The Brag July 3


History and technology combine to repeat one of Sydney's most violent eras.
By Corinne O'Keefe

Depression-era Darlinghurst saw a criminal underworld burst onto the streets to fight over the control of prostitution, drugs and alcohol. The foot soldiers in this war were the suburb's infamous Razor Gangs, known for their weapons of choice.

With the current economic crisis, and the City of Sydney fuss over liquor licenses and alcohol-related violence and crime, d/Lux/MediaArts' new interactive project seems timely, taking Sydneysiders back in time to the 1920s streets of Darlinghurst - known back then as Razorhurst.

Razorhurst is a GPS-based interactive storytelling project, designed and developed by Richard Fox. Growing up in Darlinghurst, and taking inspiration from the recent Justice and Police Museum's City of Shadows photographic exhibition (documenting 1912-1948), Fox set out to recreate the world of Razorhurst as he imagined it.

"Razorhurst existed as much in the minds of people who read about what was happening in the newspapers, as people who were actually living there," Fox insists.

With this in mind, Fox set about developing Razorhurst as an experience and "not a documentary as such - I'm not trying to suggest this is historically accurate. There are things I've done to make it more of a mix. But I think it's important to actually be aware of how the place has changed over time and what was that history. I think it's a pretty fascinating period, particularly now. The world has been steering towards another economic crisis, and during those times you tend to find people resort to more extreme efforts of survival - and that's one of the forces that created Razorhurst, and you think 'how is it that society became that way?' I think it's still a very relevant period."
Calling on his interactive multimedia background, Fox developed a location - or GPS - based program, which explores local history and audience interaction through new media capabilities. Audiences can pick up a specially programmed GPS unit from the East Village Hotel in Darlinghurst, and follow the leads on journey that's part video-game, part travel adventure. As in his previous work, where he created a sort of "immersive virtual world that was continuous" and "could be experienced as one kind of world", Fox plays with the dualities of past and present inner city Sydney.

David Cranswick, director of d/Lux/MediaArts since 2003, suggests that Fox's program builds "on a history of both kinds of games [computer games and art games]." As a hub for new media artist collaborations and initiatives, d/LuxMediaArts boasts 26 years of archived collections, d/Lux is also presenting a d/LuxMobile GPS specialist Masterclass and Forum in conjunction with Razorhurst.

Outlining the creative applications of new media technologies, Fox explains that these initiatives are in place for "educating audiences and artists". Cranswick agrees: "We're just kind of thrilled that there are artists that are picking these things up and we're just trying to bridge between the artists, and the audiences."

In terms of the commercial potential of these technologies, Cranswick suggests that the commercial market have thus far underestimated the potential of GPS devices as media players. "When I first started [as director of d/Lux/MediaArts], I felt strongly that mobile devices were something we ought to be looking at and encouraging, for creative reasons but also... there's a big market and big audiences there."

"The Internet gets faster and wireless... gets more established, and people are getting more accustomed to using it. I think that's the big thing that happened - is that it's becoming more commonplace. With new devices coming out it opens up all kinds of possibilities... It's still fairly early days yet."

What: d/Lux/MediaArts presents Razorhurst, designed and developed by Richard Fox.
When: July 5-30, 2009-10-26
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