AS the last shoreline viewed by Australian and New Zealand troops bound for Turkey in 1914, Albany is synonymous with the Anzac legend.
While the south coastal town has honoured those troops in numerous ways, including holding the first ever Anzac Day dawn service, and the construction of the National Anzac Centre, those who lost their lives have been remembered with a recently unveiled immersive art installation.
Field of Light: Avenue of Honour comprises 16,000 glass spheres on fine stems powered by fibre optics that illuminate the tree-lined path at Mount Clarence within the Albany Heritage Park every evening, with each one representing the Anzacs who left Albany for the Great War.
The spheres, shining along the path like wildflowers after rain, also reference the national flowers of Australia and NZ, shining in the whites, yellows and greens of the wattle and the kowhai, coinciding with peak wildflower season in WA.
The installation was created by internationally acclaimed British artist Bruce Munro, who is renowned for producing large-scale immersive light based installations all over the world, including one entitled Field of Light at Uluru in the Northern Territory in 2016, which will be exhibited until 2020.
“An installation doesn’t start when you put it in,” Mr Munro has said of his works.
“It’s actually the processes.
“It’s the process of going into the space, the process of meeting people.
“It’s so many people’s thoughts and ideas.”
It was hoped Munro’s motif use of light on an environmental scale would create an emotional response for the viewer, a common theme of his installations, while symbolising wild beauty, sacrifice, courage and honour.
Co-ordinated by the independent, non-profit cultural organisation FORM, in conjunction with the City of Albany, the striking installation coincides with the 100 year Armistice marking the end of WW1, which fell on November 11, 2018.
In marking the end of the war, the installation embodies peace, hope and light, a celebration of a brighter future, and a timely reminder for the need of hope and peace amid a world of chaos and conflict.
Funding was received from the Federal government through the Building Better Regions Fund, the State government through Tourism WA and Lotterywest, and supported by Christine and Kerry Stokes.
The reflections and comments people are leaving every day is truly heart-warming.
The installation was created with the assistance of 50 local volunteers who helped to plant the glass spheres in 10 days, and it these same volunteers who also help to manage the experience for visitors.
Every night, between 6pm-10pm, those volunteers welcome people to the site at the entrance of Apex Drive, and provide them with a free trail brochure, as well as headphones to allow them to listen to the audio guide to enhance their evening.
Field of Light: Avenue of Honour will remain in place until Anzac Day in 2019, but has already been well visited since the exhibition officially began on October 4.
In the first two weeks it had been visited by more than 12,000 members of the public and that number has grown to more than 35,000 visitors which FORM front of house service manager Sue McMahon said had overwhelmingly exceeded expectations.
“Our visitors come from across the Great Southern region and Perth but increasingly we’ve seen visitors from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and international visitors from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and even Malaysia and Singapore,“ Ms McMahon said.
WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said the installation was expected to be a boon for tourism to the region, and contribute to Albany’s reputation as a pilgrimage site for Australians and New Zealanders.
“Albany marks the site where tens of thousands of troops departed Australia for the Great War,” Mr Papalia said.
“It would have been the last sight of home for many, and this is a poignant thought.”
City of Albany acting chief executive officer Michael Cole said it was wonderful to see so many people visiting the incredible artwork.
“It takes something special to generate this level of interest so quickly and we’re very proud of what Bruce Munro has been able to create for Albany,” Mr Cole said.
“It will continue to bring significant visitation to Albany over its duration.”
As well as immersing themselves in the installation, visitors were invited to leave comments on special reflection postcards following their visit which Ms McMahon said was an attempt to capture the sentiment of the project.
“People are feeling humbled, emotional and grateful that such an artwork represents those Anzacs who left Albany’s shores more than a century ago and commemorates those who never returned,” she said.
“The reflections and comments people are leaving every day is truly heart-warming.”
While the installation is a free public attraction, three packages exist for those who want to upgrade their experience while at the site that can be booked through the Albany Visitors Centre
The first is the Field of Light sunset panorama tour, which involves being taken by bus to the summit of Mt Clarence while discovering the incredible stories of the Anzacs, arriving to witness the stunning panoramic sunset views of King George sound.
This is followed by a walk amongst the Field of Light: Avenue of Honour installation, expert commentary and time to reflect and be immersed in the personal stories along the trail.
The package includes transfers, self-guided trail and a commemorative book and is $18 for adults, $15 concession, $10 for children aged 5-15 and $50 for a family of two adults and two children.
Another option is the National Anzac Centre Panorama Pass, which combines a visit to the award-winning National Anzac Centre, Australia’s only museum dedicated solely to WW1, before moving on to the Avenue of Honour installation at dusk.
This package is priced at $42 for adults, $35 concession, $20 for children and $120 for a family.
The third option is the Light and Dine Package, which includes a visit to the National Anzac Centre and a walk through the Avenue of Honour installation, combined with a shared tasting menu of premium Great Southern produce at Garrison Restaurant and Bar, located in the National Anzac Centre precinct and overlooking the spectacular King George Sound.
Prices for the package, which also include a bound commemorative Anzac Albany coffee table book are $120 for adults and $110 for concession.