Arts & culture

Kombumerri artist's Welcome to Country will mix Dreamtime with screen time

Big City Lights*

July 8, 2022

A spine-tingling mesh of tradition and technology launched nightly with a celebration of First Nations culture will transform the Gold Coast over four nights in July.

Kombumerri artist Lann Levinge’s family and culture has been integral to the Gold Coast for generations.

One of Levinge’s multi-modal artworks that celebrates his deep understanding of the Gold Coast’s “sense of place, the saltwater, sand, and serenity” will soon be up in lights in the Gold Coast’s newest festival in way he never before imagined.

A traditional of the Gold Coast, with Kombumerri, Nughi and Quandamooka Ancestry from the Gold Coast up to Moreton Bay, North and South Stradbroke Islands, Levinge has created a vast body of work as a singer and multi-instrumentalist who has moved to digital platforms to create videos and soundscapes.

Big City Lights*

“My inspiration is the water and being near the saltwater. I just love that element of trying to capture a story and have people connect to it,” Levinge said.

Levinge has channelled his generational knowledge into a Welcome to Country that will launch the nightly program for the inaugural Gold Coast festival BIG CITY LIGHTS*, which will transform the staid and steady Southport CBD into a showcase of inspirational splendour.

Levinge’s Welcome to Country, called Sense of Place, will be simultaneously projected onto six buildings across the Southport CBD to kick off the festival each evening. Filmed with the help of his father Ray, a long-time resident and Elder of the community, Sense of Place celebrates a distinct moment for the Gold Coast and for the Levinge family.

To create the piece for the new festival, he said he delved back into his family’s history and connection to the Gold Coast.

From his great, great grandfather a former Southport Harbour Master, who once manually lit the beacons to guide fisherman, well before the automatic systems that guide superyachts today, through to his own stories of growing up locally, Levinge said the core of the piece was the feeling of the Gold Coast.

“The piece is about place and the connection to place.  It’s about capturing the feeling that you get when you are in those areas that have significance to you,” he said.

“I just went to these places and filmed what I could see and what I could feel.”

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Levinge, who is also compiling Indigenous oral histories from the Gold Coast, said the experience during the pandemic had helped people slow down and appreciate the natural surrounds of the city.

One of the more remarkable by-products of the Covid restrictions and shutdowns was the re-emergence of native wildlife on the Gold Coast, he said.

“There were a lot more dugongs and dolphins and all sorts of things after nine months or so of humans not being around so much.

“We haven’t seen dugongs like that coming out every day for such a long time.  It was like our place was renewing itself a little bit.”

He said identifying that connection and the calm amid the rush and hurry of the Gold Coast, was central to Sense of Place.

“I find comfort in feeling the salty layer crack and turn to dust upon my drying skin after sharing the ocean,” Levinge said.

“With sand under bare feet, grounded and open, I’m embraced by the ghosts of many Ancestors who continue to gift us pathways and many opportunities. They whisper their guidance.”

The screening each night of Sense of Place will be followed by works during BIG CITY LIGHTS* that cover the fields of light, installation, sound, architecture and digital design, turning Southport into a unique and colourful moving canvas.

Entire buildings will be wrapped in images and lights or, in a work by Tina Havelock Stevens called Thunderhead, you may find yourself trapped in a supercell phenomenon, spinning through a lonely, open landscape. In another creation, Dancing Particle, infrared sensors scan your body and project you at large scale onto buildings around the precinct.

BIG CITY LIGHTS*, delivered by Placemakers* Gold Coast that is best known for the city’s flagship annual arts festival BLEACH*, aims to highlight Queensland and the Gold Coast as a global cultural destination.

Most of the works on the cutting-edge program are free during the four-night exhibition.