Graceful curves of piping spanning the lakeside path for the Contour 556 public art festival have been pushed over by vandals in an incident that director Neil Hobbs says is disrespectful, but not entirely unexpected.
New Zealand artist Jae Kang’s work, “Whimori”, was installed as a kind of moongate through which visitors could walk. But sometime on Saturday night (just possibly post Oktoberfest, although that’s pure speculation), the work came to grief.
The remaining loops have now been moved to the side of the path, but some of the big loops were too badly damaged to reinstall. Hobbs was reasonably sanguine about the “graceful and calming” work, given that it’s made of irrigation piping.
“It was always the risk with work in the public eye like that. It still embodies the idea of what the artist was intending, so I’m taking the view that some of the de-install has just happened ahead of time.” In a separate incident, there was also minor damage to a sheep sculpture by artist Sian Watson on the lakeside jetty.
“When we held the event in 2016 we had a minor bit of damage, a broken bottle on one sculpture but we figured that it’s generally a fairly safe area because of the nature of the space there aren’t too many hooligans. Far more people have been enjoying the event, walking through the spaces and discussing the pieces.”
Contour 556 has two further major public activities. Internationally recognised artist Richard Tipping will talk at the National Gallery this week about “Canberror”, a mischievous idea for huge scale text that’s been brewing for decades and was finally installed at the rear of the National Gallery this year.
In 1997, Tipping formulated plans for “letters marked out with string by council workers in their overalls, at a scale to suit the site and ideal viewing position … they might need to be 3 or 4 metres in letter height, then spray lawn killer onto the text, pull up the strings and depart.”
And in 1978, he was part of the first Performance Art Festival with a trailer load of big white polystyrene letters from a past exhibition that were tipped into Lake Burley Griffin to become, literally, alphabet soup.
On Thursday night he’ll talk about “the dilemmas, surprises and near-disasters experienced over forty years of making lively and audacious public word-art-works”. Registration is available via nga.gov.au
And on Friday night the official programme for the festival concludes with a free public forum about how temporary art can transform the variety of landscapes of Lake Burley Griffin, the recent history of art in public spaces and its wider benefits. Register here.