Responding to aspects of the Gold Coast’s identity being linked to beaches rivers and canals, this body of work Let’s Organise Your Leisure explores intersecting liminal spaces: retirement/ nonretirement; public/private; high/low tide and the natural/ artificial.
This project is supported by GENERATE GC, which is a City of Gold Coast initiative delivered in partnership with Tasdance and SITUATE Art in Festivals.
Generate GC acknowledges the Yugambeh people, the traditional owners of the land on which we work, and pay our respects to their Elders past and present, and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples on the Gold Coast today.
Informed by my experience as a “retiree”- mapping the Gold Coast as a runner and kayaker – I lead a series of cultural tours/ artworks that playfully comment on and challenge assumptions about “organised leisure” for older people. Exploring how individuals and groups navigate public spaces through arts practice – I consider stereotypical representations of ageing as form.
Early Research (May – October 2021)
During this phase of the research, I developed a series of playful kayak workshop “tours” that involved creating site responsive works on and around pontoons as a cultural tourism experience. The intent was to create a new participatory form for my practice by growing the creative capacity of other seniors. Given that we all age – this work encourages conversation and advocacy for creative, healthy initiatives for all audiences.
I have developed a fascination for pontoons and jetties that exist along our Gold Coast waterways offer an alternative space for artists to interrogate the public /private space concept. Extensions of backyards – they are privately owned but protrude into the public realm. These structures also create a juxtaposition between natural/urban environments and utilise both natural and artificial materials associated with floatation. One of these workshops took place in a canal in the suburb of Paradise Waters . Although most of the participants were creatives -their feedback indicated that opportunities for older participant makers in the visual arts in the region were limited – and that the “collaborative process as the work” results in improved well being and creativity.
“the on the spot spatial problem solving was the best part…”
“by moving through space on a kayak as a warm up…..I was ready to respond to the site in a new way…”
LOYL at HOTA LAKE (October 2021 –January 2022)
This work saw me investigate how making art in a public place enables conversations about the intersections between art and other leisure activities.
It also enabled the participants to encounter more conventional sculptural forms in an arts precinct as a conversation starter about how we view the man made and natural environment around then Gold Coast.
Working to a specific design brief , the participants respond to the site at the HOTA Lake , using materials we associate with “other” leisure activities. This allowed us to interacting with the lake itself – the shoreline and the body of water. Given that many people from all walks of life use the lake as a place of enjoyment and relaxation – involvement with members of the public became part of the work.
Working as a small team (including support artists dressed in LOYL branded outfits)we conducted preparatory workshops which then culminated in a public program commissioned by HOTA in January 2022. This consisted of 3 morning workshops and a Float off Finale – where 10 components were launched into the lake as an installation. This final work also included several participants swimming and floating within the piece.
Click here to see video footage of this project.
Images clock wise from top left :Workshop Shoreline (2022) , Prelaunch Finale (2022) , Launch 1 (2022), Launch 2 with Swan ( 2022), LOYL Team ( 2022), Launch 3(2022).
Image credits: Kathy Mackey , Debra Harrison and Antionette Edmunds
LOYL at SWELL Sculpture Festival
(Currumbin Beach September 2022 )
As part of the workshop program at SWELL 2022, I had the opportunity to refine this work – increasing the size of the final floating sculptures -as well as the numbers of participants who were able to contribute to the construction of the piece.
The site offered some more challenges, given the impact of a tidal creek system as well as increased logistical challenges associated with presentation within a large well-established festival.
The natural ecosystem along the southern side of Currumbin Creek also presented an opportunity to introduce aspects of biomimicry into the presentation, given the prevalence of colonies of soldier crabs along the shoreline.
Image below: Lone Soldier(2022)
An important part of preparing for the installation experience is to undertake research about the environmental and social history of the site. This forms the basis of the walking tour that takes place at the commencement of each making workshop.
I visited the site on several occasions (and at differing times of the day) in the lead up to the SWELL Sculpture Festival in order to gain an understanding of weather and tidal patterns as well as social impactors including the demographics of people enjoying the beach and the proximity of planes flying overhead.
In order for the walking tour to be meaningful – I needed to develop points of interest at strategic points around the creek. These will be where the participants will retrieve previously “planted” pool noodles and bring them back to the main assembly point. Several locations proved to be ideal , including those that featured a build-up of logs along the high tide mark , marker buoys and anchor points to show the swimming enclosure, evidence of young pandanus growing from dispersed seed and the sand banks that feature evidence of soldier crab colonies .This research will enable me to encourage the participants to bring their own stories and reflections to this part of the workshop as well as building a sense of camaraderie.
