By Patrick Sutczak
The Dog-Leg Tunnel carved through the rock of Cockatoo Island’s impressive bulk beckoned me in as I sought a respite from the unusually hot morning sun. Square cut and dimly lit, a backbone of sleepers lined the path ahead while bearing tons upon tons of earth and rock against their aging frames. Progression through the long tunnel sees the light grow even fainter as it fades to black creating a menacing space that evokes a degree of trepidation. However, there is nothing to fear here. What Daan Roosegaarde has created within this subterranean thoroughfare is a sensual installation that provokes as much thought as it does engagement.
Lining one side of the wall from dusty ground to waist height, a garden of futuristic sprouts can be faintly seen, possibly spiky, possibly rigid – I am not yet sure. Dark prongs tipped with a pale cap move to the gentle wind breathing its way through the tunnel. As I near them, scores of the sprouts spring to life. Somewhere around the corner (the dog-leg at the centre), someone has discovered the same thing. Individual pieces working in unison produce a soundscape of digital beeps and tones rippling from the darkness. The white caps light up in a wave of bright explosions responding to movement and touch. An impossible combination of new sound depending on the amount of people engaging with the work creates an original experience. The whole space has changed and become quite mesmerising to interact with, and also simply to listen. From the unassuming walk down towards the work (which I didn’t actually know was there) the discovery of something tapping technology yet reflecting organics is a pleasant surprise.
Strangely enough, as I began the walk through the tunnel before finding the work, I needed to explore the tactility of my environment. The beautiful strata of the exposed stone carved long ago begged for my touch, and this is something that Roosegaarde navigates with his installation; our relationship to space, to environments and the need for tactility and immersion in a modern, and technological, world.
Urban living has obviously changed since the height of Cockatoo Island’s industry, and the integration of technology as a companion to life has changed the way we want our spaces to work with us, and for us. In the tunnel, Dune 2007-12 proposes that progress is not cold and lifeless, but the exact opposite. This trend has been growing for some time (just think of the touch-screen…) but it is nice to indulge in the organic potential of it all - an artificial landscape that really doesn’t seem so strange. In a future dystopia when the natural world is all but swallowed, can digital beeps and a spectrum of tones offer the same quality of earthiness? At some point in the future will we know anything less? I wonder these things as I continue through the tunnel running my palm across the wavering rods. Behind me, people jump, clap, and touch the work in order to gain a reaction of light and sound. They get it. For me, this work is strangely peaceful and thought provokingly interesting.
For an example of Dune 2007-12, check out the delightful video clip form the !8th Biennale of Sydney website : http://bos18.com/artist?id=93