hEARth  (Darebin Public Art Commission)

Ray Bramham Gardens, Preston, 2014

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Pollen Studio in collaboration with Anthony Magen (landscape architect and sound artist) were one of four finalists in the City of Darebin’s Public Art commission for Ray Bramham Gardens in Preston. Our proposal, entitled The Hearth, combines historic elements of the park with an interactive water / sound sculpture that sits sensitively within the park surrounds.

The hEARth is a sensorial and contemplative sculptural space located at the peak of “the hill” at Ray Bramham Gardens, Preston.

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The hEARth is traditionally at the hEARt of any home. It is where one cooks, keeps warm and gathers for discussion and contemplation. The hEARth sculpture represents the home. Gaston Bachelard says that “the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.” Our hEARth sculpture simply replaces fire with water.

The hEARth is about listening and hEARing. It is a celebration of the hidden sounds of water, allowing people to experience the ephemeral acoustic ecology of the park. We wish to re:sound the park with a Suikinkutsu.  This is a Japanese technique where a series of clay pots are placed underground to create playful tones via channeling drops of water into the pot. This acts as a resonating chamber sounding back to the surface. The technique allows a sublime and peaceful effect that is reactive to the water flow that is enacted through our everyday rituals.

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The sound of suikinkutsu is subtle and intriguing, as the “harp” is invisible and the ringing is unexpected. The mystery creates magic in the everyday environment. We propose to utilise the traditional Japanese approach, where people are encouraged to activate the Suikinkutsu and develop their own peaceful listening space no matter how busy the surroundings might be.

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All people on EARth are connected to water symbolically. This sculpture is physically connected to earth and water, whilst also creating a listening space to focus and meditate. In recent years, many schools, kindergartens and communities in Australia have taken up installation of Suikinkutsu as an educational project to raise awareness about surrounding noise and water (eg. water saving, rainwater usage). Water is at the hEARt of the Australian psyche; we have so little that it becomes a sacred and profound element in our lives.

The existing wetlands and lakes onsite offer a unique opportunity to imbue a sonic element that enhances our experience of water. The incorporation of these singing Suikinkutsu would assist and promote the congruous goals of slowing water and making it audible, where traditionally it is piped and hidden.

Ray Bramham Gardens is located at the hEARt of Darebin at the nexus of St Georges Rd and Bell St, adjacent to the Darebin Arts & Entertainment Centre. As noted in  ‘Beyond Fido’, this site is located at one of the key ‘gateways’ to Darebin. The sculpture will be clearly visible from the road, whilst not dominating the landscape. We believe that a large gateway structure is not necessary and that a more subtle approach to entice users into the site through interaction and listening will speak more to its residents.

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We saw the hEARth as being the first in a series of potential installations that could turn Ray Bramham Gardens into a Sound Park with an interconnected listening trail experience. The site is currently quite isolated from its surroundings and so this sculpture aims to create a destination for local residents.

As part of the shortlist process our team produced a series of technical drawings and a maquette to reassure the judging panel of the project’s design resolution.

Project Team: Anthony Magen, Robyn Butcher, Dan Nunan & Flynn Hart.

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