Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku. ‘Looking at many beautiful lights.’ That’s the Pitjantjatjara name for Bruce Munro’s ‘Field of Light’ installation at Uluru in Australia. (Pitjantjatjara is one the two main languages of the Anangu, the local Indigenous group.)
‘Field of Light’ is an art installation that Munro has created in many sites across the world: London’s V&A Museum, the Eden Project, Cornwall, St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Cheekwood Museum, Nashville, Mexico City.
But in bringing it to Uluru, Field of Light has in some sense returned home. For it was in Uluru, during a road trip across Australia in 1992, that Munro conceived of it: ‘I saw in my mind a landscape of illuminated stems that, like dormant seeds in a dry desert, quietly wait until darkness falls, under a blazing blanket of southern stars, to bloom with gentle rhythms of light’. Munro noted the idea in his sketchbook, though it was not for another 12 years that it came to fruition, first at the V&A Museum in London, before being recreated at other sites in Britain and abroad.
The installation consists of tens of thousands of acrylic ‘stems’ on which sit spheres that can change colour. In the case of the Uluru Field of Light there are 50,000 stems and bulbs in an area some 49,000 sq metres, with 380 km of fibre-optic cabling and 36 solar panels to drive it all. The lights are switched on just after sunset and just before sunrise. The effect depends on perspective. At a distance it is like a vast, undulating, shimmering field of abstract blossom. Close up, the individual spheres look beautiful but also strange and alien, and at times almost like neurones firing. It is captivating but also a bit too easy. It is a work that beguiles, but does not challenge or provoke. Undeniably, though, it is a mesmerising experience. So, as a coda to my post on Uluru and Kata Tjuta, here are some images of Munro’s installation at Uluru. It was difficult to photograph. The excitement of the Uluru Field of light rests not simply in the installation but, of course, in the location, too. But with a handheld camera (I did not have my tripod with me), at night, it was almost impossible to photograph both the installation and the location. So, these are more abstract images of the Uluru Field of Light.