Are you one of those who love exploring art? Understanding the art installations and visualising or imagining what the artists might be thinking while creating that art piece? I am one of those people even though I am still learning how to appreciate art, especially the ones that are open to interpretation. Last weekend, when I visited the Cockatoo Island for a walk, I accidentally found out about the art installations from the United Kingdom (UK)/Belgium based artist Laure Prouvost.
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Cockatoo Island is one of the islands in Sydney Harbour and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island was used as a convict penal establishment between the period 1839 and 1869. It was used as a place for secondary punishment for convicts who had re-offended in society. The convict penal establishment was closed in the year 1869.
Did you know that the Cockatoo Island was called as Wa-rea-mah by the Indigenous Australians and the island may have been used as a fishing base?
In recent times, Cockatoo Island is used as a landmark attraction with cultural events. It is also a famous site to get some insight into the heritage interpretation. The island is definitely a great site for a day trip within Sydney.
The island has two cafes on the island where one can soak in the sun enjoying the views of the Sydney Harbour, which are absolutely stunning from the island. There is a visitor centre on the island that is open from 10 AM to 4 PM every day. There are also public toilets on the island.
No entrance fee is required to visit the island and it takes around 1.5 to 2 hours (2 kilometres loop) to walk around Cockatoo Island. Ensure to take a map at the visitor centre that gives the detailed guidance on things to see and the walking path.
The reason for naming the island as the Cockatoo Island was because of the many Sulphur-crested Cockatoos that frequented during the 1840s. However, because of the extensive logging that took place during that time, the birds have driven away and were forced to find a new home elsewhere. These days one can see lots of seagulls and keep a watch on their chicks as you will find many.
How to reach Cockatoo Island?
The only way to get to Cockatoo Island is by a public ferry or a kayak. Sydney Ferries run frequent ferries between Circular Quay, Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, Greenwich Point Wharf, and the Cockatoo Island. The ferries run every one hour between 6 AM and 9 PM. These are operated by Transport for New South Wales (NSW) and the most recent and up-to-date information can be found on their website.
The ferry fare can be paid either by Opal card or Credit/debit cards. One needs to tap on before getting on to the ferry and tap off after getting off. The approximate cost of the ferry one way is around AUD 6.
The ferry travel time between Circular Quay and Cockatoo Island is around 20 minutes.
About the artist Laure Prouvost..
Laure Prouvost is a French artist, based in UK and Belgium currently. She is a very well known artist, who won the Turner Prize in the year 2013 for her installation named Wantee. Her work mostly involves installations, collage and filming.
The art installations are in the Dog-Leg tunnel, which is maybe around 150 to 200 metres of a dark tunnel. The tunnel was built in the year 1915 to move the workers from one end of the island to the other side. The most fascinating fact about this tunnel is that when World War II broke out, this was one of the tunnels that were used for shelter to avoid the air-raid.
Note that there is no entrance fee to see these art installations.
It was believed that the Dog-Leg Tunnel was haunted. No wonder the tunnel did give a spooky feeling and the artist chose this place of all the places on the island to exhibit her art installations portraying the relationships with her grandparents.
The art installations are open to interpretation and they did not have any description or a placard explaining the art. However, some of the interesting facts about the installations that the guide/volunteer narrated were:
- All the materials that the art installations were made of were found on Cockatoo Island. Would you believe that there was an art installation that contained a sewing machine and supposedly that the sewing machine was found on the island? How cool is that!
- The art installations were mainly to remember the ancestors especially the grandparents.
- There was a hand sanitizer at one of the art installations that was purposefully left to remind everyone about COVID.
The artist showcases her relationship with her grandparents through the voice-overs and the art installations. I did find a bit spooked with the voice-overs. This may also be a result because of the tunnel that was really dark.
One can take pictures of the installations in the tunnel. Apologies for the quality of the below pictures. I captured them using my iPhone and the tunnel was really dark.
Is Cockatoo Island safe for solo female travelers?
Absolutely yes, it is very safe for solo female travelers. I have visited the island thrice and I have never had any issues while walking around the island. However, I would be a bit careful of the seagulls on the island as they can sweep and hurt you if they think you are a threat. Other than that the island is very safe.
These art installations are definitely very interesting. Honestly speaking I did not understand each one of them displayed and I found the art a bit spooky, especially with the voice-overs along with the art. Even if you are not into art, I recommend visiting Cockatoo Island. It is an awesome place to spend a day and to relax watching the Sydney Harbour.