INSTALLATION ON THE YARRA RIVER AND SANDRIDGE BRIDGE, MELBOURNE AS PART OF THE NEXT WAVE FESTIVAL
In 2001, Visionary Images was asked to produce a work for a youth arts festival. During conceptual development for the work two politically controversial incidents, the Tampa and the Children Overboard affairs, were discussed. The young people, many of whom had experienced homelessness, strongly related to the fundamental right to safe refuge and to a secure home. They wanted this new work to find a direct relationship between their own struggles with homelessness and insecurity, and the plight of refugees seeking a safe haven.
While on an Australia Council for the Arts residency, Visionary Images’ Creative Director studied the painting The Raft of the Medusa, by French painter Théodore Géricault (1791–1824). The painting shows the aftermath of the wreck of the French frigate Méduse, which ran aground in 1816. The few lifeboats were allocated to people of high status, while 149 other people were set adrift on a makeshift raft. By the time the group was rescued 13 days later, all but 15 had died. When it was first exhibited in 1819, the painting proved highly controversial, highlighting the failure of the French Government of the time in the care of its people.
The ethical, moral, social and political ramifications of these events seemed linked across time. These two powerful social narratives, hundreds of years apart, became a source of ideas and a context for the evolution of the Glow Show.
The Glow Show involved the creation and installation of a set of 4m-high, inflatable, internally illuminated letters that spelled out ‘Humanity’ across the disused Sandridge Bridge and ‘Shipwrecked’ adjacent on a 50m pontoon floating on the Yarra River. Constructing and erecting the work over a three-week period proved an arduous and challenging task for the creative team, leading one young participant to ask, ‘Why is everything we do so difficult?’ But on opening night, when the letters were illuminated for the first time, he exclaimed, ‘Now I understand!’
The sculptural Glow Show, its towering white letters lit from within and softly reflected in the river, spoke quietly to the city throughout the festival celebrations of those who desperately risk their lives seeking a future free of violence and persecution. It marked its young creators as both contributors to cultural, social and political agendas, and discerning social commentators.
Here is a short film that shows the GLOW SHOW in situ.