City Art Laneways, a new initiative by the City of Sydney, aims to revitalise underused public spaces through temporary art installations created by local artists.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the City of Sydney invited local artists and creative thinkers to submit proposals for temporary public artworks that interrogate, evaluate and reorient civic spaces, and also influence people’s experiences of the city. Four artists were selected for the public art program and granted up to $50,000 each to see their ideas come to life.

The temporary artworks commissioned by the City of Sydney were recently installed across the city centre, and included a biodiverse urban micro forest and an interactive fortune-teller among others.

“These four artworks are part of our plan to revitalise the city centre, support local businesses and artists, and create jobs across the summer period,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“While we must continue to be vigilant against COVID-19, including following health advice, wearing masks and staying home and getting tested if unwell, many office workers and visitors will return to the city in 2021.

“These works will transform many people’s daily experience of our city and add an element of surprise, humour and intrigue,” the Lord Mayor said.

Barlow Street Forest by Dirt Witches

Conceptualised and created by collaborative environmental group, Dirt Witches, this installation on Barlow Street represents a micro forest made up of native species to recreate the layers of a natural ecosystem. Over 30 species belonging to the critically endangered eastern suburbs banksia scrub as well as beehives containing sugarbag stingless native bees are incorporated in this installation. A series of public talks will be held during the display period.

“The talks focus on environmental topics from a range of perspectives including scientists, poets, academics, environmentalists and artists,” Barlow Street Forest project curator Vivienne Webb said.

“This project aligns with local and international movements to establish fast growing, dense and biodiverse plantings.”

Ever Sun by Rochelle Haley

This suspended installation on Wilmot Street responds to the mood of the weather, and opens the public space to a sensitive play of light. The full effect of the artwork can be experienced by viewing it at different times of the day.

“The work is a reminder of the cycles of life as constant and spectacular as the rising and setting of the sun,” artist Rochelle Haley said.

“It offers an inspiring space to walk and reflect, feel nurtured by colour and light, and be together in public, sensitively, in a way that reminds us of the resilience, necessity and beauty of art.”

This artwork will be installed soon.

We Are All Astonishingly Wise by Katy Plummer

We Are All Astonishingly Wise

Image: We Are All Astonishingly Wise by Katy Plummer; Photo credit Jessica Lindsay

The fortune-telling video installation, We Are All Astonishingly Wise on Abercrombie Lane offers passers-by an interactive experience wherein they can have their card drawn by a pink furry ghost wearing a crown and snazzy green shoes.

Giant Badges by Adam Norton

In keeping with the times, giant badges mounted on lamp posts on Barrack Street use provocative and prophetic slogans drawing on archival materials from apocalyptic sci-fi films, pop culture and counterculture, to bring attention to climate and public health emergencies.

The City Art Laneways temporary public art program runs from January 2021 to July 2021.