Feedback Loops Exhibition Kit

Feedback Loops invites viewers into the worlds of six Australian and international artists: Madison Bycroft, Tianzhuo Chen, Lu Yang, Sahej Rahal, Justin Shoulder, and Zadie Xa. Curated by Miriam Kelly, the exhibition comprises of new commissions and recent works in video, installation, interactive gaming and artificial intelligence, as well as a program of live performance. The exhibiting artists sample images, objects and ideas from their current-day surroundings to speculate on what the future might look, feel and sound like. Feedback Loops explores the cyclical nature of time, life, popular culture and technological development through playful and spectacular artworks that challenge us to imagine alternative possibilities. This education resource focuses on three of the exhibiting artists to explore the themes of the exhibition and ideas within each artist’s practice.

How to use this kit

This exhibition kit has been written by ACCA Education to support learning alongside Feedback Loops. Three key artists and artworks from the exhibition have been highlighted, with discussion questions to prompt thinking with students. Primary and Secondary activities, are mapped to the Victorian and Australian Curriculum, and can be found in the section For Teachers. VCE students and teachers can view Support Material for further reading and teaching notes from ACCA’s VCE Programs.

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List of works »

About the artists

Feature Artists


Sahej Rahal

Sahej Rahal’s art practice incorporates diverse media and techniques, including sculpture, painting, performance and digital coding. Rahal studied IT before Fine Artart at the Rachana Sansad Academy of Fine Art, Mumbai, and the knowledge he gained from this has informed his use of digital and AI technology in his artwork. 

Rahal’s artworks often have a surreal appearance and function as windows into alternate worlds populated by alien, AI-driven creatures that wander within landscapes very different from our own. Rahal describes his recent body of work as a ‘growing mythology’ that is influenced by both his deep interest in science fiction and his critical engagement with the role of technology in our day-to-day lives. As an artist he is thrifty and resourceful, often incorporating found and discarded materials, such as broken furniture, into his sculptures of otherworldly beings. Rahal has exhibited widely in India and internationally and this exhibition will be the first time his art has been exhibited in Australia.


Justin Shoulder

Justin Shoulder explores the complex interconnections of life, art and personal identity through an art practice that incorporates costuming, live performance and sculpture. For Feedback Loops, Shoulder presents a new exploration of Carrion, a shapeshifting character who has been born into a wasted world. Carrion belongs to a family of characters Shoulder has created and describes as ‘alter egos’. These characters are used in performances in diverse settings including theatre, the queer nightclub scene, and the art gallery. 

Shoulder believes in ‘the power of transforming trash’, and often uses waste and surplus material to maintain an environmentally ethical art practice. He also frequently reuses and alters costumes in a continuing process, which sees characters evolve over multiple performances. Shoulder has performed internationally across Asia, Europe and North America. He was recently included in the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial at GoMA and will present new work at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney.


Zadie Xa

Zadie Xa is a Canadian-born London-based multimedia artist whose practice incorporates painting, performance, video, textiles and costuming. For Feedback Loops, Xa has assembled a patchwork of new and recent artwork to create an immersive installation that explores the construction of identity within the Korean diaspora, through an autobiographical lens. Raised in Canada by her Korean Mother, Xa is interested in the intersecting cultural inheritances that contribute to her social and cultural identity. One specific aspect of culture that Xa draws upon in her practice is Korean shamanism. Xa has said “shamans sit between the living and the dead, and I think of it also as a metaphor for people who are circumnavigating the diaspora or living between different cultures or countries.”

Xa studied painting at the Royal College of Art, London, and has featured in exhibitions across North America, Europe and the UK. In 2020 Xa’s work will be included in the Diaspora Pavilion for the Sydney Biennale.


Key Artworks

Sahej Rahal, Antraal and Other limbs 2019 (both works)

Antraal 2019, artificial intelligence program presented on television monitors and as video projection
Other limbs 2019, enamel paint on polyurethane and found materials (three parts)

Antraal by Sahej Rahal comprises of one large wall projection and a group of six small television sets, each of which provides a view into a digital landscape populated by artificial intelligence (AI) driven alien beings. Rahal studied IT before switching to study fine art, and this combination of studies greatly informs how he uses both digital and sculptural media and techniques to express himself as an artist.

Each individual screen is linked to one of seven digital beings, allowing the viewer to follow their movements through an otherworldly digital landscape. Below each television set there is a small lapel microphone which ‘listens’ for sound from the gallery. When one of these microphones registers sound, the corresponding AI character responds in some way – by expelling black tree-like forms, illuminating crystals, or jumping up and down.

The bodily forms of Rahal’s AI characters are generated through a trans-dimensional exchange between the physical and digital realms. The artist’s process involves creating three-dimensional sculptures from discarded and broken items that he scavenges from dumpsters and the roadside, which he then transforms and unifies using expandable foam, paint and artificial furs. These objects are artworks in their own right, but Rahal also uses three-dimensional scanners to capture the forms of the sculptures which he then adapts and animates as AI creatures within his digital compositions. Rahal has said of the free movement and unpredictable interactions of his AI beings that he is interested in the ‘poetry’ that they might generate.


