Seaweed projections at IlluminARTe

On Saturday 29th April, the village of Picton came alive with the annual IlluminARTe Wollondilly Festival. The festival had a family atmosphere and featured market stalls, street musicians, a lantern parade, fireworks and building projections. A number of artists were invited to create projections onto the buildings including Julie Ryder, our artist-in-residence from 2016. Julie chose to use images from our seaweed album and related collections to inform her artwork.

Julie’s projections appeared on the old Post Office and the old Commercial Banking Company building, located opposite each other on the corner of Menangle and Argyle Streets. The Post Office was completed in 1892 and is now the home of the Wollondilly Visitor Information Centre. The bank was built in 1885 and now houses the National Australia Bank.

The projections onto the old Post Office included elements from the cover of the Museum’s Port Phillip seaweed album along with an animated display featuring a selection of seaweed specimens also from the album. It was amazing to see these beautiful forms coming to life on the building and to listen to the reaction of the crowd as they watched the images of seaweed floating past.

Projections onto the old Post Office. Photos: Catriona Donnelly, National Museum of Australia

Across the street, the projections onto the old Commercial Banking Company building featured background underwater footage overlayed with images of seaweeds from W.H. Harvey’s Phycologia Australica: or, A History of Australian Seaweeds.

Harvey visited Australia in 1854 and spent eighteen months collecting seaweed along the southern coastline of Australia. His five volume publication describing Australian seaweeds was published in 1862. The books feature coloured plates illustrating the various types of algae. Harvey’s publication became the standard reference point for local botanists and educators.

Projections onto the old Commercial Banking Company building. Photos: Catriona Donnelly, National Museum of Australia

Artists were also invited to submit artwork for inclusion in a pop-up art exhibition held on the same day as the festival. Julie is pictured below in front of her artwork titled ‘Collecting Ladies I’ and ‘Collecting Ladies II’. Both works feature actual seaweed specimens combined with watercolour and intricate patterns pricked into the paper. You can see the patterns and the three dimensions of the seaweed in the detailed images.

Seaweed collecting was a popular leisure activity during the 19th century, particularly for upper and middle class ladies. Julie’s artwork collides this unusual hobby with other more traditional feminine pursuits of the time such as embroidery and dress making.

‘Collecting Ladies I and II’ by Julie Ryder. Photos: Catriona Donnelly, National Museum of Australia



Feature image: Seaweed projections onto the old Commercial Banking Company building, Picton
Photo: Catriona Donnelly, National Museum of Australia

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the
Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.