-through installation that surrounds the audience in the sonic and visual sensations of a wave breaking. Scale Free Network’s immersive piece, A Hierarchy of Eddies, allows the audience to interact with a large transparent chamber of swirling white balls.

"The exhibition expresses the disconcerting and delightful world of the digital age," says Experimenta artistic director Jonathan Parsons. "[It] asks audiences to immerse their senses into a ‘thinking’, ‘feeling’ and ‘doing’ contemplation of what it is to be human in an age of technological acceleration."

Artist Andrew Styan’s Life Support System uses the simple visual tool of three balloons to represent the human, natural and economic systems he believes govern our lives.

A balloon representing humanity inflates and deflates at the same rate as human inhalation, while the natural system’s balloon moves at a slower pace – both are held within a balloon representing the economy. This outer layer inflates and deflates in tandem with the actual share market’s gains and losses, constricting the other two systems.

Styan’s work is focused on “how we have lost connection with nature”, he says, and in two pieces at Experimenta Make Sense he uses “air to connect us back to each other”.

His other piece, Catch Your Breath, creates a projection of a viewer’s own breath.

Experimenta Make Sense: International Triennial of Media Art runs from October 2 until November 11 at RMIT Gallery.


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