Discussion questions

  • Why do you think Sahej Rahal has used physical and digital media in combination? What are the unique advantages of each? What are the advantages when they are brought together? 
  • Why would an artist want to create artworks with AI capabilities?
  • Rahal’s digital ‘world’ has a very specific colour. How do you think  it would feel to live in a world coloured in this way?
Justin Shoulder with Matthew Stegh and Anthony Aitch, Carrion cosmology 2018–ongoing, synthetic polymer paint on tyvek, found plastic, medical skeleton, plastic mask, found earphones, motors, dimensions variable, installation view, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Courtesy the artist and Insite Arts, Melbourne. Photograph: Andrew Curtis

Justin Shoulder, Carrion cosmology 2018 – ongoing installation

synthetic polymer paint on tyvek, found plastic, medical skeleton, plastic mask, found earphones, motors

Justin Shoulder is an artist who primarily works in performances for which he embodies any one of a cast of characters that often appear otherworldly or alien to the everyday world. Carrion cosmology centres upon one such character, Carrion, which Shoulder has been developing across performances in night-clubs, theatres and gallery spaces since 2018.

The ACCA exhibition Feedback Loops takes place over a much longer period than a live performance could be sustained, and Shoulder’s solution to this artistic challenge is to present a costume and elements of a stage set, as an installation. Carrion cosmology features the Carrion costume and mask, which is worn by a medical skeleton model and set within a mushroom-like sculptural environment. In February 2020 Shoulder will perform live as Carrion within the ACCA galleries.

The strange, fungus-like post-apocalyptic mise en scene (theatrical environment) reflects the narrative (story) that Shoulder has imagined for Carrion. The artwork suggests a human-hybrid creature has emerged from a ruined world, which could be our own in the future. In this way the installation is similar to a work of science fiction. The word ‘carrion’ means the decaying flesh of dead animals, on which scavengers such as vultures feed. By naming his character Carrion, Shoulder has introduced a horrific, dark, and macabre aspect to the installation. The bulbous landscape is made from a fabric called Tyvek (the same fabric used to make the painters coveralls) which is very light and airtight.


Discussion questions

  • Considering Carrion’s costume and the environment they inhabit, what kind of personality do you think they have?
  • Can a costume be an artwork? Why/why not?
  • When someone wears a costume, do you think it is more likely they are hiding or revealing something of their personality?


Zadie Xa, installation view, Feedback Loops 2019–20, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Andrew Curtis

Zadie Xa, A pilgrimage 2 family through the portal of a green ghost 2019

Machine sewn and hand stitched bleached, dyed denim, iridescent fabric and oil on canvas

A Pilgrimage 2 Family Through the Portal of a Green Ghost 2019 is one of two new commissions that hang at the centre of Xa’s installation. It is a complex artwork that references the artist’s biography and Korean folklore, alongside imagery drawn from the sea. The artwork takes the form of a large-scale quilted denim banner or costume. It incorporates a photo-realistic oil painting of a mask at its centre and drapes all the way to the gallery floor in the shape of a whale’s tail. 

The artist has drawn onto the denim using bleach to create line drawings of seashells, orcas and flowing, bubbling seawater. This inverts the usual order of drawing, where dark line is applied to a lighter ground. In terms of subject matter, Xa is interested in water as a visual metaphor for the unknown, and she considers the nature of water – as something always shifting, flowing and morphing – as an appropriate metaphor to express her notion of homeland as an unsettled place. Xa’s interest in expressing the feeling of being unsettled, or not quite belonging in any one place, derives from personal experience. The artist was born in Canada to a Korean mother, and so grew up with strong ties to two homelands and cultures, but not belonging entirely to either. This reality has shaped the artist’s experience of the world. For instance, Xa has Korean features, but does not speak the Korean language. So when in Korea she can blend into a crowd, but once she speaks, her upbringing in an english-speaking culture becomes apparent. One useful word to describe Xa’s experience of cultural identity is intersectional – it describes the experience of being at the intersection of two or more embodied differences (such as race, ethnicity, or gender).

Discussion questions

  • Zadie Xa has used bleach to create her drawings onto denim. Why do you think Xa has chosen this technique?
  • Xa uses techniques and materials more often associated with clothing and fashion. How do you think these contribute meaning to her artwork?
  • Why do you think an artist would be interested in making an artwork about their cultural background and identity?


