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Denim, hessian, a stitched and bunched patchwork of scrap material – fabric becomes our reality as we’re led into the shadowy world of Narcissus. Here, as we wade through the textural folds of the story, we’re left to question what it means to truly see yourself.

Watch as the iconic sails of Sydney Opera House are wrapped in swaths of Julia Gutman’s textural work for Lighting of the Sails: Echo and see Roman poet Ovid’s myth of Narcissus afresh. Not only is this an old story made new, it’s also a collision of bygone craft and modern technology. By digitising centuries-old fabric making techniques, Julia and Pleasant Company have transformed donated textiles into an animated, pertinent epic.

In a fantasia of fabrics, we meet our protagonist. A girl with a striped t-shirt, hair made from her mother’s scarf and a face sewn from an old hessian sack. Lured by her reflection, she’s drawn into a proverbial pool. Finding herself transported into the unfamiliar, she must navigate rocky subsoils of satin and dangerous rivers of denim.

Through dance, music, and puppetry, Echo tells a story of wonder, vulnerability, and strength. It weaves together the imagined and the real, the public and the private, the dark and the light. Echo is a call to look inwards and meet our shadows head on. Its beauty and strangeness will reverberate in your mind long after the lights are switched off and the fabric has fallen away.

"My first ever animation, Echo is a digital translation of patchworks I’ve made to date alongside a suite of imagery created specifically from the work, all of which have been composed from worn clothing, sheets and blankets donated by my community. The lines between self and other blur.

The work is about the paradox of self-consciousness, the limitations of our own capacity to truly see ourselves, and the way our own unconscious wounds spill out into our perceptions of one another. It’s a story about confronting your shadow.

Intimacy lives at the core of my practice. I truly believe that life is just one long conversation, or at least that’s what makes it mean something. Echo brings together my interests in narrative, materiality and the psychological in a story that I hope can be simultaneously personal and universal.

I’m incredibly overwhelmed and grateful that this work will be projected on the sails of the Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid LIVE 2024.” - Julia Gutman, artist

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