Arts / Lake festival back with more to see

LANDSCAPE architects Neil Hobbs and Karina Harris are again staging a public art festival called “Contour 556”, taking its name from the water level of Lake Burley Griffin.

It’s the second time round for Harris and Hobbs and now they have announced that “Contour 556” will go biennial, at least in the short term.

Hobbs says this year the scale would be larger and it would have a “bigger footprint” with more artists, more off-site fringe events, a display at the airport, a forum on public art and public space at Brindabella Business Park, artist talks, poetry readings around the lake and education resource packs sent to all local schools.

Hobbs and Harris, known as generous art patrons in Canberra, don’t attract Australia Council funding but “Contour 556”, Hobbs is quick to note, is very much a Canberra thing, now supported with $30,000 from the ACT Event Fund, $30,000 from artsACT’s 2018 Activity Funding and $21,600 from the City Renewal Authority.

The idea is to enliven the lake or, as Hobbs put it, “to transform how viewers remember or recall the Canberra landscape after seeing the artworks or performances”.

Forty-nine works by 60 artists from Australia, NZ and Hong Kong will be temporarily exhibited on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin from Henry Rolland Park in West Basin, along the southern lake shore from Commonwealth Avenue Bridge to the Kingston Foreshore and on Aspen Island.

If that sounds staid and traditional, it’s not. There’s nothing quite as quirky as David Capra’s 2016 performance “Eau de Wet Dogge” last year, but there are some less-than-conventional gambits.

Dancer/artist Dean Cross is installing a three-person dome tent and solar lights with the Aboriginal flag, in the middle of the lake. Mariana del Castillo’s “A Rare Occurrence” will see five feather-clad figures on the shores. Michelle Day’s “Uncertainty” will float fibreglass, polyurethane, expandable resin and reflective film. And, particularly weird, Gary Deirmendjian’s 60 rubber gloves will breach the waters.

Fiona Hooton and Catrina Vignando, of “Localjinni”, will take on twilight video walks filled with poetry, visual art, videos, animations and screenings on to footpaths.

The inaugural 2016 “Contour 556” recently won the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects 2018 ACT Award of Excellence, Tourism Category.

There’s one significant initiative this year – one week of the festival will coincide with the last week of Floriade. While Hobbs’ focus is more on trees than flowers, he’s optimistic this will give interstate visitors the opportunity to see Canberra at its best.

“Contour 556”, around Lake Burley Griffin, October 5-28. All program details at

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