Bruce Munro’s light installation to illuminate Ayers Rock

British artist wants to recapture joyful moment of camping near the Australian landmark with his fiancée

by Cristina Ruiz  |  23 February 2016
Bruce Munro’s light installation to illuminate Ayers Rock
Field of Light, installation view, Bruce Munro, Uluru, Northern Territories (2016). Photo: © Carita Middleton
A sprawling art installation is to light up the night sky in the desert surrounding Ayers Rock in Australia. The British artist Bruce Munro will unveil his Field of Light on 1 April around 10km from the monumental sandstone monolith, which is sacred to Aboriginal people and known by them as Uluru.

Field of Light, which will remain in situ for a year, consists of 50,000 stems, each topped with a frosted bulb; these are connected to projectors powered by solar panels via fibre-optic cables. The lights, which are in the muted purples, reds, and oranges of the desert landscape, will cover 49,000 sq. m–the equivalent of four English football pitches.

The installation has been 24 years in the making. Munro was first inspired to create a work at Uluru in 1992 when camping there with his then fiancée, now wife, Serena. “There was a charge in the air that gave me a very immediate feeling which I didn’t fully understand. It was a moment when I felt at one with the world, a feeling which made me intensely happy.”

For the next two decades, Munro experimented with materials and forms in his quest to recapture the sensations from his Australian camping trip, installing an early version of Field of Light in the backyard of his country home in Wiltshire. “I became obsessed with it, like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, who makes a mountain he’s never seen out of a pile of mashed potatoes without understanding why he’s doing it. I didn’t know why I was doing it either.” The public responded to Munro’s lights immediately and over the years he has gone on to show versions of his field in numerous locations including the V&A in London, Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, and several botanical gardens in the US.

  • Field of Light, Bruce Munro, Cheekwood Garden and Museum, Nashville TN, USA (2013) © Mark Pickthall
  • Field of Light, Bruce Munro, Hermitage Museum and Garden, Norfolk, VA, USA (2014). Photo: © Mark Pickthall
  • Field of Light, Bruce Munro, Longwood Gardens, Philadelphia, PA, USA (2012) © Mark Pickthall
  • Field of Light, Bruce Munro, Waddesdon Manor, Rothschild collection, UK, (2013) © Mark Pickthall
  • Field of Light, Bruce Munro, Atlanta botanical Garden, Atlanta GA, USA (2015) © Mark Pickthall

During one of these displays, Munro was interviewed by a journalist from a radio station in Alice Springs, the nearest town to Uluru; he explained that the Australian landmark was the original inspiration for Field of Light. Ray Stone of the company Voyages, Indigenous Tourism Australia, which owns and operates Ayers Rock Resort, heard the broadcast. “I got a phone call from him,” recalls Munro, “and he said, ‘I think you should come and install Field of Light at Uluru.’ I couldn’t believe it; this has been my dream for the last 20 years.” The costs of realising the installation were almost prohibitive, but the Australian airline Qantas stepped in to help. “They’re shipping over all the components of the field from Wiltshire to the Northern Territory, as well as me and my team.”

Munro is taking his wife Serena back to Uluru for the opening, along with their four children. “I’m just trying to recapture that feeling you get when you’re connected to the landscape, that feeling that makes you want to jump for joy,” he says. “I hope every visitor feels it too.”

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