Heritage Festival revisits the space age

The 2019 Canberra and Region Heritage Festival explores the concept of ‘space’. The space race and 1969 moon landing exerted a strong influence on fashion, design and our way of life. Photo: Kerrie Brewer.

While the space race was beneficial to scientific progress, it also had a lasting impact on our way of living, fashion and design – all of which will be explored during this year’s Canberra and Region Heritage Festival.

On from 13 April to 4 May, there will be over 200 diverse events across the Canberra region celebrating this year’s theme ‘space’.

In July, the world will celebrate 50 years since man first walked on the moon, but the Heritage Festival is exploring more than outer space. Broadly the theme also encompasses space as a landscape, a location, a possibility, or a relationship between objects, people and places.

The impact of space travel on design is on display at the Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG) through the Marion Hall Best: Interiors exhibition, a travelling exhibition from Sydney Living Museums (and the location for this edition’s cover shoot).

According to Virginia Rigney, senior curator visual arts at CMAG, space travel had a big impact on the whole population – from children being excited by toys and wanting to be astronauts to the use of dehydrated food.

“Where we see the infiltration of space in the most extensive way is fashion and design as they are the most receptive to reflecting the now,” she said.

Ms Rigney said Marion Hall Best, a renowned Australian interior designer, was very alert to “what’s the latest” which is reflected inA room for Mary Quant; display room designed by Marion Best for the Rooms on View exhibition, Daily Telegraph Home Centre, Sydney, 1967 – the large-scale photograph displayed at the entry to CMAG’s new exhibition.

“You see in that room there are silvery lights, bold colours, very sculptural shaped chairs … it feels like a domestic version of the future you are sitting in,” she said.

The concept of ‘space’ was something Ms Rigney said people aspired to with shift dresses, the use of silver, headbands and shiny fabrics indicating “you were attuned to the space age”.

The exhibition also provides a unique opportunity to see a reproduction of Marion Hall Best’s 1953 pairing of a Sidney Nolan Carcass painting with the now iconic Clement Meadmore ‘Cord’ chair.

Ms Rigney said Marion Hall Best was a great supporter of artists and employed them to design fabrics and furniture that she would exhibit – including an emerging Nolan.

Alongside the Marion Hall Best exhibition, visitors can explore Total Design: Derek Wrigley and the ANU Design Unit 1954-1977.

“In pairing this exhibition with the Marion Hall Best exhibition, this work is happening at exactly the same time period yet there is a completely different approach,” Ms Rigney said.

The design unit was tasked to create pieces for longevity while Marion Hall Best designed “to the now” responding to emotion, colour and personality.

A number of talks will be held during the Heritage Festival including: Australian Odyssey: Marion Hall Best and Interior design in the ‘Space Age’ (13 April); Australians and the Marimekko mystique 1954-75 (15 April); and Humans in Space, Past and Future (18 April) with Dr Brad Tucker, astrophysicist at Mt Stromlo Observatory (ANU). There will also be the premiere on 17 April of two short documentary films celebrating the ACT’s role in the moon landing.

The Canberra and Region Heritage Festival raises awareness of the ongoing need to conserve our natural, historic and Aboriginal heritage. Costs apply for some events. For full event details, refer to the official 2019 Canberra and Region Heritage Festival booklet in this edition of Canberra Weekly.

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