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Glowing beady-eyed RATS in Sydney

RATS, installation 58, Hassell Group, VIVID Sydney 2013, Walsh Bay, Sydney, Australia

If you’re wondering if there’s been an outbreak of radioactive rodents in the southern metropolis, you need not worry.

But at the start of the 20th century, the unthinkable happened.

Flea-ridden rats from trading ships swarmed into Sydney in 1900 and brought bubonic plague into Australia. Port authorities built a secondary seawall around the shoreline to help prevent more rats from entering the city, marking a key development in the future evolution of the city’s port facility. As a major port of entry into the country, Sydney was hit hardest, and Australians suffered 12 major outbreaks between 1900 and 1925.

But it’s the 21st-century, the cause and cure for the Black Death are well-known, and outbreaks of the plague are contained to a handful of cases annually.


The Hassell Studio Group

The illumination of various buildings and landmarks provided many highlights at the 2013 VIVID Sydney cultural festival. The festival also included sculptures and art installations located around Sydney Cove, The Rocks, and Walsh Bay. Designers from the HASSELL group created four display installations at VIVID Sydney, including one called “Rats” at Walsh Bay.

From the architecture- and design-blog Archello:

The plague has long gone, but the “rats” are back, represented by 100 floating balls bobbing up and down in the water along Walsh Bay’s Pier 8/9, home to the new Hassell studio which officially opens this week. Black silhouettes of rats appear on the balls. Two LED “eyes” on each glow in the dark.

HASSELL continues with their own description of the installation:

Rats references the invasion of rats that took place in 1900 in The Rocks and Walsh Bay area that resulted in an outbreak of bubonic plague. A program of quarantining the outbreak area followed, as the Sydney Harbour Trust demolished all the existing buildings in the area and created a new rat-proof sea wall to stop rats breeding in the area. The invasion of rats can be seen as the single most defining fact in the development of the area as it is today and the design team used this idea to create the random effect of rats floating the water of Piers 8 and 9 in Walsh Bay. The rats – which try to evoke the slightly eerie feeling of eyes staring out from the dark at passers-by – were crafted by the design team themselves, completely out of material that are associated with the sea and water.

The rats glow in many colours, and their luminous eyes seem to stare right through you. As visitors, you might have been deeply unsettled: either you’d be disturbed by the sight of glowing “rats” lurking on the water’s surface, that there was something menacing in those little beady eyes …

Or perhaps, you’d have recognized them simply as cute colourful blinking spheres of light …

RATS, installation 58, Hassell Group, VIVID Sydney 2013, Walsh Bay, Sydney, Australia

RATS, installation 58, Hassell Group, VIVID Sydney 2013, Walsh Bay, Sydney, Australia

RATS, installation 58, Hassell Group, VIVID Sydney 2013, Walsh Bay, Sydney, Australia

RATS, installation 58, Hassell Group, VIVID Sydney 2013, Walsh Bay, Sydney, Australia

RATS, installation 58, Hassell Group, VIVID Sydney 2013, Walsh Bay, Sydney, Australia

RATS, installation 58, Hassell Group, VIVID Sydney 2013, Walsh Bay, Sydney, Australia

RATS, installation 58, Hassell Group, VIVID Sydney 2013, Walsh Bay, Sydney, Australia

RATS, installation 58, Hassell Group, VIVID Sydney 2013, Walsh Bay, Sydney, Australia

RATS, installation 58, Hassell Group, VIVID Sydney 2013, Walsh Bay, Sydney, Australia

Click here for more photographic highlights from the 2013 VIVID Sydney. I made the above photos near Pier 8/9 at Walsh Bay in Sydney on 25 May 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

4 Responses to “Glowing beady-eyed RATS in Sydney”

    • fotoeins

      Hi, Leah. I think that visceral reaction is true for a lot of people. I know that when I see the word “rats” and anything that’s visually (or physically) associated with rats, I get a brief chill at the back of my neck. But my brain takes over and because I know it’s a sculpture, I’m there long enough to take a few photos. I’m sure the designers understood that reaction, but because of those rats entering Sydney around 1900, the modern development of its harbour began to take shape. Thanks for reading and for your comment, Leah!

      Like

    • fotoeins

      Hi, Charlotte. I think the sculpture is very interesting, especially at night, although I can understand how much “deeper” the reaction might be, if someone is already freaked out by rats. What I forgot to capture was aside from changing colours, the eyes on those little rat spheres would blink, making them a little more “alive”. Talk about a gut reaction! Danke für deinen Kommentar! 🙂

      Like

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