Lawnmower, theatrical prop, foam/rubber/wood, designed by Dan Potra, made by Udo Förster, Rebecca Schipilliti, Andrew McDonnell, Nic Burton - Ceremonies Workshop, used in 'Tin Symphony' segment of Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, Sydney 2000
Designed by Dan Potra, this foam lawnmower was one of many props used in 'Tin Symphony', a theatrical segment in the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. Combining abstract, mechanical props with a large team of performers, the segment traced the evolution of Australian settlement from its pioneering origins to its suburban expansion. It culminated with a parody of the suburban home owner: performers dressed in hats, hibiscus-print shirts, shorts, knee-length socks and sneakers. Foam lawnmowers completed their costumes.
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 of 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 and looked 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 descendants of the settlers, the modern Australians, who have tamed and transformed the land, symbolised by the lawnmower ballet, a kind of serenade to suburbia, its backyards and barbecues.
designed to fold into the sheep boxes and then unfold for the final 'lawnmower' sequence. This feature ensured that the mowers would be safe for the performers somersaulting inside the boxes until the end of the segment. Prop designer, Dan Potra, modified the look of the lawnmower by replacing wheels with a coreflute base that glided across the arena surface.
The original concept was a transformation from tin sheep to lawnmower when shorn. The introduction of the 'Sheep boxes' allowed the mowers to become simpler in design for their surprise appearance. The mowers had to be performer-friendly as they were concealed inside the box with the performer. The performer had to perform somersaults with the box and not be harmed by the concealed lawnmower. The mowers were designed in foam rubber so as not to injure the performer during stunts. A stylised design eliminated turning wheels with the aid of a 'coreflute' base to slide on.
Made: Ceremonies prop makers Udo Foerster, Rebecca Schipilliti, Andrew McDonnell, Scenic painter Nic Burton at the Ceremonies workshop, Eveleigh, Redfern, 2000.
The components of the mower were ordered pre-cut from Joyce Australia Pty Ltd. The components were then glued together onto a 'coreflute' base. The handle comprised of vinyl tubing with three separate lengths of wooden dowel. The handle was glued to the mower body. The foam was finished with a latex-based paint.
The foam lawnmowers 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. Actors wearing shorts and hibiscus print shirts (archetypes of the suburban home-owner) pushed the mowers in unison across the arena.
Made for and owned by the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, and donated to the Powerhouse Museum after the Games.