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New art installation – Arrivals and Departures – opens at October Giant Picnic on Sunday, 4 October

Sydney artists Esem Projects will present a new experiential public art installation entitled Arrivals and Departures to mark the beginning of the October Barangaroo Welcome Celebration program of events at Sydney’s sensational new Harbour foreshore park, Barangaroo Reserve.

The work, created by Esem Projects co-founders Dr Sarah Barns and Michael Killalea, will be on show every weekend during October inside the Cutaway. It responds to the unique history of the site that was once the heart of Sydney’s docklands – using shipping containers to explore different moments and memories, from growing up in the area, working on the docks, to arriving here as an immigrant in post-war Australia.

The Barangaroo Delivery Authority is hosting the three-month Welcome Celebration on behalf of the NSW Government to mark the opening of Barangaroo Reserve. Esem Projects’ temporary art installation was commissioned by the Creative Director for the Barangaroo Welcome Celebration, Gill Minervini, to be the second installation in the Cutaway, the massive cultural space built within the headland park.

Arrivals and Departures will be unveiled at the October Giant Picnic on Sunday, 4 October (11am-5pm). The day includes a packed program of free live music, talks, workshops and tours, along with picnic-style food and beverage experiences. It’s all themed around ‘Sea’ in honour of Barangaroo’s 200-year history of maritime activity.

“We are delighted to present Arrivals and Departures as part of the Barangaroo Welcome Celebration to enlighten visitors about life in this bustling area in the decades before, through the stories of the people central to this site,” said Minervini.

The installation features opportunities for visitors to engage with the work, which comprises of large-scale projections and a series of brightly coloured shipping containers creating a roomful of mini-galleries. Each offer a different and compelling response to the various chapters of Sydney’s maritime history and aspects of the working wharves, from Depression-era lines of hungry workers to the farewelling of soldiers during the Second World War.

Esem Projects’ Dr Sarah Barns, a historian, producer and artist, said: “The concept looks at the working history of the area from the late 1800s onwards, and the site of Barangaroo as a place where arrivals and departures have shaped many different domains of life in Sydney.

“We hope Arrivals and Departures will appeal to everyone who is curious about the history of the site and how it has shaped Sydney. There are stories of goods exports and imports, the waterfront workers and the role of labour history, trade history, the Hungry Mile, along with stories of migrant and immigrant arrivals,” she said.

The work features archival images and footage from the National Film and Sound Archive, the Maritime Union of Australia and State Library to capture touching moments such as the woman who would stand dockside as soldiers set sail during the second world war, farewelling them in song with Now is the Hour, a tune popularised by Gracie Fields.

Esem Projects have also spoken to past and present long-term residents who recall growing up in the area, and worked with the Maritime Union to uncover first-hand accounts of life as a waterside worker during the Depression when Hickson Road operated as the ‘Hungry Mile’.

In addition to oral histories and interviews, Esem Projects have incorporated excerpts from a ‘mockumentary’ by Rupert Kathner who regularly filmed in the area during the 1930s, that looks at Customs officers’ fight against drugs and contains some particularly endearing pictures of children playing in the area.

Barns and Killalea will discuss their approach to creating the multi-media installation using experiential media, interpretation and design on Sunday, 4 October at 12pm-1pm and 2pm-3pm as part of a series of talks that will be held in the Cutaway, focusing on the maritime history of Barangaroo.

The ‘Sea’ Celebration will continue during open weekends in October. To see the full event program and transport information, please visit

Discover a new view of Sydney with #welcomebarangaroo #barangaroo

Event: Barangaroo Welcome Celebration - October
Date/time: Beginning with the Giant Picnic on Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 11am-5pm
Location: Barangaroo Reserve, Hickson Road, Sydney NSW
Cost: Free
October open weekends: Saturday and Sunday 10-11, 17-18, and 24-25 October at 11am-5pm


Images and video of the park and Welcome Celebration talent are available on request.
For more information or interviews, please contact:
Sarah Shields, Access PR, 02 9292 7007, 0408 283 019,
Samantha Boyd, Access PR, 02 9292 7013, 0414 408 198,