13 July 2016

contour 556: a public art festival for Canberra

| Paul Costigan
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contour 556 is Canberra’s new public art festival is to be staged from Friday 21st October to Sunday 13th November, 2016

The festival will feature the works of 50 local, national and international artists on display from the National Library of Australia, across the National Gallery of Australia’s Sculpture Garden and Lake Burley Griffin foreshore, through Bowen Park to the Kingston Arts Precinct.

contour 556 is the water level of Lake Burley Griffin, which links the event in name as well as in purpose to the history of the central Canberra landscape.

The artworks and installations selected for the festival respond in some way to Canberra’s history, from 50,000 years to the present day.

contour 556 will therefore offer the Canberra, Australian and international community a unique opportunity to engage with and understand the layers of Canberra’s history through art.

There will be in excess of 30 installed works encompassing steel, glass, ceramic, stone, found objects, line marking paint, wallpaper, timber and concrete.

In addition, a series of performances are planned during the festival, encompassing video, dance, song, choral, spoken word and performance art.

contour 556 has developed as the creative practice component of curator and well known landscape architect Neil Hobbs’s PhD research through the University of Canberra, as well as being the next stage in his development as a curator of public art events.

The inspiration for contour 556 comes from Neil’s lifetime appreciation for the beauty of the central Canberra landscape. He is widely acknowledged for his professional and personal support of and contribution to the development of connection between the landscape and the visual and performing arts in Canberra.

Neil’s primary objective for contour 556 is to

“… to transform how viewers remember or recall the Canberra landscape after seeing the artworks or performances.

My research is searching for a link between art and the place they experienced it in … the memory people take away with them of their time in that landscape.

Whilst Lake Burley Griffin is a designed landscape it is very much a blank canvas for people to populate and complete with their memories – Floriade, the Centenary celebrations, hot air balloon rides, the Birdman Rally, charity walks, fireworks.

My hope is that contour 556 will add another layer to our memories of the Lake and how we perceive and remember this space”.

Neil will be seeking responses from the public to the artworks through the contour 556 website, app and microsite – from lower level engagement with ‘likes’ for the artworks and events, culminating in a real time ‘people’s choice’ designation for the most popular and memorable installations.

Various artists will also give a range of talks throughout the festival and the Australian National University School of Arts will be hosting a range of Q&A forums.

A schedule of festival events will be announced in the coming months on the contour 556 website – www.contour556.com.au.

contour 556 will run for 3 weeks, over 4 weekends – Friday 21st October to Sunday 13th November, 2016.

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