Vivid 2017 Tripping the Light Fantastic in a Royal Wolf Shipping Container

A Royal Wolf shipping container has been transformed into a world where light and sound converge for an interactive art work as part of Vivid Sydney.

Chromesthesia is the latest installation by Australian multidisciplinary artists, Jonathon Bolitho and Harry Hock, which is housed inside a container on the Sydney waterfront.

The pair use light, sound and advanced systems technology to create interactive art works. The concept for their Vivid installation comes from wanting to explore a neurological condition known as Chromesthesia, where sounds involuntarily create an experience of colour for people who suffer from the disorder.

“It affects quite a lot of people,” says Bolitho, “and we wanted to create more awareness of the condition but also create a live example of it so everyone could experience it.”

Using a container, supplied by leading shipping container company Royal Wolf, enabled them to create an entirely immersive experience for viewers as they walk through the containerised space.

“We wanted to make it all encompassing and the container helps us do this by creating a passage way so people can walk into it and through it. Our aim as artists, and with this work in particular, is to expand people’s understanding of their environment and to invoke a heightened sensory awareness,” he says.

The artists spent a month fitting out the interior of the Chromesthesia container with wiring, lights, and ultrasonic speakers to bring the installation to life.

Instead of building walls inside the container, they created a fabric shell over the corrugated interior walls using a special light-diffusing material.

The set-up of the speaker system enables multiple sounds to be heard in isolated parts of the container – and as people move from one end to the other “they create melodies of sounds as the colours blur into one”.

For example, as the viewer enters the container they become immersed in bands of colour that correspond to a particular sound frequency coming from the speakers. So, when the viewer is standing in the blue band of light, they will hear a tone in the note of C.

“It’s all about broadening our understanding of how we perceive and gather information from our senses and therefore move toward a more holistic perceptual experience of the world around us,” says Bolitho.

It is the first time the duo have worked with containers and Bolitho loves the simplicity of the big steel boxes and how adaptable and flexible they can be.

“You can adapt them to anything and everything you can think of. When it comes to containers, your creativity is the limit with what you can do with them. We’ve had a fun time working with that simplicity,” he says.

For Bolitho, the strength and security of a container is also key.

“It’s weather proof, storm proof, and people proof which is essential when your art work is sitting on the waterfront and exposed to the elements with thousands of people walking past.”

Chromesthesia will also be appearing at GLOW on the Gold Coast in July.