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Your free what's on guide to the NT


Experiencing Alice Springs/Mparntwe is a submersion into the natural world. Hugged by the MacDonnell Ranges, these natural curiosities are constant visual elements, and we are lucky to be in their presence. But what about the experience of the natural world that is left to chance or luck?

By Hannah Muir

A bush track can be hiked one hundred times without seeing a single roo, and a flock of budgies can whoosh past while your eyes are peeled for something else. It’s unpredictable and it’s meant to be that way.

Echoing the luck we are beholden to with the wonders of the environment is the beautiful floating sculptures of Australian artist Patricia Piccinni, which can only fly if the conditions are perfect. Her evocative hot air balloon’s Skywhalepapa and Skywhale have left their home at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) to tour Australia, and this month, they’re set to soar above the desert.

Curator of Australian Art at the NGA Elspeth Pitt, currently on tour with Patricia and the Skywhales, says bringing the art to a wider audience is a major aim of the tour.

“We’re connecting with communities and targeting audiences that may not, for whatever reason, often go to galleries. For Patricia, it’s really important not to just sail in and present the work then leave, she really wants to connect with people, and we want to work with the community.”

The Skywhales are buxom and unconventionally beautiful beasts. They are awkwardly cumbersome on the ground but when they can take to the sky, they gracefully soar. A reminder that every creature has a place. They comment on family, community, the unconventional nature of our lives and, as such, inspire empathy and a sense of identity amongst their audience who experience them communally.

“There are such few opportunities for people to come together as a community in a non-competitive way. There’s a moment as the sun’s rising and these strange and awe-inspiring creatures come to life, and it’s just a wonderful experience,” Elspeth says.

Fittingly, the plans for the Alice Springs showing are up in the air. While the flight is scheduled for later this month, weather and conditions may affect this.

Skywhales: Every Heart Sings is a free event, though bookings are essential. Keep your eyes on the Araluen Arts Centre website for the juicy details of when and where you’ll find these majestic sky treasures.

Skywhales: Every Heart Sings

Photos: Artist Patricia Piccinni pictured with Skywhalepapa and Skywhale

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