Category Archives: Australian Jazz

Roots Reloaded: Culture, Identity and Social Development in the Digital Age

Ayman Kole, Martin A. M. Gasinger (Eds), Roots Reloaded: Culture, Identity & Social Development in the Digital Age, Anchor, Hamburg, Germany, 2016.

Tatiana Pentes chapter ‘BLACK BOX V3: Painting A Digital Picture of Documented Memory’ (Shockwave Player and Safari browser)

Abstract: ‘BLACK BOX V3: Painting A Digital Picture of Documented Memory’ is a digital art film where the protagonist Nina’s discovery of symbolic objects, ethnic dance, & musical forms (Hindustani, Rembetika, Chinese Jazz) reveal her cultural/ spiritual origins. The digital film is a documentary archiving an interactive version for download & play. LAUNCH:

blackBox interface still

Keywords: Interactive Media, Digital Art, Identity, Cultural Memory

Pandora’s Box

It is inscribed, as on Pandora’s Box…do not open…passions…escape in all directions from a box that lies open… (Latour, 1987, p. 7)

This article is an examination and critical positioning of my current digital media project blackBOX – Painting a Digital Picture of Documented MemoryblackBOX is an interactive CD-ROM ‘game’ and also an internet work. blackBOX seeks to exploit and enhance the creative potentials of digitally produced music, sound, image and text relationships in an interactive and online environment. This work seeks to reverse, obscure and distort the dominating/colonialist gaze in a playful manner. blackBOX is produced through the hybrid meeting of visual arts practice, digital film production and documentary dance performance. It also interacts with the notion of ‘electronic’ (image/sound/text) writing, that was in fact prefigured in early Russian avant-garde practices. In the words of El Lissitsky:

The new book demands the new writer. Inkstand and goose quill are dead… The printed sheet transcends space and time. The printed sheet, the infinity of the book, must be transcended… (El Lissitsky, 1923)

The protagonist of the blackBOX digital media work, Nina, undertakes a journey, a struggle and search for virtual objects. The idea of mobilising a series of myths cross-culturally is at play both in the inner workings of the game device and in the computer interface strategy. The visual screens are composed of the virtual surface fragments of the archival materials and objects. These spaces form an electronic stage where the narrative elements unfold as part cinema, part computer arcade game.

blackBOX has been devised for gallery installation. The digital story first emerges from the textile surface of heroine Nina’s (a Russian/Greek girl) red velvet dress, adorned with roses, through a bed of oriental cushions, where she writhes in her chrysalis. Sanskrit, Greek and Russian text are projected across her body. Images of the girl move into representations of a modern urban metropolis. The player/participant is invited to explore this interactive metropolis, as filtered through the digital experiences and sensations of the girl, and to discover three metaphorical ‘Chinese Boxes’, which contain three symbolic performances.

The key interface design metaphor at this stage is a Chinese ornamental window, and interaction with this interface frames the central narrative. Inside this framework, the girl discovers performances from three ‘imagined’ Australian diasporic communities; Rembetika (the Greek blues); classical Indian dance and music (Odissi and Kuchipudi traditions); and fragments of Australian jazz performed by musicians with Russian origins.

Interface design metaphor

The interface design metaphor for blackBOX is an electronic stage/screen surface where performances appear as if conjured from the imagination, or a dream. The participant/player moves around the digital surface of the stage, exploring through opening boxes, musical and dramatic performances, interviews with the musicians and dancers, documentary fragments of performances, statements by artists, text documents, newsprint articles, archival radio fragments, televisual and other related material. The action/performances appear within the immersive environment of a series of Byzantine (Greek), Sanskrit (Indian) and 1930s’ Russian jazz in Chinese diaspora.

Chinese-inspired screen frames combine electronic text and images in various assemblages trigger embedded material, a visual/audio hypertext (Hockey, 2001). Traditional modes of storytelling and music are challenged in this interface design, as the player/participant is provoked to engage with the music and performances.

As the player interacts with the screen, they consider the ways in which (traditional) musical and dance forms mix in various ‘compositions’ to create a hybrid of different cultural forms. This ‘game’ also acts as a digital archive and documentation of the metamorphosis of traditional cultural and musical forms, through the creative potentials opened up for cultural producers in the digitally manipulated performance, sound, image and text environment of interactive media.

These ‘compositions’ provide perspectives on the emergence of a uniquely Australian contemporary sound/culture that is an amalgamation and integration of three diasporic genres of music achieved through the creation of ‘electronic writing’, the assembling of an ensemble of fragments into image/ sound/text ‘compositions’.

