Interactive public art installation anchors in Sydney

Seagulls screeching, ferries docking and professionals striking deals over lattes – these are the noises that usually make up the soundscape of Circular Quay on a weekday morning.

But for the next month the deep thrumming of thousands of metal balls vibrating and rolling into each other will be added to the city’s daily cacophony.

Matthias Schack-Arnott’s Groundswell, installed in the Customs House forecourt as part of the Sydney Festival, consists of 35,000 metal balls that “swell” underfoot as audiences walk across a raised platform. The balls rise and fall in response to the walker’s shifting weight. It feels and sounds as though you are on a raft at sea.

Ignatius Davey was one of the first to experience Matthias Schack-Arnott’s installation in the Customs House forecourt.Credit:Brook Mitchell

It’s the first public artwork for Melbourne-based Schack-Arnott, who is more well known for his performative works that involve percussion and have been staged around the world, including at Denmark’s Spor Festival and France’s La Comete.

“I was interested in exploring the individual impacts on the environment which we inhabit and how our bodies are so inextricably linked,” Schack-Arnott said.

Schack-Arnott took more than two years to build Groundswell, a project which at times he thought might not succeed.

“It starts with small-scale prototypes, doing lots of digital drawings and testing vibrations on different surfaces,” he says.

“You come up with the idea, test it out on a small scale, but ultimately you don’t know if it’s even going to work on a large scale until it’s been built.”

While the city might be lacking in commuter bustle due to the pandemic and festive season, there was no shortage of curious onlookers ready to get on board the topsy-turvy sound and movement work when it opened to the public on Friday morning.

First in line was Alana Yap, along with her three children Franklin, Patience and Ignatius Davey. “We absolutely loved it, it’s a really amazing work,” Ms Yap said. “We missed out on tickets to other parts of the festival, but I’m so glad we came by and tried this out.”

Sydney Festival has had to rethink its schedule due to travel and health restrictions prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, but the art work is free and will remain open throughout the event.

“I wanted it to be family friendly, robust and exist in a range of weather conditions – to get those things to work together was a real challenge, but I’m really happy with where it’s landed,” Schack-Arnott said.

He said the piece was intended as a reflection on the connection between the individual and society.

“The work really explores a collective negotiation – when you’re on it, you’re very aware of everyone else on it,” he said. “One step to the left or right means the entire thing shifts – so you almost enter into this choreography of movement with strangers … it explores how we can collectively make decisions, and change the course of the big issues of our time.”

Groundswell is in the Customs House forecourt as part of the Sydney Festival until January 24.

Most Viewed in Culture

Source: Read Full Article