Images below: Site Research 1-5 (2022)
SWELL Sculpture Festival Workshop and Installation Program:
September 10 and 11, 2022
During the two day build and installation process – I further developed key components of the work.
While initially feeling that the site investigation tour was a critical component- and remains so for some audiences- the building of the work in situ took or a more significant visual and conceptual significance .
The visual impact of the team of LOYL ” senior workers” patiently and methodically constructing the works while sitting among members the general public enjoying a day at the beach certainly points to the discussion about how we perceive work and leisure.
Day 1 offered some important learnings in terms of responding to and working within a more incidental audience- as well as providing an opportunity to test float the work at 50% of its finale scale.
On Day 2 two we returned to the site to build the remaining ten sculptural forms in situ after carefully placing the 10 works from the first day back into the space. This added a sense of a growing presence of the work as we approached the time for the final procession and Float Off.
The Finale itself included a dedicated team of swimmers who I had briefed about responding to the biomimicry cues of soldier crabs. They responded to this beautifully as they processed to and from the shore line and added a new and important performative layer to the work.
Visually this proved to be very effective as the crab like forms were able to be held high above the heads of the team members and thus cast dramatic shadows on the sand.
Once the works were laid down and allowed to float in the water-the piece took on a more reflective element -as audience members were invited to interact with – and become part of the work.
I also had engaged a small team of surf lifesavers who not only added an important safety service- but also whose presence and distinctive uniforms added conceptually to understandings of leisure behaviours along the Australian coastline.
The work remained in the water for about 45 minutes and then the team processed back to the shore. Interesting a beautiful and unexpected phase of activity spontaneously took place – as many of the audience members assisted the core team in disassembling the work and loading the materials back into the van as another cue that the work had now ceased to exist. See video footage of the final event here.
Images below: Let’s Organise Your Leisure Workshop and Installation Day 1 Image credits: Carey – Gold Coast Media
Images below : Let’s Organise Your Leisure Presentation Day 2
Image credits: Ellamay Fitzgerald
LOYL at The Metro Arts Ferryman’s Hut ( November 2022)
The first days of the residency saw me undertaking some preliminary research of the area around the Ferryman’s Hut …. including observing how people move through sites of leisure such as along the boardwalks and parks and how they negotiate the “rules” both explicit or otherwise. This reach of the Brisbane River from New Farm to Teneriffe features highly manicured board walks and a well-documented local naval and industrial history, including didactic signage of storytelling through which tells the stories of the presence of the US navy submarine fleet during World War 2. This history has contributed to the visual culture of the area through distinctively designed public seating and other symbols within the public space.
The initial challenges of working within the interior space of the Ferryman’s Hut were quickly resolved –transforming the space into a dimly lit photographic studio suitable for projection. The initial experiments allowed me to explore the potentials of creating projections over objects – in this case pool noodles forming sculptural gestures across the walls.
Images below: Pool Projections (Day 1 Ferryman’s Hut)
The location along the Brisbane River offered some very strategic opportunities to explore the concepts of public/ private space and behaviours associated with the commodification of leisure and the intersection of art and sport. The public pontoon at the Powerhouse and the boardwalks along the river through New Farm Park and the Submariners Walk Heritage Trail were interrogated by introducing the performative elements of the human body and the pool noodles as artefacts of leisure.
Given the highly visible nature of these sites at certain times of the day – incidental audience engagement becomes also part of the work.
Images below: Artifacts and behaviors of leisure in public space (Day 3 and 4 public pontoon at New Farm Park and Ferryman’s Hut Precinct)
Further into the residency-I began exploring other locations further upstream. The areas below the Kangaroo Point Cliffs and the artificial pools at South Bank Parklands also afforded opportunities to explore how the contested sites of public leisure in Brisbane operate. Along the Kangaroo Point running and cycling tracks – I installed several pool noodles onto existing public art forms as a way of re interpreting these as new sculptures that feature both hard and soft graphic elements. At South Bank – the shallow children’s pool also became a site of interaction and an opportunity to experiment with new forms of imagery that is based on the push and pull of the noodle forms above and below the waterline.