Through the looking glass

The heroine, Nina, is the character with which the player identifies and observes through the unfolding of the digital media text. Screen events unfold through her eyes, revealing her projected/imaginary dreams and creating a narrative. The areas of interactive program content are mediated through Nina’s voice (Lou-Lou Sy), the voice of an Indian woman (Devleena Ghosh), fragments of a Chinese woman singing (Zhou Xuan recorded in the 1930s) and fragments of a Greek musician talking/singing (John Conomos and Rebetiki Ensemble).

These voices are integrated with archival documents, voice-over material and sound atmospheres, which gives the stories a space for reflection. Visual and sonic devices form signatures marking out the areas of program content. These sonic devices denote both the present (time) and the recollection of previous events. Areas of program content map the music/dance archive: a set of pathways; chineseBOX, which plays a form of jazz music that migrated to Australia with Russian refugees from China; jewelBOX, the dance music culture that has more recently emerged from Indian communities in Australia, people who migrated from Indian diasporas in Fiji, Singapore and Malaysia as well as from the Indian sub-continent; pandora’s BOX, Greek economic migrants/refugees, playing Rembetika, a politically engaged ‘blues’; and two conclusions, an electronic poetic reverie and a visual/audio collage of the various music/dance genres that speak of mixed origins.

Once the player/participant has entered an interactive ‘composition’, the program content is divulged through a series of virtual artefacts. These artefacts become icons that trigger  areas of the program content, and through the exploration of these configurations, ideas about the music/dance forms are revealed. Inside the jewelBOX story pathway, the narrative is revealed through interaction with the virtual dance jewels, which become icons representing the different levels of the narrative. Interaction with these dance jewels triggers performative spaces, revealing a number of classical Indian dances and artefacts, embedded into stylised electronic stages…. Read chapter

Self-portrait with A Lady From 上海 Shanghai in Burwood Chinatown

Artist: Tatiana Pentes

Plasma display 1920 x 1080 pixels at 1080 dpi
Digital print 1920 x 1080 in a vintage gold bamboo frame

Highly Commended Award Burwood Art Prize 2022
View online 2022 Burwood Art Prize Catalogue
Watch ceremony


Friday 25 – 30 March 2022, Burwood Library and Community Hub (Level 1)
2 Conder St Burwood, Sydney, Australia.


Artist Statement

“Self-portrait with A Lady From Shanghai in Burwood Chinatown” is a digital homage to my émigré (refugee) grandmother Xenia Vladimirovna from Shanghai  1930s. A contemporary self-portrait (Tatiana) collaged with a vintage portrait of Xenia by Josepho Schick in La Concession Française de Changhai juxtaposed with a classic Shanghai Calendar Girl poster pinup. Xenia’s ghostly image haunts the trompe-l’œil wall in Burwood Chinatown, outside an imaginary Paramount ballroom 上海百樂門 Shanghai, and oriental lanterns that light up the modern alleyways, serving traditional Chinese Street Food. An old Shanghai Seagull camera floating over the electric neon reflections illuminates rain.”

Coquette: Shànghǎi 上海 : Grandmother

a vintage portrait of Xenia by photographer Josepho Schick and a classic Shanghai Calendar Girl poster pinup


Further reading
Coquette: Shànghǎi 上海 : Grandmother

Burwood Art Prize 2022 Judges:

Danella Bennett
Manager Strategic Projects, Public Art
Create NSW, Department of Premier and Cabinet

Amrit Gill
Artistic Director/CEO
4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

Louise Zhang
Artist – a Chinese-Australian multidisciplinary artist

Artist Tatiana Pentes digital painting Self-portrait with A Lady From 上海 Shanghai in Burwood Chinatown won Highly Commended Burwood Art Council Prize 2022
Xenia Vladimirovna Shanghai French Concession 1936
Artist Tatiana Pentes digital painting Self-portrait with A Lady From 上海 Shanghai in Burwood Chinatown won Highly Commended Burwood Art Council Prize 2022
Digital print special thanks The Print Lab National Art School (NAS)

an imaginary Paramount ballroom 上海百樂門 

Artist Tatiana Pentes digital painting Self-portrait with A Lady From 上海 Shanghai in Burwood Chinatown won Highly Commended Burwood Art Council Prize 2022

“A digital homage to my Russe émigré grandmother Xenia Vladimirovna from Shanghai 上海 1930s.”

