Cumulus



Ben Baxter is entering his third installation in a Vivid Festival this year. A participant since the light-walks began, Ben and collaborator Ruth McDermott have been a fixture in the Vivid scene.

Ben, who is completing a Master of Design Science (Illumination Design), teamed up with Ruth to produce Cumulus, a suspended metallic cloud that shimmers with reflected light from strategically placed LEDs.

“We are using contrast – or gloom and illumination – to make it look like the light is flowing out of the cloud,” Ben said. “The LEDs are timed on a six minute cycle, broken into 45 second segments. Each segment the LEDs change into different colours but repeat the effects of a storm cloud.”

Ben and Ruth’s inspirations have come from diverse experience. Ben says that his experiences in India really gave him the idea that would later become Cumulus.

“I went to Amritsa, the golden temple, in India. There is a big moat of water around the temple and a lot of light shooting onto the temple itself. The temple reflects in the water. It was a really amazing experience. That’s why we wanted a surface that is reflecting,” Ben said.

“It’s also a storm cloud because each year we’ve been in Vivid, it has always rained!”

The cloud itself is a structure of perforated metal that interlocks in a criss-crossed design. LEDs are positioned to reflect off the internal honeycomb created by the structure. Ben and Ruth were originally concerned that their structure would be too heavy to become a reality.

“The engineers were originally saying it was going to weigh 360 kilograms. That’s obviously a problem. In the end it only weighs 80 kilograms because of the attention we spent to construction and the design. We went back and forth for weeks with the engineering plans and took a team of three five whole days to construct it. And then we had to look at suspending it off a heritage-listed building.”

“It’s a bit like giving birth,” Ben says. “You don’t want to actually carry the baby; you just want it at the end.”

Ben is excited to be down on site when the public start coming. After installation this week, he’s looking forward to seeing people’s reactions to his suspended, metallic cloud.

“I think this is the fun part. This is when you go and actually interact with the viewer and the community and you get feedback. This is like an exhibition opening and you get to feel like an artist and mingle with people and get their feedback and that’s always fantastic,” Ben said.


Ben says that with festivals like Vivid, there is a plethora of festivals and spaces in which young designers can showcase their work, if they have the confidence.

“There are a lot more opportunities in Sydney than 10 years ago. Vivid is a fantastic opportunity. Sculpture by the sea is a fantastic opportunity. Design Week, Architecture Week, Laneways by George; all of these opportunities exist for young designers.

“You just have to keep positive. Just make an application. Put it in. That’s the hardest part about being a designer – backing yourself and just going for it.”