Images below: Artifacts and behaviors of leisure in public space (Day 5 and 6 Kangaroo Point and South Bank)
The residency has allowed me to create a new iteration of the body of research around leisure in the public domain, as well as new ways of intervening in the public space.
The creation of a projection studio purposely set up a dialogue between image and object. By using the pool noodles attached to the wall as a form of gestural drawing frieze- I was able to create a spatial juxtaposition between those objects the actual projection videos. I intend to further exploit this technique at greater scale and using multiple channels to create a more immersive experience in future works.
Let’s Organise Your Leisure at the Ferryman’s Hut was presented by Metro Arts and supported by Generate GC which is a City of Gold Coast initiative auspiced by Situate Art in Festivals.
Let’s Organise Your Leisure at the Ferryman’s Hut was supported by Arts Queensland.
Image below: Video projection still South Bank Pool (Day 9)
Southport Bathing Pavilion Dec 2022- Feb 2023
I was able to further explore sites of leisure through access to a studio at the Southport Bathing Pavilion over the summer of 2022/3. This site offers the perfect alignment for further development of the Let’s Organise Your Leisure project as the heritage listed pavilion is situated in the Broadwater parklands, where many people indulge is leisure behaviours on a daily basis. The pavilion was built concurrently with the Main Beach Pavilion in 1934. Both were designed by Brisbane architects Hall and Phillips in the Spanish Mission style and is located close to Railway Street which was the terminus of the Brisbane-Southport Railway. Furthering my interest and research into the colonial position of the need for safe it is noteworthy that bathing in the Broadwater was popular, particularly prior to the construction of the Jubilee Bridge to Main Beach in 1925. The bathing pavilion provided amenities for day trippers and holiday makers as Southport’s tourism enterprises grew and is divided into two main spaces for men and women to prepare to bathe and to dress afterwards. My southern studio was previously the ladies access space and features replications of the original dado rail and hooks that would have been used to hang towels and clothes.
Images below: Views of Studio Setup Southport Bathing Pavilion
One of the main goals of working in this site is to experiment with a different form for the sculptures that will maximise scale and volume. This also created an opportunity to research an alternative way for the works to move through space …. As a group of forms on land as well as floating in the water.
Images below: Views of new forms – both on land and floating on the water.
I’ve also been investigating the notion of a pavilion as an architectural form and its role in marking and symbolising aspects of safe swimming.
The term pavilion is derived from the Latin papilionem meaning “tent” or literally “butterfly.”
There is also a historically and architecturally similar Pavilion at the Main Beach Surf Club. What is interesting and very beautiful is the timber pavilion constructed in the saltwater marshland quite close to the bathing pavilion. While it offers a completely different and more modernist style – it still serves the same purpose as a juncture between the actual waterline and a more stable shore. Photographically it allowed be to explore the visual contrast between the soft sculptures and flexible forms, in contrast to the geometric and minimalist form of the timber pavilion.
During April 2023 – I undertook a residency within some pod like shipping containers at Placemakers as part of the inaugural Incubate Program . This enabled me to research and develop new work that responds to assumptions about “organised leisure” for seniors – in particular water-based exercises that take place in swimming pools. This research will explore how ageing figures and artificial accessories (such as pool noodles) move through these spaces as a form of gestural mark making.
Image below: Wading Figure ( 2023)
The first two days in the space saw me reworking some themes of overlapping and floating geometries using two channel projections. I have explored these concerns before – using still images within projections rather than video . I am interested in how geometric forms can intersect with the landscape – in this case the urban scape of resort swimming pool water – based on comments by Donald Judd about the presence of space. This work at Incubate allowed me to use moving images projected over multiple geometric forms as a way of furthering my practice.
Images below: Incubate Projections Day 1 and 2 ( 2023)
As the INCUBATE residency moved into its final 3 days – I started to combine key elements of Gold Coast tourist culture within these video sequences…the body moving through water, references to high rise construction and spatial geometries.
When working with dual video projections I also enjoyed overcoming the technical challenges of ensuring that both channels featured movement that was running in a similar time frame as well as ensuring that the projectors were equidistant from the main focal point to maximise the depth of field in the still images.
The creation of a projection studio purposely set up a dialogue between the images and the ambiguity of the space.
I intend to further exploit this technique at greater scale and using multiple channels to create a more immersive interpretation of how the body/ies of individuals and groups represent the notion of public leisure and ageing as form.
Images below: Final Incubate Projections Stills from Video Loops ( 2023)