‘A hypnotic sensation’: Why this botanic garden is being transformed with fire

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‘A hypnotic sensation’: Why this botanic garden is being transformed with fire

Words by Jake Fitzpatrick

From 4 – 21 July, the Adelaide Botanic Gardens will be transformed into a fire garden complete with flaming sculptures, candle lit archways, sweet scents and curated live music.

There is something particularly wondrous about sitting by a fire. Often described as nature’s very own television, an irrepressibly profound relationship is formed by staring into the face of a shape-shifting flame and hearing its crackle spit into oblivion. It seizes your attention and buries you within its hypnotic power.

Adelaideans will soon have the chance to experience this sensation for themselves at Fire Gardens. In town as a part of Illuminate Adelaide, over the course of 12 magical nights, Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens will be transformed into an Eden of flickering flames. A sure-fire spectacle, the gardens will appear like something out of a Middle Ages fairytale.

Illuminate Adelaide – Fire Gardens

  • Thu 04 – Sun 21 July 2024
  • Adelaide Botanic Garden
  • Tickets here

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The project has been created by ambitious French studio, Compagnie Carabosse. Renowned for their use of fire in their works, they have been responsible for transforming hundreds of sites around the world into similar fiery spectacles, from England’s Stonehenge to the Kremlin Square in Moscow.

The company’s artistic director, Christian Cuomo, is about to unleash one of his most fiery creations yet onto Adelaide. He describes Fire Gardens as a “poetic work of hypnotic sensation”, where the audiences can discover the Gardens in a “different way than they ever have previously”.

The project came about after the company previously created a project for Adelaide Festival in 2020. As a result, Cuomo tells me, “Ian Scobie of Illuminate Adelaide invited us to make a new show for the winter. Then we came down in October 2023 for a site visit”.

Fascinated by fire from an early age, in creating the project Cuomo was particularly interested in Australia’s own relationship with fire.

“In each country, there is a history and interest with fire,” he says.

“Every country has a story with fire. When people see the [project], they share a quiet, poetic moment with themselves. It’s also important not to forget that fire does not only cause disaster. It can also provide poetry, warmth, a means to cook food and other things.”

In exploring this dichotomy, Compagnie Carabosse has subsequently created a work that challenges its audience to observe the beauty of fire. In discussing the reactions, Cuomo said “Some people can stay three hours in only one place, behind one structure. Some people see all the installations.”

A team of twenty-eight are currently working on bringing Fire Gardens to life. A logistical feat, the team individually light each of the 1300 handcrafted terracotta fire pots every night. “Each [of the pots] has candle wicks cut from recycled denim and 1kg of paraffin,” he says, “they are also soaked in gin.”

Given this, Cuomo and his team are bringing “five shipping containers full of terracotta pots”. Due to the prolonged heat, these pots are also replaced every night, with the used pots being crushed and made into gravel.

For the Adelaide shows, there are two new kinetic structures that have not yet been seen by the Australian public. “We [have] built a fountain with fire on it,” he teases, “combining the elements of water and fire. We have also built a floating structure which will be resting on the pond.”

The fire pots are also set to music for the duration of the three-hour show. “We have two live musicians. One plays for the first night. The other plays the other eight nights. They play for three hours each – the first one plays the guitar with loops and the second one plays bass clarinet. The musicians worked with us on composing the music for the flames, so it’s a special composition just for this”.

A multi-sensory experience, attendees will also note that a uniquely sweet scent will be pumped through the air for the duration of the show.

With Fire Gardens, Compagnie Carabosse has created a celestial experience ripped from your wildest dreams. A visual spectacle, the project is an offer to rekindle one’s relationship with fire. A moment to meditate amidst the fragile comedy that is life. Or, at the very least, an opportunity to warm the crisp South Australian chill away.

Just go, be in awe. The fire garden awaits.

Fire Gardens will be running from 4 – 21 July 2024. Tickets can be accessed here.