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Esem Projects are a public design practice creating work at the intersection of cultural heritage, digital design, public art, and place-making.

We create public projects, platforms and installations designed to enliven our experiences of places past and present. Our work is driven by a passion for revealing the stories and secrets of places using new technologies and design. We’re often working to create very site-specific installations in the public domain, using methodologies shaped by intensive historical research, digital and interaction design and focused community consultation and engagement.

Artist’s impression: Thinking Spaces (2013) ANU College of Law Building

Digital Strategy & Design Integrated cross-platform strategy. Website + Mobile site design & development. Digital storytelling. Branding & identity.

Public Space Site-specific installations. Exterior building displays, soundwalks and mobile tours ‘The street museum’.

Place & Community Story-driven response. What is the meaning or contribution of a particular place – to a city, to a person, to an idea?

Creative Archives Practice-led research to surface museum and library collections about a site or topic. Film, TV, sound, image. Creative art responses.


Get in touch.

Ever wished a building could talk? A street could whisper its hidden mysteries to you? Digital

To speak with us about a potential project please get in touch

technologies including are opening up all kinds of new ways of interacting with each other, with our built environments and with historical spaces. Drawing from the photographs, sound recordings, films and stories of our institutions and the community, we can trace moments of time across a city, listening to past and present residents tell their tales.   The creative outcomes of our work include large scale digital projection, graphical displays & artworks, soundwalks, digital media and mobile tours.


Services. Visual design & branding Digital media production & strategy Historical research Community consultation Film and sound production Audio-visual design & installation

Address 5/16 Charles St Redfern NSW 2016, Australia Phone 0411 481 212 / 0410 698 620

We collaborate. ESEM Projects is a new creative collaboration between Dr. Sarah Barns and Michael Killalea. Dr. Sarah Barns Co-Director Digital Strategist, Researcher & Producer, Historian. Has worked for the ABC, Arup, Creative Industries Innovation Centre, Australia Council for the Arts. PhD awarded 2010: Investigated the use of digital platform for urban cultural engagement. Leads community consultation, digital strategy, sound, writing and historical/ archival research Michael Killalea Co-Director Designer, illustrator & artist for 20 years Director, killanoodle; Former Art Director, The Bulletin Leads visual design, production design & installation Our projects will also involve collaborations with artists, sound designers, film makers and audio-visual technicians. Our clients and partners have included the City of Sydney, the National Film and Sound Archive, TDC, the City of Newcastle, the Australian National University and the University of Newcastle.

Unguarded Moments 2011 The launch of Unguarded Moments saw us step out into the dark streets of Sydney’s Millers Point with a bunch of video projectors and a whole lot of madness for illuminated wetness - wharves, streets, water. Our first foray into commissioned public installation, our first proper creative collaboration and our first time involvement with the City of Sydney’s Art & About Festival; we learned a lot and we loved the ride. Unguarded Moments featured nine video projections in total located around the streets, wharves, clifftops and windows of Millers Point and Walsh Bay. Today Millers Point is rapidly gentrifying, but go back a couple of decades and this was home to generations of Sydney’s waterfront workers and their families; families who could often time trace the homes of their ancestors back to those of the original settlers. Each of the installations drew from the archival documentation of the area as captured on film, in photographs, and through oral histories and actuality sound recordings. We were generously supported in this endeavour by the National Film and Sound Archive, and the Maritime Union of Australia. As captured by the title ‘Unguarded Moments’, we searched this footage for moments of direct personal engagement with the camera’s subject, to create a set of intimate portraits of unknown Sydneysiders, and offering glimpses into transient moments in time.

From top: Poster design for Community Workshops Projection sites at Walsh Bay featuring sitespecific documentary film archives. Outdoor projection at Millers Point featuring community images. Site-specific rear projection of historical views and photographs at Argyle Place, Millers Point. Right: Bread delivered to residents on Roden Lane, Millers Point in the 1920s. Photo contributed by community member. Next page: Large-scale projection on Hickson Rd walsh Bay. Overleaf: Installation view and artwork.

