'Cog' umbrella, large, theatrical prop, wood/metal/painted cloth, used in 'Tin Symphony', Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games, Sydney, 2000, designed by Dan Potra, made by Clifton Umbrellas and the Ceremonies Workshop, Sydney 2000
Designed by Dan Potra, this large painted umbrella was one of many props to be used in 'Tin Symphony', a theatrical segment in the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. Its cut and painted surface represents a mechanical cog and reiterates the segment's industrial theme. Small, medium and large umbrellas appeared throughout the segment, filling the arena and connecting series of fanciful machines. Dozens of female Irish dancers performed in 'Tin Symphony', spinning and twisting the umbrellas that emulated cogs in motion. Like all ceremony props, the umbrella was made in 2000 at the Ceremonies Workshop at Eveleigh, Sydney.
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.
Australian prop designer, Dan Potra, developed the 'cog' umbrellas to fill the arena and to complement the segment's mechanical theme. The large, medium and small umbrellas were allocated to the performers, female Irish dancers, according to their strength and size.
Potra initially selected clear, vinyl umbrellas for prototyping - their painted and transparent surfaces would emulate the solid and hollow sections within a mechanical cog. However, their reflective surface was unsuitable for television and the vinyl umbrellas were replaced with cloth varieties. These were much simpler to handle while their cloth edges were easily cut to imitate cog teeth.
The small, medium and large 'cog' umbrellas were manufactured by Clifton Umbrellas and painted by Tamara Ealey, Gustavo Balboa and Kristina Sundstrom at the Ceremonies Workshop at Eveleigh. Vinyl templates were attached to the umbrella surface to guide the paintwork while the edges were cut to represent cog teeth. A PVA glue-based paint and plastic reinforcements were applied to prevent the edges from fraying. Dozens of female Irish dancers performed in 'Tin Symphony', carrying small, medium or large 'cog' umbrellas in accordance with their height and strength.
The painted 'cog' umbrellas were used as theatrical props in 'Tin Symphony', a segment in the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. The ceremony was held at Stadium Australia, Sydney Olympic Park, on 15 September 2000.
Made for and owned by the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, and donated to the Powerhouse Museum after the Games.