'Sheep box', theatrical prop, autographed, cardboard, designed by Dan Potra, made by Visy Board Pty Ltd, used in 'Tin Symphony' segment of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, Sydney 2000
This cardboard box, labelled 'Kelly Exports', was one of many props to be used in 'Tin Symphony', a theatrical segment in the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. The theme of this segment was Australian industry, and its large and imaginative props resembled abstract farming machinery. Arriving onto the arena in a 'sheep-making machine', the boxes descended a conveyor belt as representations of stamped wool bails. During the following sheep- shearing sequence, foam heads and ears emerged from the boxes that transformed symbolically into abstract sheep.
Designed by Dan Potra in 1999, the boxes were versatile props that concealed performers for the following scene. During the sheep- shearing sequence, 'shearers' tore at perforations in the boxes to create openings for the performers within. With a change in lighting and music, the performers emerged wearing hats, hibiscus print shirts, shorts and long socks - parodies of the Australian weekend gardener. Foam lawnmowers completed their costumes. This particular box was signed by all performers in the sheep-shearing scene, and was presented to the segment director, Nigel Jamieson.
Described by the NSW premier Bob Carr as 'the greatest spectacle Australia has produced', the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games took place at Stadium Australia, Homebush Bay on Friday 15 September 2000. Though the ceremony featured anthems, speeches, oaths, flags, pop singers and a marching band, its daring conceptual sequences ('Deep Sea Dreaming', 'Awakening', 'Nature', 'Tin Symphony', 'Arrivals' and 'Eternity') will be remembered as the major imaginative works. Each segment commenced without interruption, following on from the last to form an overall narrative. The purpose was to project a national image to a worldwide audience, to form the world's vision of Australian culture. This image embraced tolerance, social progress, multiculturalism and reconciliation, as well as nature, history and creativity. Designed to stimulate emotional responses from the audience, these segments delivered a refreshing mixture of youth, naivety and larrikinism.
The complex and inventive 'Tin Symphony' segment, directed by Nigel Jamieson, involved 850 performers. It examined the impact of Europeans' arrival on the land after 60,000 years of Aboriginal habitation. 'Tin Symphony' began with the arrival on the spectacular Endeavour cycle carrying a gently parodied Captain Cook and his crew (accompanied by a caged rabbit). It consisted of three linked tricycles, propelled by conventional bicycle pedals, with a total length of 11 metres and a height of 3 metres. The explorers carried telescopes and sketchbooks, looking in wonder at the unfamiliar flora and fauna.
As 'Tin Symphony' unfolded, the colonists brought new technologies and materials, symbolised by corrugated iron, metal windmills and steel farming machinery. Even Ned Kelly encased himself in metal, continuing the theme of mechanisation. The segment cleverly linked icons of colonial and rural Australia, such as Captain Cook, resourceful pioneers, Ned Kelly, Irish girls, a sheep-making machine, corrugated iron windmills, derricks, water tanks and farm machinery, with modern images of suburbia, lawn mowers and the beach. The segment had an implicit theme of the settlers' humour and resourcefulness in the face of adversity. It ended with the descendents of the settlers, the modern Australians, who has tamed and transformed the land, symbolised by the lawnmower ballet, a kind of serenade to suburbia, its backyards and barbecues.
Simple in design yet sophisticated in conception, the 'sheep boxes' were modified cardboard boxes that changed in appearance and symbolism during the 'Arrivals' segment. Apart from complementing the many other abstract props, they concealed dozens of performers for the final 'Arrivals' sequence. Dan Potra designed the sheep boxes at the Ceremonies Workshop in 1999.
The final design of the sheep box is a melding of two concepts by director Nigel Jamieson. In his early concept the sheep were to be made of simulated corrugated iron and sheepskin seat covers. The boxes were in another part of the segment but the performance idea was similar. The part with the boxes as performing trunks was eliminated from the ceremony. The resolution of transforming the 'Tin sheep' into a lawnmower was easily resolved when it was decided that the sheep could become boxes manufactured in the industrialisation segment by a machine. The boxes emerging from the machine would transform into sheep and then be shorn to produce the lawnmowers. Labelled 'Kelly Exports', the boxes first appeared the arena as representations of stamped wool bails. However, with the addition of foam heads and ears they resembled stylised sheep that were animated by somersaulting performers concealed within. Perforations in the boxes allowed these performers to tear their way out during a sheep shearing sequence. Made: Visy Board PTY LTD, Sydney, 1999-2000
Segment Director, Nigel Jamieson, first imagined the props in simulated corrugated iron and sheepskin. He also envisaged a second, separate prop that would resemble an animated trunk. These would be
Eventually, Potra melded the two ideas to create the animated sheep box.
The sheep boxes were used in the 'Tin Symphony' segment of the Opening Ceremony for the Sydney Olympic Games. The ceremony was held at Stadium Australia, Sydney Olympic Park, on 15 September 2000. This particular box was signed by the 'sheep' performers and presented to the segment director, Nigel Jamieson, as a token of thanks.
This box was signed by all the 'Sheep' performers and presented to the director of the 'Tin Symphony' segment, Nigel Jamieson, in thanks for his work. Made for and owned by the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, and donated to the Powerhouse Museum after the Games.