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Review: Coral – Rekindling Venus

Adelaide Festival

Artist Lynette Wallworth’s immersive film experience is a deep dive into another universe – a coral reef in all its kaleidoscopic glory, writes reviewer Jo Vabolis.

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If we can build a rich personal connection to nature, will we be more deeply invested in saving the planet?

Australian artist Lynette Wallworth is well known for creating immersive installations which use technology to engage the exhibition visitor in an interactive experience of her work.

Many of her pieces stimulate the viewer to move around within the installation space, to carry objects or touch screens, forcing involvement of senses other than sight. In early works such as Hold: Vessel 1 (2001) and Hold: Vessel 2 (2007), Wallworth connected her audience with the beauty and life of the marine environment.

In Coral: Rekindling Venus, created in 2012 for the London Olympics, Wallworth revisits the underwater world. The name of the work references the timing of the original screening; the film premiered in 14 countries simultaneously on the Transit of Venus, a rare astronomical event chosen for its association with unity between warring nations.

The piece consists of 45 spectacular minutes of digital footage projected onto the fulldome screen of the Adelaide Planetarium.

It’s a deep dive into another universe – a coral reef in all its kaleidoscopic glory, pulsating with life and startling diversity.

As we recline and settle into the darkness, we shift our gaze towards the domed ceiling and see plankton, sea dragons and spawning polyps shimmer and glide into view. The creatures fill our field of vision, their ever-changing colours and shapes morphing to form complex patterns of immense beauty.

This is “art meets nature documentary” and the results are mesmerising.

The soundtrack, too, is superb. Compositions by Max Richter, Gurrumul Yunupingu, Antony and the Johnsons (Anohni) and Tanya Tagaq Gillis, with additional music by Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto, evoke an otherworldly tone which, combined with the sumptuous visuals, drags us further into the hypnotic, almost hallucinogenic journey.

Those who are inspired by the film (or who don’t get a chance to view it on the big screen) can download the Coral RKV app to explore a set of interactive posters and access the latest data on sea temperatures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Coral: Rekindling Venus comes with a powerful take-home message. It’s one with which many of us are already familiar, but this time it’s delivered in a unique and moving manner.

Wallworth wishes to offer us “an experience that might build a connection to a community as complex as our own that happens to be underwater; and one at great risk of warming sea temperatures”.

A healthy coral reef is a vibrant, thriving home to many species, whose survival depends on our willingness to take action to reduce global warming. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is already suffering. What happens next is up to us.

Coral: Rekindling Venus is showing at Adelaide Planetarium, Level 2, Building P, UniSA, Mawson Lakes until March 19.

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