Exploring perspectives of place

Macquarie Group

The exhibition, ‘Warrane’ (Sydney language word for Sydney Cove), focuses on perspectives of place. It explores Gadigal custodianship of Country and the influence that Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie had on the physical shape and identity of Sydney. The exhibition was created for Macquarie Group and located at its headquarters in Martin Place.

Crucial to Trigger’s design vision was the desire to communicate a profound sense of Country, through striking, stimulating and powerful audio visual and graphic mediums that embrace poetic and spiritual qualities of ‘place’.

‘Warrane’ was designed and collaboratively conceptualised by Trigger for Macquarie Group at their global headquarters in Martin Place, Sydney. The exhibition was curated by the National Museum of Australia and co-curated by Balarinji. Trigger worked closely with the Gadigal community and our exhibition partners to film, edit, design and deliver all 3D, 2D, AV and digital components, to achieve authentic outcomes that deeply resonate.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is a 4 metre high, bespoke-designed, arched LED screen. It was designed to fit inside and compliment the arched northern heritage cupola. The screen hosts an immersive ‘Welcome to Country’ audio visual piece led by Gadigal Elder Ray Davison. Trigger conceptualised, directed and produced the Welcome to Country film; co-wrote, designed and produced an animated mapping audio visual piece that explains different Aboriginal perspectives on the Sydney language; and animated a poem, spoken in the Sydney Language, written by Joel Davison and performed by Alannah and Tahlia Davison, set against a soundscape written by Tim Moriarty.

Designed to be an immersive experience, the main visual and aural focus of the exhibition is on Gadigal perspectives and voices. At the beginning of the visitor journey, an ancient and prescient power is aroused through a series of 5 metre high illuminated blades featuring rock art from around Sydney, which cascade through the space. Visitors move through a portal opening within each blade, to facilitate the sense of a journey through multiple perspectives. The exhibition is organised into a non-chronological sequence of sub-themed areas that communicate perspectives: ‘Art of Place’, ‘Shaping Place’, ‘Caring for Place’ and ‘Spirit of Place’.

Trigger’s vision in shaping and designing this exhibition was to create a layered, atmospheric and interactive journey for visitors that showcases perspectives of place and responds to the extraordinary heritage character of 50 Martin Place.

The exhibition weaves together the display of objects, physical exhibition interventions, ephemeral digital media, and audio visual aspects to create a non-traditional context in which to view them. Objects include pieces of a dinner set owned by Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie and early coins used during the Macquarie era, including a holey dollar and dump. All objects and graphics are supported by digital and interactive exhibition labels (usually printed physical items in traditionally designed exhibitions) allowing the visitor to drill down as deeply into the layers of content as they wish. A sense of being grounded and connected to Country was integral to the design. Each sub-theme ‘module’ space is anchored by a terrestrial structure inspired by the sandstone topography of Sydney Cove.

The ‘Spirit of Place’ space is centred around the experience of the spoken word, the evocation of the landscape of Sydney through deep time, and connection with the Aboriginal significance of Sydney, using visuals, sound and spatial devices. The communal seating in this space allows visitors to come together or sit alone and reflect on the perspectives of place presented.

The exhibition design engages and intrigues passers-by, drawing in members of the public from Monday to Friday. The over-scaled LED screen is a dynamic attractor and serves to enhance the expansiveness and openness of the exhibition themes.

The grand vertical spatial volume of the 50 Martin Place exhibition space and its magnificent heritage marble interior adds another layer of temporal meaning to the themes of the exhibition. The pared back design and black colour palette offset and enhance the heritage richness of the interior. Digital interventions allowed many layers of meaning to be communicated evocatively and efficiently and avoided the use of expansive graphic elements which would crowd and obscure the space.

This exhibition is a special and important place for Sydneysiders and visitors to the city. It provides an opportunity to engage with our shared history and cultural heritage, inviting us to consider how this has shaped present-day Sydney.