Located in the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre is the immersive exhibition space called Into the Blue. Entry is included with the ticketed entry to the art gallery, and although I have been trotting along to the gallery to check out exhibitions for a while now, it has taken me longer to discover this space.
The welcoming entrance includes a snapshot of the World Heritage area, capturing the essence of the wilderness contained within. This includes 90 varieties of eucalyptus at the time of classification across 26 villages and a population of about 70,000 people. The sheer scope of the area is significant: it includes seven national parks and intersects six Aboriginal language groups.
A taste of the stunning scenery is depicted with gradual changes on four wide screens displayed across two walls with accompanying sounds. This included the vivid portrayal of bushfire, the lick and surge of flames. The screens show aspects of similar views offering different perspectives. A curved large screen overhead draws the eye upwards. It offers a glimpse of the panoramic splendour of the area, from sunsets to starry skies, mountain streams to birdsong and the soft descent of water dripping in caves. The splendour of the scenery is contrasted by the satellite image of the mountains and surrounding areas underfoot.
There are interactive displays on various themes. This includes the role of the mountains as a place for healing and inspiration as well as its popularity as a place for exploration and relaxation. Fauna and flora are also featured along with indigenous heritage.
The sensual experience of living here is captured in a voice-recorded interview with Elisabeth Bastian: the scent of the bush, the beauty of life here, the view offering a bird’s-eye view of the world along with a sense of escape. She spoke of the timelessness of the environment, the sense of space and of looking back into history. This is one of several interviews providing insight into what the area means to people from various backgrounds.
A selection of quotes about the area capture different aspects of what the mountains mean to people, including Charles Darwin, Eleanor Dark, Deb Westbury, Delia Falconer and Mark Tredinnick. One of my favourites is from Myles Dunphy as quoted in the Katoomba Daily on 24 August, 1934:
All the glory of the canyons, caves and rolling plateau of our great blue mountains is not nearly so much a commercial asset as it is nature’s heritage for legitimate enjoyment, and our own gift to posterity.
There is a link showing the design behind the exhibition here.
[Photo: Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Katoomba]