Q&A with INVASIVE artist Emily Lam, TAFE NSW

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Emily Lam, TAFE NSW student

INVASIVE: An Installation

Location: The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney – Part of ‘Electric Forest

Where are your plastics going?

Maybe it’s gone to the rubbish tip, or into this installation.

Emily Lam is a student of Live Production Design and Event Management at TAFE NSW Design Centre Enmore. Emily is talking about her installation as part of “Electric Forest” featured in Vivid Sydney 2017.

What inspired you to create your tree?

My artwork “INVASIVE” is an installation that addresses the environmental concerns of the impact of rubbish as a result of strong consumerism. With a focus on used plastics, my installation has drawn inspiration from viruses, as they multiply, spread and destroy a living organism. This is similar to how our waste is slowly destroying our Earth and urges audiences to think twice about where their rubbish is going.

This message is conveyed through placing the installation onto a tree in the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. The tree embodies our perception of our natural environment, and by placing clumps of plastics onto the tree, it shows a stark contrast between the world of controlled synthetic production and the organic, the natural versus the unnatural.

What has been your role in the TAFE NSW Vivid Sydney Project?

My role on this TAFE NSW Vivid Sydney project has been a Production Designer. This has been inclusive of creating a concept, through to designing and making the installation with a team of students and mentors at TAFE NSW Design Centre Enmore.

What did you enjoy about the process?

I didn’t realise how many plastic bottles this installation required. I’ve had to ask friends and family to save up their plastics that would otherwise go into the bin for this installation. It felt like a communal effort and it was quite heart-warming to have people continually ask me, “Do you still need bottles?”

I’ve also had a lot of fun developing the idea with my TAFE partner, Ildy Izso. Through experimentation, we’ve found new interest with working with plastics. It is a really versatile material to shape when it’s heated to melting point and the end result was unexpectedly rather beautiful. I’ve also discovered a new appreciation for working with coloured lighting. My installation’s main light source is LED strip lighting, and experimenting with the colours and sequences has been really enjoyable.

What has being involved in Vivid Sydney like for you?

Being involved in Vivid Sydney has been a dream come true. I attend Vivid Sydney every year to see what artists from all over the globe have created. It was a goal to one day feature in Vivid Sydney as an artist, and I never imagined that this day would come so soon. It was really a surprise to find out about TAFE NSW and Vivid Sydney collaborating, and I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity to happen. I have learnt a lot from my Vivid Sydney mentor, lighting designer Mark Hammer, and from my mentors at TAFE NSW, who have provided me with their insight and expertise to get through this build. It’s been a truly amazing experience to be involved in Vivid Sydney 2017.

What are you looking forward to most at Vivid Sydney 2017?

A lot of thought has been put into the creation of this piece to make sure that I deliver the message that I want to convey through visual interpretation. The layout of the piece to the colours featured in the installation has all been chosen with the concept message in mind. I’m looking forward to seeing how audiences will interact with my installation. Would they enjoy the shapes and the colours? Will they be interested? Apathetic? Will they find it insightful? I’ve kept all these questions in mind in hopes that the audience would enjoy my installation.

Where do you want this project to take you next?

In the near future, I would like to create more works like this. I’d like to be inspired to work on a project with a strong concept and meaning. I’m also extremely keen on working in large scale festivals such as Vivid Sydney, the amount of effort from the artists to the event organisers to pull of such an amazing event is staggering. I’d like to have a job in events design or management. I feel like I’d be capable of doing it all.

See Emily’s installation INVASIVE (as part of Electric Forest) at The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. 6pm-11pm nightly, ends 17 June 2017.