Support Material

Sahel Rahal:

Sahej Rahal discussing his sculptural practice:

Justin Shoulder:

Justin Shoudler’s Carrion video trailer:

Zadie Xa:

Artist’s website:

VCE Studio Arts: Art Industry Contexts Guide »

For Teachers

Primary activities


Human/nature patchwork emblem

This activity responds to Zadie Xa’s use of bleach to reveal her drawing. Students create a wax resist emblem to represent an aspect of their cultural life in connection  of the natural world through symbolism. Students collect images of nature and identify those that represent their identity – a favourite dish or place, for example. Each student takes a square of fabric such as calico and half a wax candle with a pointy tip. Students prepare a sketch of their emblem and then draw it onto the calico with the candle. Using a spray bottle filled with a diluted coloured dye, students lightly spray their fabric. As the wax resists the water-based dye their drawing is revealed. 

Extension: Stitch each student’s patch together before spray-dying to create an interconnected, large-scale patch-work artwork. Use different dyes in different areas.


Inside-out mask
This activity is inspired by the recurrence of the mask as a form within both Zadie Xa and Justin Shoulder’s practices. Both Xa and Shoulder animate materials through costumes and masks, performing identity and alter-egos respectively. Using magazines, picture books, images from the internet, and photographs, students compile a series of images that collectively represent aspects of either their inner selves (feelings, values or emotions) or those of an alter-ego. Students tear, cut and rearrange the images into a patch-worked collage. Using tape or glue, students stick their collages onto cardboard backing to create a mask. Finally, students cut around the edge of their artwork, add cut eye-holes and attach elastic.


Australian Curriculum / Visual Arts / Years F-6

Use materials, techniques and processes to explore visual conventions when making artworks (ACAVAM107) (ACAVAM111) (ACAVAM115)

Explore ideas and artworks from different cultures and times, including artwork by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, to use as inspiration for their own representations (ACAVAM106) (ACAVAM110) (ACAVAM114)

Victorian Curriculum / Visual Arts / Levels F-6

Explore and Express Ideas  (VCAVAE021) (VCAVAE025) (VCAVAE029)

Visual Arts Practices (VCAVAV022) (VCAVAV026) (VCAVAV030)


Curriculum Interpretation


These activities are inspired by Zadie Xa’s autobiographical practice, particularly her use of patchwork of source imagery and mask making, as shared with Justin Shoulder.  The activities are intended to build students’ capacity to consider and utilise experimental methods for image making, such as masking areas of ground to produce images, rather than direct mark making, and appropriation of source imagery. 

By undertaking these activities, students:

  • Explore how facets of personal identity can be metaphorically represented by natural form.
  • Experiment with using resist technique and collage to create imagery.
  • Consider Zadie Xa’s practice and ideas as inspiration for their own art making.
  • Consider how costume making can communicate aspects of one’s inner world.

Secondary activities


Amorphous character sculpture 

This activity responds to Sahej Rahal’s use of found materials to create sculptures which he then adapts into characters for his digital environments. Students are to create a character that would populate an otherworldly environment, such as a video game. They are limited to only using scavenged materials such as material offcuts, discarded packaging or found natural materials. They may use tape, twine and hot glue to assemble their creations. Students should consider the concepts of zoomorphism and anthropomorphism – how are their objects related to living beings? And are their characters more animal or human? Students should also prepare a descriptive profile for their character including its origins, behaviours, skills, limitations.


Otherworldly texture environments

For this activity students are to create a world or environment for their character. This activity is inspired by the digital environment created by Sahej Rahal for his artwork Antraal 2019. The task requires students to manipulate texture, colour and tone to create distinctive, otherworldly environments using paper, fabric or other materials at hand. They are constrained to forming their ‘worlds’ through layering and shaping materials, they cannot draw or paint objects or features for their environment. This activity can be two-dimensional and include the use of one- or two-point perspective, or it can be three-dimensional and executed as a diorama. Ideas of low and high relief can be introduced through discussions of surface features and topography in relation to their created contexts.

Australian Curriculum / Visual Arts / Years 7-10

Develop ways to enhance their intentions as artists through exploration of how artists use materials, techniques, technologies and processes (ACAVAM119) (ACAVAM126)

Practise techniques and processes to enhance representation of ideas in their art-making (ACAVAM121) (ACAVAM128)

Victorian Curriculum / Visual Arts / Levels 7-10

Explore and express ideas (VCAVAE034) (VCAVAE041)

Visual art practices (VCAVAV035) (VCAVAV042)

Curriculum Interpretation


These activities are inspired by Sahej Rahal’s use of found and recycled materials to create sculptural creatures and digital world-making in his artwork Antraal 2019. These activities are intended to get students thinking about world-making as an artform, how recycled materials can be used to create artworks, and texture and colour can be utilised to create a distinctive sense of place and environment. 

By undertaking these activities, students:

  • Explore the relationship of character and context.
  • Consider the use of recycled and waste materials as fine art materials.
  • Experiment with how the qualities of materials, texture and colour can influence artwork interpretation.

Terms of Use

This education resource has been produced by ACCA Education to provide information and classroom support material for education visits to the exhibition Feedback Loops. The reproduction and communication of this resource is permitted for educational purposes only.

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