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ALPHA60 PROFILE: KERI ELMSLY

Keri Elmsly boasts a career that commands attention. Her impressive journey spans from crafting installations for Jay-Z's global tour to Coachella's main stage to orchestrating the groundbreaking live Drone Orchestra for John Cale of the Velvet Underground. Most recently, she held the position of senior vice president at Madison Square Garden Company's Sphere Studios. Now, Keri has made the move to Australia, where she assumes the role of executive director of programming at ACMI. In our conversation with Keri, we delved into all things ACMI and her dynamic career.

Your career has been quite remarkable. Could you share some highlights of your professional journey with our readers? What pivotal moments shaped your path to where you are today?

I’ve loved the journey I’ve taken, from producing, to working with artists who really push how code and technology is used in their practice; and taking that knowledge into the art, design, museum and entertainment worlds.

 Pivotal moments were jumping from an analogue life into the digital revolution in the late 90s.The years I spent with United Visual Artists as their Executive Producer which included globally touring installations and gallery shows, alongside creating the stage and content for Jay-Z’s Blueprint III world tour. Next big move was taking a hugely sideways leap moving to America from London to work in Design and Entertainment with Second Story and the Sphere.

 Latest pivot has been moving to Australia to work at ACMI, that encapsulates all of these in one incredible museum.

Distortions in Spacetime by Marshmallow Laser Feast, Works of Nature, ACMI, 2023, image by Eugene Hyland

Ersin Han Ersin artist and co-director of Marshmallow Laser Feast pictured at ACMI wearing the Jane Shirt

What are you most excited about in your new role at ACMI as executive director of programming?

The remit of the museum as a dynamic hub that needs to move at the speed of culture and be a reliable and trusted translator and narrator. The role brings together our whole program into one team, and a cohesive strategy as to how we curate every form and medium we work in as a museum of screen culture.

Can you tell us a little about the current exhibition at ACMI Marshmallow Laser Feast: Works of Nature?

Firstly, I just love the levity of their name. We’ve been asked where the lasers are in the exhibition as many people take the artists name literally. In many ways this exhibition, as their first museum monograph show, captures their 12 years of practice and is curated into a singular narrative of interbeing and entanglement. It starts with the roots of a giant and ancient Amazonian tree, transports us into a breath inside ourselves then out into a black hole, and lands us back with the trees and the inhale and exhale that connects us all. We are fortunate to have incredible collaborations as part of the show one, of which is a meditation scored by Jon Hopkins and narrated by Cate Blanchett.

Evolver by Marshmallow Laser Feast, Works of Nature, ACMI, 2023, image by Eugene Hyland

Are you able to tell us some exciting things ACMI has in store for next year?

Our program is building on the foundations of our permanent exhibition The Story Of The Moving Image, game-changing commissions from Australian artists – we just announced Serwah Attafuah and you must check out Angela Tiatia’s The Dark Current before it closes.

We will be focussing on embodiment, the value of creative play, celebrating Victorian videogame makers and always looking to pluralistic futures across the board. Our cinemas are a home to multiple film festivals and a program that explores far and wide. We are launching a new regular program soon as a regular platform for emerging filmmakers called New Voices in Australian Cinema

What inspired you to work within the immersive experience space?

It’s been something I’ve done my whole career with artists – the word immersive somehow got attached about a decade ago. I’m glad that we have broadened the appeal and ambition for both artists and audience with the embrace of this term though.

How was your first year in Melbourne been? What are your favourite things to do / places to see in Melbourne?

This city has such a rich and diverse set of excellent things to do. I’ve chosen to live by the beach as a contrast to my last spot in LA and NYC. You can’t beat the range of museums and galleries here plus the live music scene. And of course, all the incredible restaurants and markets. But you all already know that. I’m still a beginner here really. I love escaping down to Jan Juc and trying to keep to the speed limit.

Do you have any daily rituals?

Remember to look up and find joy in the tiny details. Trying to have an outfit that I love. Lots of black coffee and water.

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