Pacific-warmed waves of a tropical winter; agile palms, bent by breeze; sand grains that cushion your feet, crawl into the folds of your clothes, and sneak home with you; and an outdoor display of art stretching 2.4km. It’s easy to see how the Strand Ephemera has become a national and international attraction for Townsville.
Townsville’s outdoor sculpture festival mirrors the success of Bondi’s Sculpture by the Sea, celebrating the beauty of the surrounding environment through the pieces on display while – in some cases – also making a comment on the attitudes or actions of the artworks’ audience.
Overall winner of the 2015 Ephemera, Townsville’s Alison McDonald, will participate again this year, repurposing everyday objects as she has become known for at the event. Alison’s 2017 entry, Making Waves, will include roughly 12,000 SIM card packets tied together to form a sculpture that mimics the waves they overlook.
“The Strand is a beautiful natural environment with the waves and the beach and the Island – but I started thinking about all the unseen things there too, and I realised mobile phones were everywhere. So many phones taking photos, texting friends and just being used, so I thought I had to do something about this little unseen thing that happens on the Strand,” Alison said.
“My son had given me SIM cards a while ago and asked if I was going to do something with them. But I don’t like to use something just because it’s pretty or because I have it. I love it to have some sort of purpose for what the concept is; some sort of relation to it.
“I wanted to make a comment about the natural environment waves which we all know are at the Strand, then the unseen waves of mobile phones that are there too. The wave sculptures roll along on the wire and move in the wind as well. I try and get movement into my work and that’s the thing with public artwork: it doesn’t have to be big, but it must have a presence.”
“The cards are arranged in octagonal patterns because mobile phone towers are organised on the land in a similar way – so the tower would be at the centre of each octagon. That’s why they’re called cell phones in the US, because those octagons each form cells that connect much like they do in this piece, to form the bigger picture which is the waves.
The Strand Ephemera not only draws the eyes of art lovers to North Queensland, but allows local artists to innovate, imagine, and explore their style on a bigger scale than usual.
“Trying to freight a big artwork like this or like my 2015 piece Shimmer down South for other events … the logistics are really difficult. With the Ephemera, we have a platform right here where we can put it up, and show it to the community. And it’s a lot more than just our local community who visit the Ephemera. It’s a really important event.”
Ephemerality, by its very definition, is something that is transitory. Succinct. Short-lasting. While the Strand Ephemera is just that, the effect it has on the region is perpetual. From the support it provides to local artists through to its boost for tourism and recreation, the Ephemera has created a lasting legacy that is stamping Townsville’s footprint firmly in the sand.
Experience the magic of the 2017 Strand Ephemera along Townsville’s Esplanade from 28 July – 3 August. Further information on the Ephemera can be found at www.huxley.press in the lead-up to the event.