Tatiana Pentes

Scenes From A Shanghai Hotel (Film)

Contact Us

PO Box 78
Glebe, Sydney, NSW, 2037, AUSTRALIA

Geoff Weary’s film ‘An Eye for An I’, The Third Wave: Two Decades of the Hill End Artists Exhibition 1 Aug – 28 Sept 2014 Bathurst Regional Art Gallery

Hill_End_BRAG2014‘An Eye for An I’, film on video 3mins
Writer/Director/Producer: Geoffrey Weary
Model: Tatiana Pentes

The Third Wave: Two Decades of the Hill End Artists in Residence Exhibition 1 Aug – 28 Sept 2014 Bathurst Regional Art Gallery


“…landscape architect and film-maker, Gavin Wilson, was researching the artistic heritage of Hill End and the region for his 1995 exhibition The Artists of Hill End: Art, Life and Landscape for the Art Gallery of NSW. Aware of Bellette’s bequest, and withthe support of Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, Evans Shire Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Wilson invited a third wave of artists to respond to Hill End. Contemporary artists including Richard Goodwin, Anton James, Tom Spence, Wendy Sharpe, Peter Wright, Geoff Weary, Peter Kingston, Mandy Barrett, Emma Walker and James Rogers participated in a series of pilot residencies at Haefligers Cottage in 1994 and 1995. Works from these residencies were exhibited alongside historic works in The Artists of Hill End exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW.

“The historic Haefliger Cottage at Hill End and the spectacular surrounding scenery are prividing an ideal location for artist in residency, Geoffrey Weary, who is finding it a welcome respite from Sydney. Mr Weary, who describes himself as a video artists also working with more ‘traditional’ mediums, is the latest participant….Hill End artist in resident, Geoffrey Weary and Tatiana Pentes who are, living and working with the spirit of Paul Haefliger and Jean Bellette in the famous Haefligger Cottage…The house has all their things still intact, the cottage is pretty much as they left it…” in  Inspiration For Visiting Artist: Hill End Artist Residency: Geoffrey Weary: Bathurst Regional Art Gallery Advocate, 24 January 1995.

HillEndResidency002Photograph: Geoffrey Weary & Tatiana Pentes

The foundations of the Hill End Artists in Residence Program were laid. In 1999, under the auspices of Bathurst City Council and Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, the Program was officially launched. In 2002 Murrays Cottage was refurbished with the assistance of the NSW Ministry for the Arts and added as a new studio residence alongside Haefligers Cottage in 2003.Since 1994, a total of 283 residencies have been awarded to artists from a diverse range of disciplines including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, ceramics, textiles, new media, writing, animation, film, sound and performance. Over 150 works by 70 of the artists participating in the Program have entered the collection through donation and purchase. The selection presented here represents just a small portion of the work produced in response to the landscape, history and heritage of Hill End.”

“Celebrating 20 years of the Hill End Artists in Residence Program,works in this exhibition are drawn entirely from BRAG’s permanent collection. Featured artists include Jean Bellette, Ray Crooke, Russell Drysdale, Donald Friend, Ben Quilty, David Strachan, Rosemary Valadon, Greg Weight and Nicole Welch. A Bathurst Regional Art Gallery exhibition.”

345The studio at the historic Haefliger Cottage

BLOWIN’ AT THE ROCCO: Saturday Night: A Jazz feature

BLOWIN’ AT THE ROCCO: Saturday Night

Blowin At The Rocco: Photography: Tatiana Pentes & Geoffrey Weary
Blowin At The Rocco: Photography: Tatiana Pentes & Geoffrey Weary

An Australian Jazz Interactive Treatment for Broadband funded by Screen Australia (AFC/ Screen Australia)

New Media Writer/Director TATIANA PENTES
Photography/ Cinematography GEOFFREY WEARY
Original Jazz Music SERGEI ERMOLAEFF
Dramaturg Prof BRUCE JOHNSON


Expermimental Online Documentary

BLOWIN’ AT THE ROCCO: Saturday Night is an experimental interactive work that seeks to exploit and enhance the creative potentials of digitally produced music, sound, image and text relationships in an interactive online Broadband environment. In this context, the delivery of interactive work online provides an innovative approach to the conventional narrative & documentary forms. In BLOWIN’ AT THE ROCCO: Saturday Night, the participant/player will experience new possibilities produced through the slippage across a series of interactive screen surfaces, engaging the participant/player in a spatial relationship with the program. The participant/player discovers the origins of Sydney Jazz milieu through the eyes of Serge Ermoll Jr. (Jazz Pianist/ Private Investigator) during, smoky sophisticated bohemian, Sydney circa 1968. In addition the user is revealed eight tracks of original Australian jazz, recorded live at the El Rocco Jazz Cellar, 1968.

Serge Ermoll Jr (Sergei Ermollaeff) owns the copyright on all original compositions and recordings of his music. The production Budget would incorporate research fees and broadcast fees for the use of all other archival image, sound, text materials.

3. THEMES OF THE PROJECT: Pathway Elements
BLOWIN’ AT THE ROCCO: Saturday Night is composed of eight storylines, a series of interactive immersive screen environments, characterising the narrative structure of the program. The pathways are named by eight musical movements recorded by Serge Ermoll Jr (Sergei Ermollaeff). The recurrence of musical allusion and composition (a) in the form of musical iconography and (b) in the rendering of musical score in sonic fragments – will resolve in each storyline as the realisation of these eight jazz tracks. From the surface of the computer screen each story unfolds inside a series of frames, inspired by (Black American) Blue Note modern jazz album covers and early Russian constructivist assemblages. The jazz tracks name each storyline expressively, evoking the emotive state of the compositions and shaping the narrative structure of the pathways.

