Detail: ‘Underwater Swimmers’ Video Triptych
Photograph: Eric Williamson, Courtesy The Public Art Agency
381 Brunswick Street is a collaborative integrated public artwork designed with Gregory Gilmour (designer), Ann-Maree Reaney (artist) and Cox/Rayner Architects for Arts Queensland. This was the first integrated public artwork undertaken by the artist. The building’s function is to house the Arts Queensland funded service organisations and Craft Queensland’s gallery so the artist/designer team focussed on creating a user friendly and welcoming, as opposed to institutional or bureaucratic environment. Because of the building’s purpose it was considered important to bring focus to a ‘Queensland experience’. The work was designed to focus on the body in a sensual environment. As the work was designed in peak summer it seemed logical to create a cool relief from the heat of the Queensland exterior. The foyer of the building received the major focus in order to guide people into and through the building. The work features three video monitors inserted under portholes in the concrete foyer floor to create a continuous effect of underwater swimmers beneath the floor. A number of public art and design elements are linked throughout the foyer including: a gobo blue glass wall with a kinetic water/ coral effect; an Ilfochrome (rear lit photo transparency) image to create a sense of an ephemeral smoke curlicue (as one of the historical functions of the building was as a tobacco warehouse); a rearlit Ilfochrome lift ceiling image of tropical flora; a cerise glass cabinet shadowplay; handrail insert; door handles; and a Craft Queensland display cabinet.
This work challenged more traditional approaches to public art in a number of ways by drawing on ephemeral contemporary installation practices. Firstly, the artwork had a specified lifespan of five years, that is, it is ephemeral rather than permanent and provides infrastructure so that future artworks can be ‘plugged into’ the existing framework. It is a collaborative artwork comprised of a number of smaller scale linked ‘experiences’ rather than a single iconic statement made by an individual artist. It utilises electronic technology, a contemporary medium, to provide a changing and kinetic experience. The artwork focusses on bodily experience and human scale in relationship to the architectural environment. Finally, it is both site specific to and integrated into the architecture as opposed to being created without consideration of the building and applied to the building after construction.