Federation Square will be transformed into a veritable bat haven with 200 flying bat sculptures suspended from the cavernous heights of The Atrium in an awe-inspiring new exhibition by Melbourne artist, Kathy Holowko called Batmania.
Commissioned by Fed Square’s Creative Program, Batmania was inspired by Kathy Holowko’s fascination with the fruit bat – the unique wild urban animal that adds a touch of gothic beauty to Melbourne skies. The artist’s work celebrates the local bat as an intriguing and iconic addition to Melbourne city.
200 life sized bats, which are made from laser cut steel, garbage bags, plaster and paint are individually hung from The Atrium and morning and evening, an accompanying soundscape is played that brings the installation to life.
Kathy worked with sound artist Darius Kedros to create the soundscape by recording bats as they returned home to their colony to roost after a nocturnal pilgrimage and also had an in-studio recording session with live bats in his sound studio.
As successful colonisers in urban areas, fruit bats are a rare example of the coexistence of human and wild animals in a shared habitat. The bat is experienced by people up to 50 kilometres from its roost in Melbourne’s CBD as it travels vast distances each night in search of food, yet for many it still remains a mystery and an unacknowledged presence. Batmania explores this complex interconnection between the human and bat, with the aim of creating a sense of curiosity for these animals of the night.
“My work often begins with an exploration of the animal, and for this site specific commission I wanted to explore our relationship to wild urban animals. The bat soon became a fascinating way to explore the complex relationships we have with animals in a shared urban habitat. With associations to folklore, myth and popular culture, the bat has historically suffered a negative image. I hope to create a sense of intrigue and demystify these animal of the night. Melbourne was almost named Batmania after all!” said artist Kathy Holowko.
Some of the bat sculptures were created during bat workshops held at Kathy’s Brunswick studio earlier this year. Participants were invited to become familiar with Kathy’s artistic process and to help make a bat that would be added to the installation using casting, burning, painting and other processes. These workshops also became a space to share stories about experiences and knowledge of local fruit bats. St Columbus Girls College also hosted Kathy as an artist in residence during 2014 where students participated in the bat making process.
Kathy studied Fine Art and Sculpture at RMIT and is known for her immersive sculptural works and installations. Her projects often involve interactive or participatory experiences in public places and her credits include White Night, NGV International Sculpture Garden, Sculpture By The Sea, Bondi, NSW; and was a finalist in 2013 Montalto Sculpture Prize.