Empty Coolamons: In Memoriam to the Stolen Generations is a powerful and incredibly beautiful exhibition experience. The design’s simplicity belies the evocation of response in the viewer. The subtlety, dignity and respect of the design approach and resolution is exemplary. The jury felt that more of these qualities could be employed in all types of interior design projects. The exhibition demonstrates a dignified balance of artistic installation and design that elicits a deep emotional response, allowing the viewer to empathize with the essence of loss.
Robyne Latham’s immersive temporary exhibition Empty Coolamons at Melbourne Museum honours and recognizes the stolen generations of Australia. The designers worked collaboratively with Latham, whose brief was to create a sacred space with an ethereal feel, where the split between subject and object are reduced, such that the viewer becomes part of the installation. The four-stage spatial design takes the viewer on a journey through the installation. The outer chamber showcases an historic wooden coolamon. Oversized acrylic text panels provide the underlying narrative and context. The entry corridor is an evocative transitional space. Its glowing blue scrim ceiling draws the viewer from a large outer chamber to a narrowing doorway. This doorway dramatically frames the artworks within and transports the viewer through to the dark cavernous installation space. There, copper wire coolamon sculptures are suspended above a row of low plinths that run down the middle of the room. Finally, a white scrim wall conceals three more coolamon sculptures, which, ghost-like, appear and disappear with changing lighting.
The Award for Installation Design is supported by Bespoke. The Australian Interior Design Awards are presented by the Design Institute of Australia, Diversified Communications Australia and Artichoke magazine. For more images of this project, see the Australian Interior Design Awards gallery.