Pendulum Contniuum 2011 The Pendulum Continuum saw the return of rave to CarriageWorks, and to a time when the site was neglected and abandoned by the forces of post-industrial progress This was a site-specific installation comprised largely of documentary film footage of a rave party, recorded on location in 1996 when the group Meat Beat Manifesto performed as part of the underground rave Carnival of the Mind. The rave dancers returned to CarriageWorks in their states of ecstatic reverie for one night, but this time around they danced not to the charged beats of MBM but to a composition by late Romantic composer Jean Sibelius. The piece played with the mournful nature of Sibelius’ late Romantic composition as a driving rhythm (and force) for late twentieth century dance music culture, connecting different expressions of musical reverie as part of a continuum of progress and modernisation and with it, loss. This presented a playful meditation on the continued dialectical exchange between order and chaos in the city – between Dionysian pleasure and Apollonian order – where the ever-present searching for liminal, indeterminant spaces of pleasure and escape in turn carve out new sites for play and abandonment, adding ever more value to the gentrified spaces of post-industrial Sydney today. Exhibition view, Expanded Architecture Festival CarriageWorks September 2011.

Exhibition view, Expanded Architecture Festival CarriageWorks September 2011

Stills from projections featuring dancers at rave parties held on site in the 1990s.

Last Drinks 2012 Once upon a time, in a Sydney long long ago, there was a Hotel to which all society would flock for their good times, their high times, their special times. That place was the Australia Hotel, a glamorous icon of the city that, when first opened in 1891 on Castlereagh St, marked Sydney’s coming of age as an international city. Last Drinks was a multi-site video and sound installation project supported as a major commission for the City of Sydney’s 11th annual Art & About Festival. Between 21 September until 21 October 2012 a series of five night-time video projections re-inscribed the now mostly forgotten history of the precinct back onto the buildings and laneways of the present day. Integrated into the installations were live soundscapes featuring actuality recordings of this precinct from as early as the 1920s sourced from the National Film and Sound Archive and the ABC. Through an intensive community engagement program we working with Sydneysiders who had special stories, memories, photographs or memorabilia to share. A mobile site created for the project enabled people to explore the installations in the palm of their hands, listening to soundscapes, audio interviews,

From top: Community Workshop poster design Exterior Projection at 5 Martin Place Projections at the Commercial Travellers Association Building Martin Place. Projections in Lees Ct celebrated the life of the former Rowe St

and read up on the history of this luminous Sydney precinct.

Left: Mary [George] in Lincoln Inn, Greek girl in coffee shop, July 1950 from Lincoln Coffee Lounge & Cafe, Rowe Street, Sydney / photographed by Brian Bird. Re-used as an animation with permission from the State Library of NSW.

Following pages: Installation views and artworks.

Thinking Spaces 2013 Esem Projects were commissioned by the Australian National University to develop a series of site-specific installations celebrating the history of ANU campus and buildings as part of the Menzies Library 50th anniversary celebrations. We worked closely with the campus heritage office and Dr. Shanti Sumartojo from the School of Sociology in the development of the project, which ran for three weeks during March 2013. Thinking Spaces celebrated the intellectual life on campus by re-interpreting documentary recordings capturing the changing life of Australia’s national university as materials for large-scale projection & soundwalks. Since its inception, the ANU has represented Australia’s ambitions to be a world class ‘knowledge nation’, to retain the brightest minds here in the country and to set the stage for ambitious intellectual discovery. As part of our development of the installations we also worked with past and present students by asking the question: ‘What’s Your Favourite Thinking Space Today?’. Responses were incorporated into installations and the project website.

thoughts in place: a series of site-specific installations on ANU campus

march 15 to 27 nightly from sunset

From top: Community Postcard design: What’s your favourite thinking space? Stills of Thinking Spaces projection sites onto ANU Campus buildings featuring re-worked archival images and films.

Left: Still image from Thinking Spaces projection.

Overleaf: Large scale projection onto the Menzies Library, ANU. Still features the proton cyclotron developed by Sir Marcus Oliphant at ANU.

City Evolutions 2013 City Evolutions celebrates Watt St, Newcastle’s oldest street, through innovative digital projection, interactive media and place-making initiatives. For the making of City Evolutions Esem Projects led the creative and historical interpretation of four out of the nine building locations, working closely with the Newcastle Museum, Library, Maritime Centre, University of Newcastle Cultural Collections, local historians, artists and performers to create and interpret the historical stories. Esem Projects were also commissioned to deliver digital, design and production management services and established a program of community engagement to enable Novocastrians past and present to get involved.

Stills from four projection sites featured for City Evolutions on Watt St, Newcastle, 2013. 5/16 Charles St Redfern NSW 2016, Australia 0411 481 212 / 0410 698 620

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