Heath Ledger – a life in pictures

Shaping an intimate and sensitive exhibition experience celebrating the life and work of one of Australia's most acclaimed and beloved actors

National Film and Sound Archive

For this project, Trigger created a comprehensive modular exhibition system for the National Film and Sound Archive’s magnificent art deco space. Trigger then designed the ‘Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures’ blockbuster exhibition for the system’s first use.
This exhibition required Trigger to address a two-fold brief: to restage an exhibition originally designed for a much larger space and enhance the story, curation and sense of Heath Ledger the person; and, to create an exhibition system and kit of parts, in sympathy with the heritage building, that the NFSA could use for future exhibitions.
The wonderful double height space at the NFSA was full of opportunity and possessed unique ambience and heritage character — including art deco reliefs of stylised animals, fluted columns and zig-zag buttresses. Trigger sought to celebrate the unique heritage features which made this space so distinctive without detracting from the stories of  the exhibition. To achieve this, Trigger created an “insert” system of displays that did not obscure historic details.
Trigger worked closely with curator Allison Holland to address the compression of the exhibition into a smaller space and to complement the experience of exhibition themes using a dynamic layout that suggested multiple journeys and did not prescribe a specific trajectory.
The goal was to create an intimate experience that spoke to the sensitive aspects of Ledger’s character. The exhibition layout allowed space for the visitor to reflect and a feeling of openness, facilitating an understanding of Ledger as a person for whom art was an integral part of life. Trigger introduced large-scale photographs, working with the curator to select images with a personal dimension, rather than classic movie shots. A dialogue between these images, objects, video and digital elements created an emotional context for objects.
An innovative lighting solution was key to the exhibition kit of parts. We worked with lighting designer Ben Cisterne to create an ingenious and cost-effective custom linear lighting rig in a thin strip sensitively mounted to the heritage balustrade. This allowed the double height ceiling to remain unencumbered by a lighting rig and created a beguiling linear ‘strip of stars’ to surround the exhibition.
Trigger’s approach embodies an understanding of how to create beautiful, sculptural elements that not only sit comfortably within heritage and ‘quirky’ architectural spaces, but leverage spatial qualities to enhance the interpretive experience.
The design outcome is a system with multiple usage adaptability for future exhibitions. Additional infrastructure elements can be added to it seamlessly. This equipped the NFSA with an exhibition and infrastructure plan to effectively utilise its variety of spaces for its exhibitions program.

The hugely popular exhibition had 12,000 people pass through its doors in the first month since opening.