Who else could use some illumination in their lives right about now? If you are ready to get out and take social distancing to a whole new level, take a trip over to Brookgreen Gardens (~1.5 hours away) to see the out-of-this-world exhibit, “Bruce Munro at Brookgreen: Southern Light.”
London-based artist Bruce Munro is known for his immersive light installations inspired by his interest in shared human experience. His displays convey messages of the connectedness of humans + nature, spirituality, and experiences.
The garden’s acquisition of the globally coveted display began when Brookgreen’s Public Exhibits Production and Logistics Manager Jon McGann visited Munro’s exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens in Georgia in 2015. He was captivated by Munro’s work, personally wrote Munro a letter, and pitched the idea to the Brookgreen board multiple times in the following years.
McGann’s dream played out, and Munro visited Brookgreen in 2018 to begin planning. After his visit, Munro stated, “My site visit reinforced the notion of a garden being made up from a series of interconnected outside rooms. It also left me with an impression that the ‘garden rooms,’ populated by figurative sculptures, were surrounded by an untamed landscape. It’s a magical place with an edge of the unknown.”
Take a look at his beautiful displays at Brookgreen, along with the incredibly interesting, clever + thoughtful inspiration for each piece.
Time and Again
“Time and Again” was inspired by Ayers Rock (a.k.a. Uluru) in Australia, and actually made its debut there in 2016. The steel “lilies” are marked with a time-code pattern, symbolizing Munro’s realization that 25 years after he saw Uluru, it had not changed, but he had. The vision behind this piece is that present time is linked to a significant past + an undefined future. Munro stated, “By day the installation lies dormant, quietly marking time of the clouds and sky. By night the central hub of each lily shimmers with radial starbursts of light.”
2,500 filled water bottles make up the “Water Towers” exhibit. Lighted optic fibers connected to light projectors fill the inside of the bottles, and change color along with the ethereal music that is played in the background. The colors change as each tower “hears” the music, which results in a rhythmic display. This display is inspired by Lyall Watson’s novel, “Gifts of Unknown Things,” as well as synesthesia – a neurological condition that allows someone to hear colors + see sounds.
“Fireflies” consists of delicately lit wiring that resembles flowing water. This display is site-specific, which means Munro uses the venue as inspiration for its arrangement. For Brookgreen, Munro used the firefly lights to illuminate the iconic live oak trees, which he believed promoted a sense of wellbeing + empathy.
The “Hive” is an incredibly eerie, very captivating display. This exhibit uses Brookgreen’s Bell Tower, which is an ancient structure with hexagon-shaped lattice making up each wall. Munro played with the idea that the tower was in fact a giant, man made beehive. Each hexagon is filled with an illuminated piece that contains a single painted bee, and is accompanied by the sounds of buzzing + the chiming bell.
Okonjima Choral Society
Our southern frogs that love to talk at night have a new competitor: the “Okonjima Choral Society.” These alternating lights are accompanied by the sounds of African frogs, which were inspired by Munro’s trip to Okonjima wildlife reserve in Namibia. When the sun would begin to set, the colors were incredibly vibrant, and so were the sounds of frogs. For the exhibit, he used the traditional seating arrangement of a choir, and different species of frogs “sit” where the tenor, alto + soprano sections would be, and lights alternate with the different frog calls.
“Reflections” is a projected display that gives off psychedelic + calming vibes. While the patterns that flow along with background music seem randomized, they are actually digital light forms of Morse code. The messages behind each visual phrase are derived from C.S. Lewis’ Narnian stories, a poem by William Wordsworth + Buddist meditation exercises. He even incorporated the chemical equation for photosynthesis.
Field of Light
Get ready to immerse yourself in a dream. “Field of Light” is arguably the most popular display in this collection, which consists of thousands of illuminated stems of light that slowly change color. The idea came from Munro’s trip to Australia in 1992, where he felt a sense of energy in the red desert that illuminated ideas + heat. Visitors are able to immerse themselves in the glowing field and enjoy the beautiful lights on the ground as well as the vast expanse of stars in the night sky. This display is also popular among Brookgreen turkeys, who try to pull them out of the ground each night.
So, how will Brookgreen operate a public display while adhering to social distancing protocol? Here are some of the new, temporary rules:
○ Maximum occupancy will be significantly decreased until further notice.
○ Guests will have to wait, six feet apart, in line to enter the exhibit. Entry will be staggered.
○ Guests must remain spread out.
○ Walkways will temporarily operate as one-way.
○ Child + adult strollers will not be available.
○ Face masks are not required, but are strongly encouraged. All staff will be required to wear masks.