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Thought Train

Connecting subconscious thought patterns and travel
A large-scale LED display at Wynyard Station reflects the thoughts of passing travellers in an endless loop of abstracted text.

Thought Train (2017) is an artwork by Sydney College of the Arts researcher and artist Robyn Backen, made specifically for Wynscreen – an impressive 23-metre-long LED screen at Sydney’s Wynyard train station.

Taking as its central focus the themes of time, travel and place, the work moves through 18 unique sequences of animated messages that grow and morph across the screen in abstracted black-and-white text forms, representing potential subconscious thought patterns and private conversations of passersby.

When conceptualising Thought Train, Backen considered the thought patterns going through any one individual’s mind as they transit through the tunnel at Wynyard and conceived of the screen as a site to connect with travellers. The work can simply be experienced as a series of fragments; or, for frequent passers-by, a conclusion may be found or pieced together, unfolding over many visits. There is no beginning or end, only the transitory.

Backen has drawn on song lyrics from renowned musicians Paul Kelly, Kasey Chambers, Missy Higgins and Martin Armiger, train names, phone conversations, and conversations eavesdropped to produce the messages.

Thought Train was commissioned by Transport for NSW in partnership with Cultural Capital for Wynscreen, an initiative established to showcase contemporary Australian screen works.

Robyn Backen is a Sydney based artist and an Australia Council Fellow. Her recent body of work evolves from her research into the acoustics of ancient whispering architectures and their unique communication patterns of sending and receiving. Robyn has created many large public commissioned artworks, and her other works have been exhibited extensively, nationally and internationally.

Robyn Backen

Coordinator, Master of Contemporary Art (MCA), Senior Lecturer
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