Wirltu : Moving Forward, Looking Back, Gazing at the Stars

Located at Grand Central Avenue Reserve, Hallett Cove, South Australia

This project was completed in early 2018, following a consultation and development process that took over 7 years. It was my very first experience in working on commission for a local council, which was both a great honour and also completely demoralising by turns. Art by committee is not my forte. I haven’t known how to speak about it until now, but I think today is the day.

Incorporating the voice of the Kaurna People of the Adelaide Plains, one of the Australian First Nations, into my art practice is not something I’ve been comfortable with – but leaving out the most important voice in a Public Art Project that sits along the Tjilbruke Dreaming was abhorrent to me. I respect that First Nations People may find it distressing that a non-indigenous artist like myself has incorporated a Dreaming story into her work. It was never my intention to take advantage of another culture for personal gain, only to spread awareness of the people to whom this land belongs. I’ve tried my best to be respectful, to engage in meaningful conversations with Kaurna Warra Karrpanthi in seeking permission to use the Kaurna language in naming this artwork, and in the telling of this Dreaming story, and in learning their right words to use. It is my hope that when people visit this place they are reminded of the Kaurna people who thrived here for thousands of years, whose connection to this land is older than dirt. To be respectful of the oldest living culture on the planet.

Wirltu is the name the Kaurna People of the Adelaide Plains have for the constellation we know as the Southern Cross. It is the claw of the Great Celestial Eagle who carries your soul into the heavens to live with the Ancestors as a star in the sky once you have passed away. (this is my understanding) I think that is remarkably beautiful. If you know of my other artworks you’d already be aware that in my Public Art practice I like to make places for people. I employ optical illusions to create spaces for people to take photos of themselves and their friends/family that have a little enchantment. I could not resist making an artwork in which you can see yourself being carried away by our most iconic constellation. The symbol of the Southern Cross is interwoven in our colonial history – from the Eureka Stockade to the Australian flag – but it’s history is so much older than colonial occupation. The roots of our country stretch back through Ice Ages.

I originally became interested in ethnoastronomy after listening to the brilliant lectures given by Paul Curnow of The Adelaide Planetarium. Paul was instrumental in this piece being resalised. He was generous with this time and knowledge and I can’t thank him enough. I can highly recommend his courses on the Australian Night Sky, I loved every minute.

Aerial photograph of the Amphitheatre at Grand Central Avenue Reserve, Hallett Cove, South Australia by Sweet Lime Photography The large oval shapes are the terrazzo stars. They are very large!

In the very beginning, back in 2011, Herron Way Reserve was a big lawn on a steep hill, covering tonnes of in-fill from the housing development project that took place in the 1970’s. There was a shabby playground with a truly epic 5-person swing and that is all. I lived in Hallett Cove at that time, and I was beyond elated when I was approached by City of Marion to apply to work on their redevelopment project for the area. I was over the moon when I won the project, and worked with the Council’s landscape architects to develop a proposal, which was based on feedback from the many community groups we consulted with. The suburb of Hallett Cove has a large population of immigrants to Australia, mostly from European countries, and their ideas for the site were based mostly on the status quo – big bronze statues of Anzac soldiers, or a Pirate themed playground. The employees of Marion Council were interested in a contemporary approach to the redevelopment. I am truly grateful for their faith in me.

detail of terrazzo by Sweet Lime Photo

I was enormously proud of the original proposal in 2013. We had planned for a truly epic playground covering most of the hillside with artworks that reflected the ethnoastronomy of cultures from around the globe. The redevelopment project was mothballed when it became part of an unethical politician’s election promises and stayed buried for several years. When it re-emerged it was a fraction of the original vision. The large amphitheatre with integrated artworks was one of the few elements to survive several years of committee meetings and steady budget erosion.

The anamorphic installation of Wirltu/ The Southern Cross is made in glow-in-the-dark terrazzo. At night time the stars glow blue-green, and the large lozenge shapes are perfect for lying on while you gaze up at the uninterrupted night sky. In the daytime the blue glass and white concrete in the terrazzo matrix give the stars their shape, the smooth polished concrete makes an excellent slide. It turns out it’s quite nice to sit on a star at any time.

