Two compelling and visually stunning artworks are part of the physical structure of the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia. Commissioned under the State Government’s Percent for Art Scheme, the artworks use 21st century technology to connect the history of the site with its present and future.
To ensure harmony between the artworks and the building, the artists worked with the architects during the design development stages.
Fittingly, there is a sense of performance in both works: a play that is being continually rewritten and acted out; drama as stars and comets dance behind audience members as they walk over the glass floor entrance. The theatre site is intertwined with the history and heritage of Perth. As part of the construction, two buildings belonging to the old Perth Central School were demolished.
Acknowledging the significance of the site as an educational facility, and earlier a wetland and meeting ground for Aboriginal people, provided a wonderful opportunity to create an original and thought-provoking interpretative experience.
The result is INTERVAL, a sound installation and series of stainless steel panels with text and imagery by Arif Satar, Audrey Fernandes Satar and Sam Landels, which have been integrated into the James Street entrance. The title of the artwork, INTERVAL, also defined the artists’ approach to the work conceptually. The word blends inter (between, among), and vallum (palisade or wall from vallus, post or stake), thus suggesting an architecture of INTERVAL that includes both the walls and the interstices, or spaces between. INTERVAL elicits a number of images — the place of wandering, of seeking, of exploratory movement that might be mapped.
In this instance ‘voice’ was given to the architecture by projecting beyond the physical limits of old and new buildings into time and space. A continuous and ever changing play of sound and voices is implanted behind the walls recalling memories, conversations, tasks and chores. The poetic spoken text is the result of research into the written and oral histories of the site. The written text grabs the viewer with tantalizing bites of not quite stanza, drawing them closer to trigger the transformation to audience. falling from heaven to earth, the shooting star. Watching shooting stars burn brightly for one moment in the night sky, then fall quickly from the heavens is a brilliant, ephemeral performance. That this intense beauty springs to life from seemingly invisible and very prosaic, earth-bound debris and space rocks, much like a spark that shoots off from a spinning angle grinder in contact with a piece of steel, only makes it even more wondrous. Surprisingly, shooting stars are very down to earth.
For artist Matthew Ngui, this heavenly beauty is the perfect playful analogy for fame and ‘stardom’. Shooting stars may shine brightly in a moment that is singular, breathtaking, exquisite, and laced with the good luck of being at the right place at the right time, but they don’t last. His floor based artwork at the entry from Roe Street, falling from heaven to earth; the shooting star uses light on glass to suggest the heat and the cold of outer space; hues of fire and ice play momentarily and apparently at random.
An interactive component of the artwork, triggered by a camera that seeks and then reacts to visitors as they traverse the glass entry floor, draws sparkling light or sullen dark tails behind them as they move. Unaware of their impact, each person simultaneously creates and becomes a star enacting their perfect entrance.