BollART: The Sonic Bollard


BollART: the Sonic Bollard prototype

A prototype art-bollard with a theremin, dead-drop WIFI music share, interactive theremin-driven LEDs, and a Gothamesque shell cut on the laser cutter. An artistic bollard, or BollART, re-imagines the mundane Urban Bollard Space as a ready-made sculpture garden, in which multiple artists, schools, hacker teams etc from around WA are invited to decorate and bling up a standard bollard exoskeleton. The Sonic Bollard was Team Artifactory's winning entry to the 2015 ArtHack / Hack The Festival competition hosted at Space Cubed, 20-27 February 2015.


Team Artifactory (L2R: SKoT, Morgan, Meg, Tim, Craig) being awarded the Prize by Director General of the WA Department of Culture and the Arts, Duncan Ord.

(left to right) SKoT McDonald (exoskeleton), Morgan Strong (documentation), Tim Gilchrist (LEDs), Meg Travers (theremin, dead-drop), Craig Wales (3d prototyping & rendering); being awarded the Prize by Director General of the WA Department of Culture and the Arts, Duncan Ord.


a $5000 cheque-carrot. Also Art. Also Blinky.

Do who want a BollART of your own? Do you want to display BollART?

Contact: EMAIL US

Liner Notes

Public art

Whilst New Land Marks (Bach P, 20001) defines Public Art simply as “art placed in public spaces and places”, there is much more to the creation of a successful work than simple location. Public Art is a hotly debated topic, drawing academics and thinkers to discuss populist vs elitist works, cultural democracy in public art, and the role and ability of such works to communicate with an audience that has not (necessarily) consciously decided to engage with the work.

With these thoughts in mind, our team has developed a Public Artwork that:

  • Invites accidental as well as purposeful engagement;
  • Demonstrates an example of an artwork that is also a “good citizen” to people with visual impairment;
  • Provides a way for artists to present directly to their current as well as potential local audience;
  • Requires no special skills to engage with, yet opens doors for enquiry into music, history and technology.

The Concept

The bollard is a common object in any urban landscape, serving as a barrier to certain activities or modes of transport, but the bollard also offers opportunities to house infrastructure for other things. They represent an underappreciated, readily available and numerous art-space with high foot-traffic, a human scale, and a fun set of constraints to fire the imagination. The BollART is a vessel within which a range of experiences can be tailored by individual artists, to create an item to convey their ideas.

The Artifactory team wished to create a first BollART which would could be adapted by others to suit their own interests. This team was inspired to build a BollART that reflected a 1920’s Gotham City aesthetic, and contains sound and music infrastructure to reflect the interests of the members.

This project was partly inspired by observations of people in the Perth Cultural Centre; their interactions with public artworks in situ, and also the difficulties apparent for people with visual impairment in negotiating such a space despite a great deal of tactile paving. For example, the existing sound garden installation near the WA Museum attracts children, but few adults; and as a largely auditory experience it is almost unusable by someone with a visual disability. Theremins are a unique musical instrument, requiring no physical contact with the instrument to perform on it. They have inspired budding technicians and musicians to attempt mastery of their construction and playing, and they remain a popular instrument both for the casual experimenter and the serious “thereminista”. A visual light show, activated upon specified musical parameters being met, provides a “reward” to people engaging with the theremin, thus providing incentive to extend play, and also learn the musical language that will produce this effect. This part of the Sonic BollART installation also acknowledges the enormous popularity of the City of Melbourne’s Giant Theremin.

Addressing the dual problems of distribution for unsigned musicians in the 21st century, and Perth’s current issues of finding audiences and venues for local music, The Sonic BollART also hosts a wireless, offline file-sharing service for local musicians to place their recordings, and for any member of the public to download these. In a nod to MOMA’s successful Dead Drops installation, this service provides a kind of Musical Parkour, giving a direct route for people in an area to discover music and musicians that are around them via a wireless data connection that does not rely on any other infrastructure, nor present a risk of over-utilising expensive 3G and 4G data services. Using the tag “Un-cloud your music and find your local audience”, this system also encourages public discourse on the government monitoring and metadata collection from Internet-based systems.

Commercial and Commission Potential

Theremins remain in commercial production as musical instruments, and are also used as per their original design, as burglar alarms in Russian banks. We feel that this usage of them gives another dimension to the uses of this technology (as an accessibility tool), whilst also providing a playful, interactive musical experience that people of all ages and ability may enjoy.

Staff at the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority have given in-principle agreement to installation of these BollARTs in the Perth Cultural Centre. This location would provide an ideal location not only for the playful theremin side of the installation, but also a convenient central place where people can sit and discover music around their own city at their leisure.

A broader BollART scheme would involve dozens of local artists and technicians. Each would customize a BollART within the design parameter space. The Scheme would turn existing bollard-rich urban pedestrian thoroughfares into diverse sculpture gardens. There are parallels with the multi-city “cowparade” events, which have hundreds of custom-painted bovines. Perth has been subject to a cowparade itself! However, there is an important difference - every BollART is fundamentally useful in the urban environment. It is not just Public Art, but a necessary part of the city fabric. A BollART is the Ordinary coaxed from a culturally invisible raison d'être to instead delight and engage passersby…

Quoting the quotidian quixotically: arise, accessible art: bon BollART!

  • projects/sonicbollard.txt
  • Last modified: 2020/03/12 12:49
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