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Installation, News, Reviews, Video, Visual arts

Glow in the park

Review: ARTTRA Light Festival ·
Claremont Park, 5-7 April ·
By Belinda Hermawan ·

Returning for its second year, the ARTTRA Light Festival showcased 16 original light installations in a family-friendly outdoor setting, after dark. Having attended last year’s spectacular debut, I was looking forward to another display of innovative, one-of-a-kind artworks.

Amongst the highlights of this year’s Festival was Roly Skender’s Flywire film, which was expertly projected on a screen installed between two trees. The mesmerising projection used shifting geometric shapes and lines to create movement in the night sky.

Another favourite was Combs VJ’s box installation, which also made use of monochromatic audio-visuals, with the encased pyramid and mirrored sides creating an eye-catching effect, all set to perfectly timed beats. Also well-engineered was Naz Sumadi’s playful, origami-inspired Mechanical Morph, an ever-transforming pinwheel.

Both interactive and highbrow, Wilma van Boxtel’s Love Seat was more than a park bench. Her illumination recreated the red velvet seats of a theatre and encouraged community members to take a moment to sit and enjoy art together. Also using the park space to advantage were the three rock-like pillars of Sean Adamas’s colour-changing Crystallines (pictured top), Glenda Dixon’s Coloured Clouds that lined tree canopies with wool felt lamps, and ARTTRA Prize winner Per Aspera ad Astra by Amy Perejuan-Capone, the shimmering gold geodesic dome evoking a playground atmosphere.

A dome, lit golden
ARTTRA 2019 winner Amy Perejuan-Capone, inside her installation ‘Per Aspera ad Astra’.

Strolling through the grounds of Claremont Park, I was struck by how much families were enjoying themselves amongst the art. Children were actively engaging with pieces, running in and out of spaces, asking questions, playing games, taking photos, and watching moving images intently. Participants could play a Tetris-inspired video game by stepping on a control-board, walk in front of an animation playing on a theatre-sized screen, or pose for portraits with rainbows. Paired with a program of live entertainment, craft activities and food trucks, the festival atmosphere this year felt more palpable and inviting.

It was, perhaps, fitting that the work I came across first, and came back to again out of continued curiosity, was Joanna Sulkowski’s clever yet ambiguous neon banner Not What You Expected. We bring our own expectations to events, and there seemed to be a shift in focus from last year’s event. If the objective of this year’s festival was to raise the interactivity level to make the event more accessible for families – particularly those with primary school-aged children – then it was undeniably a success.

The trade-off, however, was a variation in production quality and consistency of theme between pieces. I felt there were two exhibitions this year: a collection of ground-breaking art-works worthy of a professional gallery, interspersed with what appeared to be a lower-budget set, for child’s play. I found, too, that the presence of promotional material interfered with the experience, with one installation risking the appearance of a market stall.

That said, the Town of Claremont has set an excellent example of what local governments can do to actively promote arts and culture amongst all ages. Harking back to childhood memories of glow-in-the-dark stickers and recreational star-gazing, ARTTRA Light Festival celebrates the sense of awe that comes with illumination and discovery. Fittingly, the installation that best encapsulated this spirit of wonder was that of Freshwater Bay Primary School’s entry: a spectacular field of papier mâché mushrooms of all sizes, glowing iridescently through silhouettes of fairy tales. It was pleasing to see this generation producing art as well as consuming it – the future is indeed bright.

Pictured top is Sean Adamas’s ‘Crystallines’.

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