The robotic artwork interacts with people under the control of unseen puppeteers. (ABC News: Matt Eaton)
Music began to play as the wooden crates began to move, immediately attracting the attention of children in the near vicinity who were drawn to it like moths to a flame.
- Curiocities art and science installations are dotting the banks of the Brisbane River until April 3
- The pop-up pieces by local and international artists can be explored in a trail by night or day
- Crate Expectations is roaming the South Bank concourse from the State Library to the Brisbane Wheel
This bizarre moving object seemed to respond to their presence as if controlled by some unseen higher power, and held a group of young boys in thrall as its mysteries unfurled.
It’s one of a string of pop-up interactive science, art and technology installations, dubbed Curiocities, that have just appeared along the banks of the Brisbane River at South Bank, the CBD and New Farm.
Crate Expectations is a wonderfully strange little performance piece that will be seen roaming from the State Library to the Brisbane Wheel until April 3.
It looks like nothing more than a bunch of wooden boxes stacked on one another, except that underneath the boxes is a mobile robot controlled by its creators who hover unseen nearby like two conjurers, revealing their tricks one by one with a deft sleight of hand.
One of the boxes opens to reveal a white hand in glass, another reveals an old loudspeaker playing the old tune Happy Days Are Here Again like a radio broadcast from the 1930s.
Finally an old bakelite phone appears inside a box wrapped in red velvet. What else to do but pick it up to hear who’s on the line?
“We really enjoy interrupting people on their travels between point A and point B and snapping them out of that focus and creating an abstract experience that can’t fully be explained,” said co-creator Jesse Stevens.
“It’s not intentionally anything, it’s kind of like a little series of vignettes that dance and play and fire imagination and then leave just as quickly without explanation — to leave them wanting more.”
An old bakelite phone in the Crate Expectations installation attracted an eager crowd. (ABC News: Matt Eaton)
Fellow artist Dean Peterson said kids loved their crate robot, but knowing when to leave was sometimes critical.
“We’ve had doors ripped off the crates. The most adorable little girls can be incredibly strong,” he said.
“We’re like pied pipers, so children will like dance and play behind it into the abyss.”
The abyss is one of comprehension — never knowing for sure what you are looking at.
“We’re not part of it. We stand back and we discreetly control the sculpture,” said Peterson.
Stevens said most of their works were robotic.
“But we don’t really call them robots, and the focus isn’t the fact that we’re controlling it, it’s more intended to just be a whimsical object,” he said.
“We might be standing shoulder to shoulder with people enjoying it, but they won’t know it’s us.”
So what can be heard on the phone? Would you believe Gaelic poetry played in reverse?
Another Curiocities piece by Stevens and Peterson, made of timber salvaged from the roller coaster at Melbourne’s Luna Park. (ABC News: Matt Eaton)
Golden spiral lights up shoreline
At the other end of South Bank at River Quay Green, Brisbane artist Adam Gardnir has built his own version of a Fibonacci spiral as a beautiful blend of art and science.
Fibonacci is a number sequence created by starting at zero and one, then adding the last two numbers in the sequence to create the next number.
The sequence, and the mathematical spiral that results from it, can be observed with remarkable frequency in nature and in a surprisingly large number of the world’s most famous art works.
Gardnir said his reading of Curiocities was getting people to physically experience some part of science.
“The areas that interested me the most were actually historical,” Gardnir said.
“Fibonacci is a centuries-old numeric theory. It’s where the golden curve came from.
“You can see the Fibonacci spiral across every generation of artwork and architecture we have on Earth.
“While the discovery of the spiral was around 400 years ago, it’s in everything — it’s in the shells of snails and seashells, it’s in the shape of cyclones, in galaxies.
“It can helix into itself, it can grow and shrink, it’s the way ferns are constructed, the way lyrebird tails are constructed.
“What we’ve got here are these beautiful little pods, like the top of a mushroom, about a metre wide … like little planets in a way, and we’ve put a score of those in a Fibonacci spiral pattern on the ground and they’ll light up and you’ll be able to walk all over them.”