“Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland 1861 – 2008” Brooklyn Museum NYC

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In 2008 I made an animated music video for the song “Persist” by the Melbourne band All India Radio, the animation was based on the story of Topsy the Coney Island elephant electrocuted by Thomas Edison. My sister Marita provided illustrations and Isobel Knowles assisted me with the animating. The first time I watched the animation with an audience (at a music video program during the Melbourne International Film Festival), claps and cheers followed at the end of every video screened, however “Persist” was met silence so awkward I wanted to fall through the floor. Fast forward 7 years…

Last November I was in NYC for the opening of the exhibition “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland 1861 – 2008” at Brookly Museum, “Persist” had been curated in the exhibition, along with works by Diane Arbus, Walker Evans, and Joseph Stella.


The animation was displayed on a screen, on a loop with the original and very graphic film by Thomas Edison “Electrocution of Topsy”, as a key part of the section that told the story of Topsy and her life at Coney Island. It was an honour to be part of the exhibition, and it was also wonderful to meet the curators from The Wadsworth Atheneum who had originally conceived of the exhibition and to hear how they came across my animated tribute to Topsy online.

The exhibition toured nationally showing at The Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford CT, San Diego Museum of Art (July 11, 2015 – October 13, 2015) and McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas, (May 11, 2016 – September 11 2016).

From April 2017 Persist will be included in an adapted version of the exhibition that over the next five years will travel to venues in underserved communities in the US.

A fully-illustrated, beautiful  304-page catalogue of the exhibition was published by Yale University Press, here is the write-up on my animation from its pages…


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