One of my most exciting art memories is helping (in my small way) with the installation of an exhibition in Lake Street twenty years ago.
Sometimes art falls into a mystical realm that bends the imagination and conjures up waking dreams which stay with you but are impossible to relate via a stills image or even a video. Pictures of paintings, installations and exhibitions often cannot demonstrate the ‘out of mind’ sensations that make truly inspirational artworks move the human spirit. Dan and Heather accomplished the ethereal in the real with their work in Northbridge for the Festival of Perth in 1994 and continue to do so all around the world to this day.
The old ‘duplex’ was earmarked for demolition to make way for the then under construction ‘Northbridge tunnel’ and so this little pearl of working class domesticity was the perfect location for Dan and Heather to create two halves of ‘life’ and ‘death’ or the cycle of it, at least. They began by ‘bagging’ the interior walls with a nutrient mud impregnated with grass seeds, then using grow lights for two weeks prior to the opening; the interior was transformed into a wonderland of verdant art. The floor boards were removed and once lined with pool plastic filled with water to create indoor reflection pools that mirrored the turned wood ‘grass’ chair, or the tree sections that came through the floors and out the ceilings, while casting yellow grass shadows on the walls.
Moulds were caste of human forms on which grass was also grown and emerged from the walls. One side of the duplex featured a room with a cube of burnt stumps barb-wired together; the next room had a ton of red sand suspended above the ceiling which filtered via the light socket (like sands through the hour glass) onto a table and chair. By exhibition’s end the table and chair were both submerged. Finally, the last room contained the salt encrusted bones of a camel laid out on the table like an expensive jewellery display.
Everyone that entered this dreamworld exited awestruck by the beauty of nature converted and coerced into ethereal, almost hallucinogenic environment. The imminent destruction and frailty of the space added to its preciousness. We knew that if the lights were turned off the magic would dissipate, as indeed it did, and an immense sadness came of all who had helped put it together. Since then Dan And Heather have created ever more insanely beautiful installations and sculpture all over the world…fungi grown in moist semi darkness in a Roman ruin, mink coats made of grass and even ‘camera obscura’ using ice as the lens which was part of an artist exhibition to the North Pole.
Sculpture, photography, architecture, and biology are some of the disciplines that intersect in Ackroyd & Harvey’s work, revealing an intrinsic bias towards process and event and often reflecting urban political ecologies by highlighting the temporal nature of processes of growth and decay in sites of architectural interest as well as contemporary art galleries and museums worldwide.
You can see what these amazing environment artists are doing right now by visiting their website: ackroydandharvey.com.