Rising: The Wilds at Sidney Myer Music Bowl
The evening sky is suffused with a faint kaleidoscopic light. Somewhere out of sight, a choir is belting out a familiar pop tune, the words not quite audible. All around you, a slow tide of rugged-up bodies shuffle out of the dark, like moths toward a flame. Anticipation is in the air.
You round the back of Sidney Myer Bowl and catch your first glimpse of the visual banquet. Projections flicker across the amphitheatre. A field of screens pulses with vibrant video. And masses of bulbous psychedelic creatures wave in the wind, their insides glowing gently. With their tentacles and lidless muppet eyes, the inflatable doodads could be from another dimension.
This is The Wilds – Rising’s sprawling adult playground – rebooted, revised and reimagined for 2022. You’ve never seen the Bowl used to this extent, with the stage and back-of-house areas open for the public to explore. Last year the same site was a vast bamboo forest, complete with mirrored illusions, architectural nooks, sculptures, video art, food and more hiding in its twists and turns. But one of Melbourne’s ubiquitous lockdowns closed the gates almost as soon as they opened.
“Even though we were only open for five hours, I think we learnt quite a lot about just how massive that site is and, once you fill it full of humans, how it functions,” says Hannah Fox, Rising’s co-artistic director. “So we’ve evolved the design to be a lot more ... animated, I guess is the best way to describe it.”
Many, many hands are working to bring this lively atmosphere to life, but Tin Nguyen and Edward Cutting – aka Tin & Ed – are shouldering much of the responsibility. The Melbourne- raised, New York-based duo met at uni, studying visual communication. The video screens, the projections, the friendly inflatables (some of them motorised) – all them. They’re programming the action with Unity, a game engine at the core of indie (and not so indie) titles like Pokémon Go, Hollow Knight, Fall Guys and Untitled Goose Game.
Tin & Ed straddle the parallel worlds of art and design. In addition to showing at traditional galleries, the duo has collaborated with brands such as Nike and Adidas, completed installations in shopping centres and universities, and designed album covers for Chet Faker and Roland Tings. Their work is playful, colourful, optimistic and funny, evincing a sort of pop art quality despite lacking visual references to pop culture.
Leeroy New, a Filipino artist whose aesthetic is similarly colourful and organic, is also doing some heavy lifting with the site’s visual transformation. The artist is best known for his huge, otherworldly sculptures made from recycled materials such as plastic spoons and colanders. At the Bowl he’s working with last year’s bamboo to create flowing new structures within the main food and drink hub (see opposite page), which will be complemented by four other satellite bars to keep the whole site watered. Everything is being designed for winter weather, with braziers and heaters aplenty.
And then there are the roving troupes of performers.
“While the sculpture park last year was really beautiful, it needed that layer of liveness that performance really brings,” Fox says.
The Clams – Melbourne’s self-proclaimed “least professional” water ballet squad – will be roaming about, and cheekily bills its routine as “landed”. So too will Discordia, an eclectic collective of contemporary dancers, drag performers and one opera singer, that’ll pop up at multiple locations and ramp up the spectacle.
And that choir you heard on the way in? That’s the Night Chorus, down by the stage, serenading punters with ’80s and ’90s hits as they skate laps on an ice rink installed for the duration of Rising. The 200-person group is made up of community volunteers, with up to 90 singing on a given night.
This mix of participation, music, art, food and drink is completely new for Melbourne and the Bowl. Even if you made it to The Wilds last year, this year promises to take things to the next level. So: rug up and be the moth to the flame.