Adelaide artist Tom Borgas will capture the attention of thousands of music fans at this weekend’s Splendour in the Grass with a large-scale fluorescent pink sculptural installation.
Postdigital Ruins is the result of a commission by the Lismore Regional Gallery and Splendour – one of Australia’s largest music festivals which attracts around 30,000 people to NSW’s Byron Bay and will this year feature acts such as Blur, Boy & Bear, Tame Impala and The Dandy Warhols.
Borgas and his helpers have spent a week battling rainy weather to set up the installation on a 10m x 8m site on the corner of one of the festival’s main thoroughfares in the North Byron Parklands.
It features an archeological dig site, roped off with pink and white-striped poles, in which are buried hundreds of bright pink tiles – motifs of the virtual world – with bits protruding from the earth.
“The idea is that we are an archaeological team that has come to work out what this weird thing is,” Borgas says.
The work incorporates performance. A team of seven people dressed in bright-coloured uniforms will work from midday to midnight during Splendour using pink and white tools to systematically expose areas of the subterranean “virtual landscape” as if they were undertaking an archeological study.
Borgas says Postdigital Ruins resulted from his fascination with the digital world, especially the fact that so much data now exists online in “clouds”.
“So the idea was this speculative notion that what if these clouds of data got so saturated that these things that have been physical and became virtual [then] ruptured and became physical again.
“It’s like a physical manifestation of data and it’s coming out of the ground.”
For Postdigital Ruins, he hand-made 500 individual interlocking triangular-shaped tiles from dental plaster – a material which sets quickly, is strong and weather-proof – then painted them fluorescent pink using signwriting paint. The tools that the “archeologists” (or arteologists) will use for the dig are also painted in pink and white stripes, as is the crate used to transport them.
“I wanted to choose something as synthetic as I could find,” Borgas says, explaining the choice of colour.
“Something that would really stand out and be vibrant and appear as an anomaly in the natural landscape.”
He has been collaborating with a theatre director on the performance element of the work, which will also involve a group of people dressed in white and pink uniforms moving out from the installation to engage with the Splendour crowd throughout the three-day festival.
The scale of the work is bigger than Borgas’s usual projects, as is the huge potential audience. However, he says working as a production assistant at last year’s Splendour helped prepare him for the challenge.
“That was really vital for me in terms of seeing how this space works and what people expect.”
Postdigital Ruins extends some of the ideas expressed in Borgas’s previous solo exhibitions, including Riparian Artefacts (CACSA Project Space) and Postdigital Fragments (Hill Smith Gallery), which also reflected his interest in taking motifs of the virtual world and making them “real things in real space”.
“That kind of idea is really drawing attention to the fact that so much of what we experience at the moment is in a digital format … so the physical world becomes processed and condensed and virtual,” he says.
As a sculptor, he works with an awareness that his pieces need to look good not just in 3D but also on screen, because this is the only way many people will view them.
Postdigital Ruins is being documented by a photographer and on video, and those not lucky enough to have a ticket to Splendour in the Grass can follow the work’s progress on Borgas’s Instagram account and website.
While the installation and performance are a one-off, he also hopes in future to exhibit many of the tools, props and uniforms from the work.