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Oceanarium is a multi-artwork collaborative art project that will culminate with the presentation of an immersive, child-centered installation at Warrnambool’s 2016 Fun4Kids Festival.

Four local artists working across textiles, mixed media, sculpture and film will partner with marine biologists from Warrnambool’s Deakin University to make interconnected art spaces that generate one cohesive installation. Playing on the concept of “marine biomes” the artists will combine different media and materials to create “art biomes” that mimic the sensory richness of the area’s marine world.  A curated program of community events will enable community members to participate in and contribute to Oceanarium in the lead-up to the festival.

Oceanarium emerged from the joy and wonder Lead Artist Becky Nevin Berger experienced when visiting Warrnambool’s rock pools with her young family. Realising that wintery weather prohibited families visiting the region for the Fun4Kids Festival from experiencing the rock pools led to the idea of instead simulating this environment indoors.

After almost two years in development the celebration of place that Oceanarium embodies has grown. In forming collaborations with artists, marine biologists, Fun4Kids Festival management and other community partners Oceanarium has the potential to engage many hundreds of people on a unique arts-led program that celebrates and enriches local knowledge, culture, community and landscape.

The Oceanarium installation will extend across 250sqm of exhibition space at the Warrnambool Art Gallery during Fun4Kids 2016. It will be comprised of the following installation works:

Rocky Shore Wonder Place by Becky Nevin Berger
A 95sqm expanse of rock pools crafted from reinforced ply board and presented in three sections. Designed to be climbed on these timber formations will be surfaced with many different tactile materials. Coloured Perspex and LED strip lighting will animate this sculpted shoreline. Rock pools, caverns and trap door rock flaps will be inhabited by marine life represented through sculpture, textiles, engraving and painting.

Deep Ocean Other World by Karen Richards
This intriguing space will recreate the mysterious, dark world found in the deep waters beyond the continental shelf. Three-dimensional embroidered sculptures will be crafted from glass-coated thread design to be activated by light. In this guided journey children and families will find giant squid, coral gardens and angler fish illuminated only by their head torches.

Woven Forest Whale Sanctuary by Deb Saunders
This dense, three-metre high “Woven Kelp Forest” will be made of woven fabric and enchanted by the sounds of whale songs and coloured lights. This collaborative textile sculpture will involve community workshops prior to and during the Fun4Kids Festival. Deb Saunders will construct the large woven artwork using material produced through community based workshops. Children and families will add to the woven forest through guided workshops within the festival.

Open Ocean Video Sphere by Colleen Hughson
This work will be presented across multiple video channels that use high and low tech ideas to produce an interactive video space. The footage in this space will be crowd-sourced from local community members’ underwater, surf and coastal footage. Children will play in this space using different objects and reflective surfaces to manipulate the projected light.

Colleen will also contribute to two other video spaces within the Rocky Shore Wonder Place. First will be experimental videos made by participants in a series of film making workshops delivered by Colleen in the pre-festival program.  These films will use crowd-sourced footage and Deakin University Marine Biology footage and will be played on analogue television screens embedded in the sculpture. Second will be a series of experimental films made solely by Colleen designed to interact with a section of the Rocky Shore sculpture.

Interaction and Participation
A participatory program in which children take on the role of “Explorers of Marine Creativity” will build on the tactile and interactive design of the Oceanarium installation. The content and format of this participatory activity will be developed in conjunction with the Lead Artist, Warrnambool Art Gallery’s Education Officer and the Marine Biologists.

Community members are invited to be involved in Oceanarium through a series of opportunities which include: submitting footage to the Open Ocean Video Sphere film callout; participating in experimental film making workshops; and weaving workshops offered at community workshops as well as at the Port Fairy Folk Festival, the Flagstaff Hill “Day on the Hill” and the Warrnambool Art Gallery. Local students will also benefit from a series of weaving and film making workshops presented in schools.

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