Flotsam Festival Opens With 3D Light Sculpture, Hotel Takeovers, and Photo Installation Exhibitions

In a flurry of pixels and colour, Flotsam Festival opened Monday with the surf film and photography festival simultaneously debuting several major exhibitions at various locations across the Gold Coast.


Gold Coast (Australia), Tuesday 2nd May, 2023

Flotsam Festival’s two-week long surf film and photography pixel party officially opened on the 1st of May, with several key exhibitions debuting overnight.

Internationally-acclaimed artist Craig Walsh unveiled his collaboration with Flotsam called DRIFT. This first stage iteration of a new site-specific digital sculpture is responsive to environmental elements affecting the southern Gold Coast’s surf conditions like wave data and wind data  – in real time.

For this early incarnation, the DRIFT digital artwork takes the form of an abstract kinetic 3D sculpture which appears as sand particles moving around a defined architectural space as influenced by live data feeds.

Each evening of the festival at night-fall, the beachside of Coolangatta SLSC will host a portal into the DRIFT first stage experience for audiences to freely view, no ticket required. Shifting and shaping in time to data feeds informed by bouys offshore, DRIFT reflects the unique environmental factors that contribute to the southern Gold Coast region’s infamous surf to create an evolving artwork that quite literally reflects and responds to place.

“As a digital exploration into our coastal environment, DRIFT invites audiences to reexamine their relationship to this city’s seascape and the forces that shape it daily. It provides a new visual language which interprets environmental conditions, a new language to be learnt and shared within the community,” Craig said. The project was brought to fruition through Flotsam, RADF and community partners M-Arts, Tweed Sand Bypassing, and Coolangatta SLSC.


DRIFT was launched to a surprise audience of VIP guests on a mystery tour that also encompassed the Flotsam’s Focal Point exhibition, unveiling a new installation featuring an image by prolific local lensman Andrew Shields of stand-out up-and-coming indigenous surfer Lungi Slabb.

The new addition joins a series of spectacular photo installations that form a walkable outdoor gallery starting from Kirra groin and traversing Coolangatta beachfront, Greenmount headland, Rainbow Bay, Snapper Rocks and Point Danger. Informative captions tell the stories behind the images, with scannable QR codes for extra content.

Focal Point’s 2023 refresh also includes a fenceline component, with a few slew of images reproduced to appear as transparency mounts. Images for both the installations and fence line component span across the eras, with featured surfers including an honour roll of some of the region’s finest like Stephanie Gilmore, Joel Parkinson, Pete Townend, Jason Buttonshaw, Bede Durbidge, Michael Peterson, Macey Callinan, Dimity Stoyle, Wayne Deane, Sam Yoon, Mia Francis, Sheldon Simkus,  and Mick Fanning .  The ever-illusive empty wave also features heavily, alongside several archival images of prominent landmarks.  Focal Point will run for the duration of the Flotsam Festival.

Coolangatta’s iconic The Pink Hotel was also transformed yesterday, with the fence line exhibition If Walls Could Talk also opening. Curated by Solua Middleton, the exhibition is a retrospective of famed filmmaker and water photographer Dick Hoole’s classic Gold Coast imagery. QR codes allow viewers to hear Dick’s commentary of each image, with the collection including images of Wayne Rabbit Bartholemew, Michael Peterson, Wayne Deane, and even a young Mick Fanning alongside an array of scenes from the region’s past.

The audio series was originally produced by Solua for an edition of Bleach Festival which was cancelled due to pandemic restrictions in 2021. Airing for the first time, the exhibition give a brief glimpse into Dick’s monumental archive.

Exhibitions including the work of photographers Ted Grambeau, Trent Mitchell, Clementine Bourke, Joli, Mal Sutherland, Andrew Shields, Franziska Link, and Shell Bankier also opened yesterday, with others including Tristam Evison, Fiona Pyke, Ian and Eric Reginard, Ella Tubman and more to open in coming days.

