Playable sculpture brings community together

23 May 2023
Sanne Mestrom’s new work The Secret
Dr Sanne Mestrom from the Sydney College of the Arts has created a sculpture that invites the community to gather and connect at the site of a traditional gathering place. Commissioned by the City of Geelong, The Secret reflects Dr Mestrom's aim to use art as a bridge between the built and natural environments and as means to create a place of refuge and play.

Boronggook, meaning ‘turf’, is the traditional Wadawurrung name for the area the new Boronggook Drysdale Library is built. It has always been a place of gathering and connection and Sanne Mestrom’s newly commissioned work, The Secret, reflects on both the historical and contemporary use of the site. 

“The title of the sculpture weaves together two ideas intrinsic to the site: the contemporary library – as a place of learning and discovery, and the historical significance of the site – a boronggook, a fecund grassy turf – which became a place of gathering and connection,” said Dr Mestrom.

Both the historical and contemporary use of the site holds untold stories that are to be shared and secrets that are to be imagined.
Dr Sanne Mestrom, Sydney College of the Arts

The artwork, a black concrete sculpture with brass inlay, is intended to be a place where people can create their own stories and build their own histories. It is designed to capture the imaginations of community members of all ages.

“It’s a sculpture that can be played on, crawled through and sat upon. Its use is completely open-ended. People can imagine themselves in its forms and create their own experiences with it – experiences that will create unique, personal and enigmatic memories.”

City of Geelong Mayor, Trent Sullivan said The Secret is an exciting addition to the Council’s collection of more than 300 public artworks, monuments, memorials and industrial objects.

“With its circular design and green rooftop, the Boronggook Drysdale Library is already a focal point in the area and The Secret will only attract further attention, invite interaction and foster connection,” Mayor Sullivan said.

Councillor Ron Nelson, Chair of the Geelong Regional Library Corporation Board said artworks like The Secret add to the sense of community and creativity that libraries do so well to foster.

The Secret is already helping to develop a more cohesive community by being a continuation of libraries and encouraging people to interact with each other about art and creative concepts,” Cr Nelson said.

“Our youngest visitors are thoroughly enjoying climbing and having fun on the structure, motivating them to be creative in their play both inside and outside the library.”

As Senior Lecturer at Sydney College of the Arts, Dr Sanne Mestrom’s practice-led research seeks to incorporate play into a socially engaged practice to question the social consequences of urban design. Her current research investigates ways that art in public places – and urban design more broadly – can become critically integrated, inclusive, and interactive spaces.

Her projects bring together sculpture and the body to examine the role of art in rewriting current definitions of play as relating to the physical, experiential, and ideological conditions of place. She says creating temporary and permanent sculptural forms that respond to the built environment, and our movement through it, softens the separation of art and everyday life.

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