I’d also like to thank Maurelio and the team at Monterrazzo for bringing my vision to fruition, and for letting me get my hands dirty in the process.

making rainbow magic

A completely remarkable thing happened. My dearest Tanya and I had been discussing a collaborative work – because FUN! when the inimitable Dr Mary Knights invited us to be part of her Arte Magra mini-festival of art wonders. We were given the cavernous AEAF gallery to work our wonders in, and it became obvious pretty quick that we were going to need the special and formidable skills of Alex to make the interactive collaborative magical world i saw a dream like this.
When it was all done, I cried. And then my university made a video. It’s cute! If you can get past the rampant publicity for said university. I’m not a sell-out, promise.

Every single one of those sparkly rocks is entirely unique and hand made by one of a team of creative volunteers spread over Western Australia and South Australia. We could not have done it without their glittery assistance. Thank you, thank you, lovely sparkly rock helpers ♥

getting to know the enemy: Pip & Pop

There’s something Very Extremely Special on in Adelaide this week and next (until the 12th of June, 2013). Australian installation artist Tanya Schultz who exhibits her work under the pseudonym Pip & Pop has installed a glittery, magical world inside a little shop on Gawler Place in the city.

These photographs, hastily snapped with my phone in the wee small hours of the morning, are a slight reflection of the magic instilled into the little olde Shop 7, 38 Gawler Place, Adelaide. Think of this as a present to yourself, because it is. You are going to love it like nothing else you’ve seen this year, or maybe ever. You can view the work through the shop window anytime day or night, and visitors will be invited at random into the space for a closer look. It is entirely worth a pilgrimage to the city, even if you’ve no other reason to go.

I had a very special opportunity to “get to know the enemy” this time. Carclew Youth Arts put out a call for 5 Adelaide artists to assist Tanya with the creation of this project, I was lucky to be one of the extremely fortunate 5. I’ve had a girl crush on Tanya since I met her briefly when she exhibited at SASA gallery in 2012, and after getting the opportunity to work with and learn from her over the epic 2 week install of “supernatural tasks and magic objects” I now have an Extreme Girl Crush. It’s ok, she knows. :bunny:

Not only is Tanya Schultz crush-worthy and adorable, she’s extremely generous with her techniques and methods. She also works very, very hard, with enthusiasm, grace and an earnestness that shines through in her work. In this example the shining happens quite literally as we embedded each sugar island with twinkling, colour changing crystals and small mechanical marvels – spinning geodes, pirouetting flowers, magic objects.

Tanya often references old folk tales and creation stories from around the world when building a concept for a space. The words that flew around with the most animation in our ongoing installation discussions were “cosmic egg” “floating island” and “rotating” and extremely “rainbow”. It was joyous being part of building new worlds with such a delightful group of people under Tanya’s guidance.

The good people at the thousands also gave this installation a little wrap, its a great website to find out about other Fun Things to do in Adelaide.

The New & Greatly Improved Analogue Laboratory

The universe has a perverse sense of humour sometimes. Almost immediately after my last blog entry things went very poorly for The Analogue Laboratory and we found ourselves without a home for our dear little Lab. After a sickening emotional roller coaster ride we found a new (and dare I say better) home for The Analogue Laboratory as part of a brand new Adelaide arts hub called The Mill. We’ve spent the last few weeks fundraising, planning and building the new facility, which will be able to hold many more darkroom enthusiasts at once, and will be able to take advantage of The Mill’s inner city location and the *enormous*, light filled loft workshop space. We hope to be able to have regular weekend access for people who like to do their own black and white enlargements and semi-regular ‘wet plate weekends’ during which collodion enthusiasts can bring their props to the Lab and we will enjoy a weekend long making session. It’s going to be incredible!
We’ve found a lot of support from the photographic community and the wider arts community – recently we’ve received a grant from the Helpmann Academy to put towards our rent, and the very generous folks from Ductware have donated all the exposed ducting we will need to make the darkroom a super safe place to Get Excited & Make Things.
There’s a few more days of our online fundraising campaign to go and we can use all the help we can muster. There are some very generous rewards available for those interested in using the Lab when we are done, and some tidy little thank you’s for folks who’d just like to lend a hand.

We are so grateful for all the support we’ve received so far. It’s fair to say without the incredible experience we had being part of Fontanelle and the community backing behind us this Lab would have never have been reincarnated.