The festival will also be hosting multiple single events each evening this week, including:

2 May – Ted Grambeau Artist Talk Story, Dust Temple ( Free)

3 May - Flotsam x Climate Community Night: A panel exploring how art can intersect ocean-activism through mediums like photography with a panel exploring images and their meaning, and how to approach activism through art+photography as a medium/ tips for other trying to do the same. Mo’s Desert Clubhouse, Burleigh (Free)

3 May – Partner Event: Greatest Surf Movie In The Universe including Q&A, HOTA ( Ticketed)

4 May - Floating Bits Opening Evening Art-Work Studios (Free)

4 May - Light Experiment Volume 3 Opening Evening Love Street Café, Kirra (Free)

4 May – Partner Event: Kamchatka screening including Q&A, Balter Taphouse ( Ticketed)

5 May – Flotsam x LAYR A labour of love stretching several years, Dean James/Layer of Salt collaborated with some of Australia’s finest shapers to showcase his images glassed onto the decks of 15 boards. Exhibited alongside prints and projections, with panel of featured surfers, board collaborators, and film makers. Burleigh Brewing Taphouse (Free)

5 May - Flotsam Media Makers Forum Rotating panels of the leading creatives from the magazine, podcast, film, book and TV realms. A youth, travel + surf forum with figures from the world of various media to discuss its future. Topics include diversity, new media, the future of print, and maker’s showcase, Rydges Hotel, Airport (Free)

6 May - Joli’s Full Day Surf Photography Masterclass Kirra Hill Community and Cultural Centre (Ticketed)

6 May - Flotsam Poetry In Motion: Filmmaker Simon Saffigna will unveil an ambitious collaboration with writer Daniel Carmichael honouring two of the Gold Coast most celebrated surfers – Michael Peterson and Joel Parkinson – while raising funds for the next generation of surf talent. Carmichael, who penned poetry featured on the stone monument honouring MP at Kirra Point, also wrote a poem commemorating the tenth anniversary of Parkinson’s world title. Matched with footage from Saffigna’s vault, MP’s poem will be performed as a song by the Mason Rack Band. Joel’s poem will be voiced by the MC and Auctioneer of the night, Mark Warren, followed by Saffigna’s premiere of a 30 minute film. The event concludes with a charity auction of signed prints with proceeds going to Surfing the Spectrum and the junior development divisions of southern Gold Coast board riders clubs: D’Bah, Snapper, Kirra, Alley, Palm Beach and Burleigh. Southern Cross University GC Campus Theatre (Ticketed)

6 May - Partner Event: Dog Dayz Skate demos, 12 bands, food trucks and photo exhibitions and projections from some of Flotsam’s cross over surf/skate lensfolk. Mo’s Desert Clubhouse, Burleigh (Ticketed)

7 May - Flotsam x Igers Photo Meetup Photographers from hobbyists to professionals are invited to this series of free sunrise sessions to impart or gain skills and connect with the wider photography community, Greenmount Beach (Free)

7 May - (Surf) Girls On Film Stoking momentum for women’s surf media coverage from all sides of the lens, a female-led panel and curated selection of international shorts, photo projections, and film. Laura Enever, Clementine Bourke, Cailtin Myer, Jesse Jensen, Marina Alonso, Fiona Pyke, Ella Bourne, Lucy Small, Juniper Harper and more. Tom Atkin Hall (Ticketed)

7 May - Art Recycler Youth Surf Photo Collage Workshops Inspired by surf comics and flip books, participants will collage images from surfing magazines to recycle surf art, with works digitised and projected.

9.30 am, All ages, Mint Art House, Burleigh (Free)

3.30 pm, Girls edition, Tom Atkin Hall, Tugun (Free)


Week Two also promises to deliver a maelstrom of short film premieres, workshops, in-depth discussions with film makers and photographers, and photographic exhibitions staged both indoor and out.


For full program visit: www.flotsamfestival.com.au


DRIFT, Ted Grambeau’s Waves of Consequence, and Flotsam’s Focal Point exhibitions are supported by the Regional Arts Development Fund, a partnership between the Queensland Government and the City of Gold Coast Council to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland. 


About Flotsam Arts

Flotsam Festival is a multi-site film and photography celebration inspired by surf culture. The third annual Flotsam Festival will run from Wednesday 1st May to Sunday 12th May, 2024. Flotsam Festival is presented by Flotsam Arts Inc., a not for profit association formed to create pivotal events that showcase the Gold Coast’s iconic surf culture through photo and film, and to create opportunities for photographic artists to extend their practice through mentorships, workshops and exhibition opportunities.

Flotsam Festival is supported by the City of Gold Coast, Experience Gold Coast, and the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

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