Now showing on Wynscreen! 


2017, duration 13 mins, looped

Commissioned by Transport for New South Wales

Screening times:
6am–3pm on odd-numbered days throughout September 2017

3pm–12am on even-numbered days throughout September 2017


Pia Borg

Born 1977, Melbourne, Australia

Lives and works in Los Angeles, USA


Artist Statement

Black Opal is a three channel video installation set in the opal mining fields in the South Australian desert. The work features sequences shot in and around Coober Pedy, an opal mining town seven hours drive from Adelaide. Interspersed with these landscape shots is microscopic photography of spectral light moving through opal and CG recreations of the gem stones and lunar-like landscapes of the desert.

The landscape surrounding Cooper Pedy is the site of multiple interpretations and fictional readings and has played the future in several science-fiction films, including Mad Max, Pitch Black, and Red Planet. Inextricably linked to the opal mining practices that continue today, the town of Coober Pedy dates back to the discovery of opals in the desert in 1914 – but the land had long been home to Aboriginal communities.

Weaving images of these landscapes over images of the play of light passing through opals’ translucent material, the film explores the changing significance ascribed to the gem: ‘value’, the film suggests, is as much a function of the imaginary and economic processes built up around the gem stones as any inherent worth. This investigation into value is triggered by the emergence in the 1970s of synthetic processes by which opal could be manufactured in laboratories.

Using 35mm microscopic photography, anamorphic landscapes and computer-generated animation, Black Opal unearths the disparity between the ‘aura’ of the real object and its synthetic and digital representation.


Production Credits

  • Director and Editor: Pia Borg
  • Producers: Pia Borg, Jeanette Bonds
  • Directors of Photography: John Angus Stewart, Helder K. Sun
  • Camera Assistants: Jonathan Kable, Calvin Frederick
  • Animation: Alan Warburton, Bassam Kurdali
  • Miners: Ivan, Andrew, Steve Borrett, Dale Price, Tanja Burk
  • Colorists: Sparkle, Caitlin Diaz
  • Technical Advisor: Hai Tran
  • Opals supplied by Harout Ustayan, Roy Goldberg


Artist Biography

Pia Borg was recently named as one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film in Filmmaker magazine. Her work was featured in the Maltese Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, 2017. She is the recipient of numerous prizes including the Pardino dor’o for best international short (Locarno Film Festival 2014) for the experimental documentary Abandoned Goods. Her films have been in the official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, SXSW, and Experimenta, among others.

Pia has been featured in solo exhibitions at Oriel Davies Gallery (Wales, UK) and Szara Gallery (Poland). Other recent exhibitions and screenings include ICA, London; Wellcome Collection; Museum of Moving Image, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Museum of Modern Art, Poland; Arnolfini, Bristol; FormContent, London; Samstag Museum of Art, Australia; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography and Site Gallery, Sheffield

Pia was the recipient of a Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London (MA). In 2014 she joined the Experimental Animation faculty at CalArts, USA.