By Betty Milonas
Cultural Collisions, a recent collaboration between the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne Festival promotes the relationship between music, mathematics, art and space. The collaboration shares the creative ideas of historical Australian innovators; the pianist and composer Percy Grainger, and the architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony. Celebrating their legacies, the University and Festival brings together disciplines from Music, Engineering, Transformative Technologies, and the Arts to produce performances, exhibitions and lectures.
Calling Percy, one of the key exhibitions presented in Cultural Collisions explores Grainger’s musical biography and his experiential approach to creating both traditional and obscure musical instruments. Dr Laura Woodward, artist and researcher, curated a Grainger-themed exhibition with students from the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM), and Mechanical Engineering Faculty. Through the combination of multi-disciplines, the artists and students produced a number of playful, interactive, and experimental works at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne.
Similar to Grainger, the students and artists created an experiential collection of instruments and kinetic sculptures that reference technology, music and interactive installations. Upon entering the gallery space, the viewer is led to an interactive playground consisting of everyday materials, mechanical instruments, sensors, and sound. The Tolling by Dr Laura Woodward is an alluring sculptural kinetic installation created through a loop system guided by the movement of water and weight. Linear and mechanical elements of Woodward’s installation resonates Grainger’s free music machines which focused on gliding to create rhythms and tones. Thus, in The Tolling the water glides through the loops that activate the tubular bell, creating a free tonal sound.
Further, The Percy Gurdy by Danielle Chung and Qalissa Othman is a playful installation inspired by Grainger’s free music concept. The electrical components and DC motors represent the sound and movement of beach waves that influenced Grainger’s music ideas. Viewers are encouraged to visualize the waves, and appreciate how the tone and pitch changes in music. Forward and Back by Nicola Lewis is another work that explores movement by creating a reflective surface installation with plywood and aluminium. The three-dimensional work invites the viewer to interact and to walk “forward and back” around the installation, allowing us to embody a sensory and intimate experience. This reflective surface encourages us to contemplate and admire Grainger’s legacy, and at the same time, study the various instruments presented throughout the exhibition.
Calling Percy draws upon Grainger’s inventive mind and talent to construct an experimental and playful exhibition, allowing the viewer to interact with obscure and alluring works.
Calling Percy was held at Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne during 7th October – 23rd October 2016