Melbourne Museum: Tyama: A deeper sense of knowing – Exhibition Review

Melbourne Museum has had some wonderful experiences and specialist exhibitions over the years. However, I have never experienced anything like their latest offering titled Tyama: A deeper sense of knowing.

Pronounced ‘Chah-Mah’, Tyama is a First Nations, multi-sensory immersive experience that guided me through country. The experience is split into three senses; Smell, where you follow the scent trails of Moths over Sky Country, Hear, where you can experience echolocation of bats in Earth Country, and Feel, as you ‘swim’ through Sea Country.

In the native Keerray Woorroong language, Tyama is a verb meaning ‘to know’. It is about using your senses and entire body to know country and how it connects to us as individuals. It helps us build a greater appreciation and understanding of the land we are on. This unique experience is a blend of first nations storytelling, incredible artwork, and digital experiences. The journey through the space takes about 25-40 minutes. However, I am sure I spent way longer than that because I was having so much fun.

In groups of about 10-15 people, we are ushered into the beginning of the experience and asked to gather around a swirling projection on the floor of an almost pitch-black room. Once we were all in place, an introductory story began, and a calm voice took us on a journey through country and explained how each space relates to different parts of country. We were given a demonstration how each interactive experience would work, including movement tracking and audio sensors to capture the clapping of hands. Already, the demonstration was fun, and I was keen to get into the space to try them out.

The first section was Smell. Whilst you don’t actually smell anything, you use your body to pick up the tracking of a moth flying by on a large screen that wrapped around the room. Moving towards the screen would make the moth fly closer and become larger, similarly if you stepped backwards, it would fly further away. The objective was to walk and guide it to the pollen of native flowers in the corners of the room. Admittedly, I was getting frustrated as I could not get the moth to pick up my body and track it. Perhaps there were too many in the room. Once the room cleared out, we hung back, and the technology was much smoother. I could walk from one side of the room to the other and have the moth follow me on the screen. It was very cool! There is also a lovely visual spectacle at the end of the sequence, so make sure you have your phones ready to snap a pic!

The next space is by far my favourite of the whole exhibit, echolocation for Hear. Much like the environment of a cave, the space is dark with jagged walls lining either side. To activate the space, all you have to do is clap your hands. Sounds simple enough, but the result is epic! As you clap your hands, multi-coloured rings of light are projected into the space and move throughout to visually replicate a sound wave. It was incredibly addictive, and I found myself returning to the space several times to activate the space over and over. I honestly could have spent much more time in there, but my hands said otherwise as they were getting red from the excessive clapping.

In Sea Country, I was transported to an underwater space. The idea was to enter the centre of the room, collect a school of fish with your feet and wander around taking the fish with you. While my company managed to capture a school of fish to circle her legs, for whatever reason, I could not get it to work. All I could get to work was the fish at the entrance that was ‘hiding in the sand’. Upon standing on it, the animation saw the animal jump out of the sand in fright and then bury itself back in. I spent a bit of time trying to work with the rest of the space but eventually moved on.

Whilst each of the immersive experiences were fun to play around in, there is also information on each of the animals around the outer rim of each space. From details on the types of moths and their real sizes to the different types of sea life that make up Sea Country, there was something new to discover and learn. Although, I did not see many patrons head over to these parts of exhibit. Perhaps this was due to the immersive experience taking over or because these parts were tucked away in corners of each room? Either way, I made sure to take in as much as I could before venturing into the last section.

Consisting of two large wall-to-wall screens, the final experience is a summary story of what we have all just been through. Featuring a giant whale, the visuals are stunning, like a living painting. The colours and artwork of the animation are absolutely stunning. I also felt so small compared to the epic size of the whale as it swam around the space. I ended up sitting through the animation three times to ensure I captured every part possible. It was simply captivating.

I did not know what to expect from this experience but I left feeling that Tyama: A deeper sense of knowing completely served its purpose. For instance, I always knew that bats used echolocation to navigate, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able to experience what that felt like. The whole exhibit is awe inspiring and I feel a deeper sense of knowing country after my visit. I would happily visit again, even if it was just to clap my hands like crazy in the Hear space.

Tyama: A deeper sense of knowing is on now at the Melbourne Museum. Tickets are available from their website with the 360-degree experience running until January 2023.

For more information and ticketing, visit:
https://museumsvictoria.com.au/melbournemuseum/whats-on/tyama

Photography by Eugene Hyland.

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