“We should have brought marshmallows,” says a visitor, as they warm their hands near a sculpture holding piping hot coals.

Someone else walking past a large cylindrical installation, one of the many guiding lights through the Adelaide Botanic Garden, comments: “That’s a big heater for your back patio.”

Children get as close as they can to the flames that burn in little pots, as if they are trying to identify all the colours that make up a fire. There are more than 1300 individual flames throughout the garden, so there’s plenty to go around.

As people of all ages instinctively find their own way of connecting with the art, it becomes evident that there is something primal at work. In a world with endless algorithms, screens and feeds to steal our attention, fire – one of the basic elements of life – somehow continues to dazzle us.

This is not the first time Fire Gardens has enchanted the people of Adelaide, with French artistic collective Compagnie Carabosse originally presenting the spectacle as part of the 2020 Adelaide Festival, but it is the first time it has been here in winter for Illuminate Adelaide.

While this version brings back crowd favourites, there are new elements to the 2024 Fire Gardens experience. One of these is in the Bicentennial Conservatory, where white singlets hang from coat hangers, each with a little flame burning inside, illuminating the space through the fabric-like lanterns.

As you make your way through the conservatory, audio plays of people discussing the meaning of life versus the feeling of life. You can’t help but come to see these hanging singlets as figures, and the fire within them representing a life.

Visitors at the Fire Gardens installation in the Bicentennial Conservatory. Photo: Tyr Liang Xplorer Studio

Another new sculpture can be found around a fountain, blending fire and water. The gentle tension between these natural elements is used subtly in this work to captivate audiences.

Crowds can move though the gardens however they choose, which marks a contrast from other light installations we have seen in recent years that guide visitors along a mapped trail. Fire Gardens simply invites you to move towards the next light you see, whether that is a sculpture resembling a DNA spiral, the lake scattered with flames, or a clearing with live music.

Considering fire can be such a brutal element, it’s remarkable how delicately it’s presented in this experience, and how it so gently engages all of our senses. We feel the heat of the work; see how, from a distance, each installation looks like a campsite, a community, or a completely new world; hear the crackling of flames; smell the familiar scent that carries us to memories of backyard bonfires – a scent that will remain in your hair and clothes long after you leave. Many visitors stop to get hot beverages along the way, so perhaps that’s the taste that goes with it.

Fire Gardens is a beautiful reminder that, no matter how much we evolve and progress, when it’s dark and cold, humans will always gather around a fire.

Fire Gardens is at the Adelaide Botanic Garden until July 21 as part of the 2024 Illuminate Adelaide festival.

Make a comment View comment guidelines

Support local arts journalism

Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.

Donate Here

. You are free to republish the text and graphics contained in this article online and in print, on the condition that you follow our republishing guidelines.

You must attribute the author and note prominently that the article was originally published by InReview.  You must also inlude a link to InReview. Please note that images are not generally included in this creative commons licence as in most cases we are not the copyright owner. However, if the image has an InReview photographer credit or is marked as “supplied”, you are free to republish it with the appropriate credits.

We recommend you set the canonical link of this content to https://inreview.com.au/inreview/festivals/2024/07/08/illuminate-review-fire-gardens/ to insure that your SEO is not penalised.

Copied to Clipboard