Townsville Bulletin - Townsville Eye - - Arts - BELOW PHOTO:


Sci­en­tists may have al­ready un­locked some of life’s great­est mys­ter­ies, but there’s still one ques­tion no one’s been able to an­swer: where do ideas come from?

For Townsville artist, MJ Ryan Ben­nett, in­spi­ra­tion can strike at the most ran­dom times and in the most bizarre ways. Such was the case for her iconic Strand Ephemera sculp­ture A New Face.

“I woke up one morn­ing and just thought ‘I want to work with chairs!’ It’s a bit odd, artists’ minds and how they work,” she laughs.

De­spite the ran­dom­ness of the ini­tial con­cept, the strik­ing arch­way of red chairs that re­sulted be­came a big hit at our sculp­ture fes­ti­val in 2015.

So much so that it’s be­ing ex­hib­ited for the next week at SWELL Sculp­ture Fes­ti­val at Cur­rumbin; the Gold Coast’s an­nual ver­sion of Strand Ephemera fea­tur­ing works by more than 50 artists from all over the world.

Ben­nett’s piece was cho­sen out of a large pool of ap­pli­cants for the fes­ti­val.

“The more I speak to peo­ple, es­pe­cially peo­ple from the Gold Coast, they’re say­ing to me that it’s re­ally, re­ally hard to get into,” she said.

“So I felt re­ally for­tu­nate to be cho­sen and a lit­tle bit anx­ious and scared about hav­ing to do back-to-back ex­hi­bi­tions be­cause we’ve just brought down Strand Ephemera and now this one’s hav­ing to go up. It’s the first time I’ve had to do that back-to-back.”

Lo­gis­ti­cally speak­ing, get­ting the work down to the Gold Coast for the event has pro­vided a few chal­lenges.

When Ben­nett spoke with Townsville Eye she was in the process of writ­ing in­struc­tions for tak­ing down the work; a process that was prov­ing more com­pli­cated than ex­pected.

“It was orig­i­nally cre­ated for Strand Ephemera so it was just a mat­ter of get­ting it from my house to the beach,” she said.

“They’re very lengthy in­struc­tions. When you do it your­self it seems very straight­for­ward but when you’ve ac­tu­ally got to con­vey that to a third party you re­alise all of the de­tails you have to tell them about.

“Be­ing a semiper­ma­nent piece means you can’t con­crete it into the ground so it had to be some­thing that could go into the ground and then be brought up quite eas­ily with­out ma­chin­ery on the beach.”

Set­ting up the arch­way pro­vides quite the spec­ta­cle for passers-by though. Once all the chairs are at­tached to the frame, the whole thing is lifted as one by rope, an­cient Egyp­tian style.

Ben­nett is hop­ing the piece is wel­comed as en­thu­si­as­ti­cally by SWELL fes­ti­val crowds as it was by Townsvil­lians who came up with in­ter­est­ing and un­ex­pected ways to in­ter­act with it.

“I got lots of re­ally, re­ally great com­ments about how in­ter­ac­tive it was. Peo­ple would go down and sit un­der­neath it and jump through. I’ve got a few pho­to­graphs of peo­ple play­ing ukule­les un­der­neath it. There were peo­ple do­ing yoga jumps through it,” she said.

“I al­ways hope peo­ple see it as an in­ter­ac­tive piece. I’m not re­ally into the idea that art should just be viewed be­hind glass. I get a big kick out of watch­ing peo­ple be­ing around my art­work and see­ing what they do with it. It makes the piece more than it is.”

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