Easter Bilby, Wollongong City Council 2019

Submitted by Elyssa Sykes-Smith

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Client: Wollongong City Council

Location: Wollongong, Australia

Completion date: 2019

Artwork budget: $30,000

Project Team

City Centre Placemaker (Acting)

Sarah Noble

Wollongong City Council

Engineer

Tristrium McNamara

Roc Engineering

Overview

Easter Bilby aims to activate the outdoor space of Crown Street Mall to encourage the audience to explore the site, to stop, look upwards and engage with their imagination, and raise awareness about bilbies as an endangered species. Easter Bilby is a large scale, site-specific sculpture installation created from recycled timber by Elyssa Sykes-Smith. The artwork depicts a native Australian bilby and nest suspended high up under a pedestrian bridge, viewed from the walkway below. The public were invited to participate in the making of this artwork through onsite artwork shops to paint pieces of wood to be included in the bilby’s nest. These elements were added to the artwork on the Community Activation Event day.

Goals

Bilby celebrates Easter while raising awareness about the important role the bilby plays in Australia particularly through it’s nesting habits, and about the sad fact that the bilby is an endangered species, under threat of extinction. The “nest” in our culture is a symbol of home and of care. Bilby calls for people to consider how they can help and care for the bilbies in the nests of their own communities.

“The bilby is an important ecosystem engineer. It’s an excellent digger and so many other species reap the rewards of its hard work. When bilbies aren't living in their complex burrows other animals like insects, reptiles, birds and small mammals take up residence. The burrows provide vital shelter from predators and high summer temperatures. As well as providing accommodation for others, bilbies constantly turnover soil, improving soil health by mixing through organic matter and bringing deep soils and their nutrients to the surface. Their diggings also provide sites for water to penetrate and for the spread of important mycorrhizal fungi (which help plants to absorb nutrients and cope with Australia's nutrient-poor soils) across the landscape. As you can see, the bilby delivers much more than just Easter eggs.” (WWF-Australia)

Process

Elyssa Sykes-Smith was engaged directly by Wollongong City Council as the preferred artist for the commission. Once the concept proposal was approved Sykes-Smith and WCC collaborated to assemble a project team to plan, fabricate and install the artwork. A structural engineer was required to advise the construction method of the artwork, measure safety and wind resistance, and design a system of suspension including the installation of permanent anchor points into the underside of the bridge. The sculpture was fabricated in sections by the artist and her team of assistants at the artists studio, and was delivered to the site in multiple pieces. Over the duration of one day the sculpture was assembled into three main sections onsite, and was then elevated into position using a sophisticated pulley system. The artist provided direction as the the positioning of the elements while the rigging technicians made amendments and secured the sculptural elements into place using stainless steel cable and fixings. The artist and WCC assistant provided the final touches to the artwork, accessing the height via an elevated working platform the final timber elements were attached to the sculpture to disguise some of the fixings, cables and to ensurethe artwork looked aesthetically pleasing.