For those who walked the craggy coastline from Bondi to Bronte last year to browse the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition, there's no way you could have missed Cave Urban's incredible 222-piece installation. This group of creative activists frame their practice in terms of the “study, design and practical application of passive sustainable systems of living”. Their current research folio? Bamboo.
Cave Urban’s installation, titled Mengenang, was the recipient of the Sculpture by the Sea People's Choice Award in 2012, and was created as a stirring tribute to those who died in the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings. Each bamboo pole, tuned to D minor, chimed and whispered in the wind, representing an individual life that was lost, the sound of the bamboo audible above the usual squawk of one of Sydney’s most popular tourist walks. It was a humble and overwhelming mark of respect. Long attributes the choice of note to “J. S. Bach's entire The Art of Fugue, which is in D minor, and also Mozart's Requiem. We thought it a fitting chord for the memory of those lost.”
Long, the founder of the collective, speaks of the inspiration of the piece arising after journalist, artist and fellow Cave Urban associate Lachlan Brown returned from Bali one week before the 2002 bombing. “[We] thought a remembrance, rather than a memorial, as part of the 10-year anniversary of the bombing would be appropriate,” she says.
From there, Long, Brown and Chilean architect and sculptor Juan Pablo Pinto – along with the rest of the team, Brazilian architect Angel Heredia, Alice Nivison and designer Kate Ratner – began to explore bamboo as a material, “its strength, versatility and ephemeral quality… even its ability to sing!”
The collective’s practice is heavily informed by this more lateral approach to materiality. They recently spent time at the Woodford Folk Festival site creating infrastructure from locally sourced materials. Also at Woodford, for a bit of fun, the group recreated the ‘Pineapple Lounge’ at the site for the third time, featuring a whimsical giant pineapple, housing a juice bar, shingled entirely by bamboo sheaths.
If you missed Mengenang last year and are conveniently planning a getaway to Western Australia next month, the sculpture is being reassembled at Sculpture by the Sea Cottesloe in March as a 20-meter diameter circle bamboo forest in the sand. The poles are 6m high on the outer circle and drop to 3 metres in the center, where you can stand and listen to the chords that sound from the bamboo, where sound is blended but rhythm is independent.
In a world with more gas emissions, carbon offsets and concrete playgrounds than we dare to mention, Cave Urban is setting a benchmark for a different, more positive form of modern architecture and design. Make sure you also check out the incredible first folio on bamboo on the Cave Urban website, along with their upcoming projects and investigations into living structures and recycled materials. Future plans for Cave Urban include expanding the work to Japan, Copenhagen, New York and eventually Africa.