This year’s BEAMS Arts Festival will be playing with the elusive notion of utopia. The memory of Chippendale’s industrial past is beginning to fade as the precinct materialises its potential for culture and imagination. For the third year running, the area’s harsh concrete surrounds will be floodlit with installations, performance, interactive media and live music.

Those who went along last year will remember Balfour Street and the surrounding laneways filled with an assembly of light-based installations. Festival Director Nicky Ginsberg explains, “Particularly in an open-air environment, light installations have the ability to transform the mundane urban environment into a spectacular alternate reality. This provides a space for the community to consider their sense of place and identity.”

Over 140 artists and creative groups were curated through a meticulous collective process, which asked proposals to address the concept of utopia. The response was widely multi-disciplinary – visual and site-specific installations, multimedia works, film and projections, light and animation, and dance and performance.

We had a quick chat to two artists presenting work in the festival.

Isobel Markus-Dunworth

Could you describe your work for Beams?

My work is an installation of one hundred, handmade, self-powered light boxes which use light and colour to explore my interpretation of utopia. For me utopia is made of beautiful but impossible scenarios, so my illuminated work is an attempt to communicate this abstract concept, visually and through the senses.

Which materials did you work with?

My work is made from locally sourced and where possible, recycled acrylic perspex. Each box is powered by energy-efficient LED lighting and I use a combination of resin and pigment in the colouring of each box.

Is there anything particular about the location or the festival that aligns with the work?

Chippendale’s laneways have such a unique aesthetic. I wanted to create a work that activated these spaces, to encourage people to engage more intimately with the surrounding environment. BEAMS shows us that canvases lie all around!

Penelope Cain

Could you describe your work for Beams?

My work is a black fabric paste-up of essential elements of trees, foxes and birds. I’ve been interested in how ‘the wild’ could be located within the urban, and have been using foxes to stand in for the wild, the non-native and the urban. I am also interested in the ruptures and glitches occurring in our experience with landscape. I’ve been reflecting on how strange the local landscape may have seemed to the white colonisers of Sydney.

Which materials did you work with?

I will be making a paste-up of black fabric cut-out forms.

Is there anything particular about the location or the festival that aligns with the work?

I’ve been observing the development of Central Park and the surrounding area – and the sudden shift in spatial intensity as the high-rise building evolves. I’m interested in exploring the spatial and socio-historical flux.

Work by Isobel Markus-Dunworth
Cubicle farmers water factory by Penelope Cain
Thinking is not the same as knowing by Penelope Cain

BEAMS Arts Festival is on from 5 – 10pm on Saturday, 20 September. Head to for the full program.

BEAMS has been funded under the City’s cultural grants and sponsorship program. If you are looking to apply, contact Jennifer Trinca on , who’d be happy to chat about your application.

Published: 16 Sep, 2014 | 0 Comments | Tags:

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