OVERVIEW Story (Musical) Tracks
Opening Titles
Each story pathway is triggered by an visual icon in the music cellar. The Detective foregrounds each pathway with an image/text sound transition

Pathway (1) Movement # 1 – VALSE Kings Cross & Bohemian Sydney

Pathway icon: montage of Alamein fountain & a trumpet
Visual trigger: : movement across a cappuccino coffee cup

This story conjures the memories of the musicians, music entrepreneurs, and patrons. The pathway is inspired by written texts by Bruce Johnson, John Clare, Kenneth Slessor, statements by jazz musicians remembering the milieu, and news stories reporting on the phenomena of the jazz cellar.

Pathway (2)   Movement # 2 – FREE KATA Crest of freedom

Pathway icon: montage of Free Kata group
Visual trigger: movement across a Karate figure                                                                  

This story explores the FREE KATA jazz ensemble of the 1970s, evolving from the seeds of El Rocco jazz culture. This pathway is composed of photographic portraits of the musicians, album artwork, record labels, music publicity material, text from news article coverage of the ensemble, and locates the music in the context of images of urban Sydney in this period and references the larger jazz picture.

Pathway (3) Movement # 3 – JUNGLE JUICE International Influences on Australian Jazz 1968

Pathway icon: montage of Uluru & Wattle matches
Visual trigger: movement across a portrait of a soldier

This storyline contextualises Australian Jazz & the era in archival moments that iconicise the sixties and world events shaping the Australian spirit: (i) the anti-Vietnam war protests (ii) the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, (iii) Robert Kennedy’s campaign against Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam war. The imagery evokes the generational complexity & tension that produced the fresh and vital early Australian jazz. This pathway is composed of original photographs, digital reconstructions, news articles, archival photographs, digitized moving image and sound.

Pathway (4) Movement # 4 – CLOUDS Australia 1968 – Iconic cultural imagery

Pathway icon: montage of hands on a keyboard (piano)
Visual trigger: a framed portrait of a blonde tourist in the red centre

This story evokes Sydney circa 1968, and juxtaposes the Eastern seaboard city with imagery of the Australian red center, (white tourists) a family visit to Uluru in a light plane, in the context of political movements (the anti-Vietnam war protests – students) and populist imagery – Shrimpton wears the legendary mini-skirt. This pathway is composed of original photographs, digital reconstructions, news articles, archival photographs, digitized moving image and sound.

 Pathway (5)  Movement # 5 – PASSION DANCE Serge Jr. & Stamatia meet on the Patris Ship

Pathway icon: montage of young Serge & wife Matina)
Visual trigger – black & white portrait of an emigre couple on the deck of a Greek ship

This story is personal and exposes in a series of black & white photographs and interviews two immigrant Australians broadening their horizons and making the journey back to Europe.

Pathway (6) Movement # 6 – RASPUTIN Diasporic Music Memories

Pathway icon: black & white montage of parents
Visual trigger –movement across a portrait of Rasputin

This story charts the movement of Serge Ermoll’s forbearer’s diaspora from Russia in revolution through to Harbin, Manchuria and then international capital of the East – Shanghai, China where his father worked as a jazz bandleader. Serge and his Russian parents then immigrate to Australia with assistance from the International Refugee Organisation. Serge Jr reflects on the influence of his China born father on his contemporary jazz endeavors in Australia. This pathway is composed of dramatized interviews/statements & original photographs.

Pathway (7) Movement # 7 – FALLEN FLOWERS
Private detective – Sydney underworld

Pathway icon: montage of a dancing girl over Kings Cross
Visual trigger –movement across a portrait of a dancing girl

This story envisions Kings Cross and Sydney, 1968. The participant/player enters into the space of clubs and strip joints, café culture at night. The participant/player is provoked to uncover a criminal situation, revealed through the character of the detective (Serge Ermoll Jr/ jazz pianist) in a series of reconstructed & simulated photographic & filmic sequences that expose Sydney’s underworld.

Pathway (8) Movement # 8 – SERGERY

Pathway icon: young Serge with band on piano
Visual trigger –movement across a keyboard

Blowin’ At the Rocco 1968 – Serge Ermoll Jr Quintet
Visual trigger; movement across the keys of the piano

This story is a temporal montage of Serge Ermoll Jr music career from his emergence as a musician to 1968. The pathway is composed of news material – newsprint articles, magazine reviews

Resolution Sequence