Angelica Mesiti with her video installation <i>Citizens Band</i> at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, earlier this year.

Angelica Mesiti with her installation at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, earlier this year. Photo: Simon Schluter

Video artist Angelica Mesiti,the inaugural winner of a prestigious new $100,000 commission for moving image art, will spend the money documenting the importance of whistling to mountain people of Turkey.

Melbourne's Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and the Ian Potter Cultural Trust have announced Mesiti, who won the 2o09 Blake Prize for religious art, as the inaugural recipient of the Ian Potter Moving Image Commission.

(Mesiti's work is) poetic, lively and immediate.  

The biennial commission, aimed at supporting the creation of five major moving image artworks over the next decade. Works created through the commission will become part of ACMI's collection.

The commission will enable Mesiti to visit communities in Greece, Turkey and the Canary Islands to explore ancient forms of non-verbal communication for her project, The Calling, an immersive, multi-channel video installation.

Well-versed in sound and images, Mesiti still faced a challenging irony once the award was announced. In transit in Dubai, she found that mastering sound isn't easy when Skyping on a laptop in a noisy departure hall.

To a soundtrack of loud go-to-gate announcements, she spoke of a passion for isolated landscapes.

“About 17 communities around the world still practise a whistling language, which relates to their natural environment," Mesiti said. "They generally come from mountainous places and whistling is primarily a form of communication and often a kind of code language.”

Mesiti will work closely with linguists in each region, take a camera crew then finish production of The Call-ing for a 2014 exhibition at ACMI.

Mesiti divides her time between Sydney and Paris and has exhibited widely in Australia and overseas. On Tuesday she was en route from installing her work Citizens Band at an exhibition in India.

Her previous work blends images with sound from many different nations, including folk ballads and Mongolian throat singing. Through languid gestures or rhythmic beats, figures express stories that might disappear if not recorded.

“I do feel we're in a moment when traditions shift and adapt and almost lose their former value and meaning,” she says. Whether in the First or Third World, “people bring culture with them, and it adapts.

“I'm interested in people who don't consider themselves performers. They make sound out of compulsion, need or love, not always for an audience.”

Tony Sweeney, ACMI director and chair of the judging panel, said Mesiti's work was “poetic, lively and immediate, attuned to subtle relationships between performance, musicality and the visual image”.