Pink Lake City

By Rhonda Dredge

One day Charlie Xiao was walking beneath the Westgate Bridge when he discovered a pink lake. He felt that the lake was up there amongst the world’s beauty spots but no-one had heard of it.

It’s a pity that such a secret place was right next to an industrial site, he thought. He discovered, however, that Melburnians love the bridge so he imagined a time when beauty and industry worked together.

What if you could design a place to capture the setting sun down at Westgate Park? Someone suggested a viewing platform on one of the pylons.  He found the land beneath the bridge far more interesting than the view from the top.

“No-one seems to know about the lake,” he says. “I want to keep on developing ideas where the point is undetermined. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the colour. It wasn’t a trick of diffraction but the water was pink itself.”

“I’d like to develop a way of viewing the lake that excludes all of the bridge. I think the pink lake should be somewhere more magical.”

At first the pink water had connotations of chemical pollution. The grasslands weren’t pretty. He knew he was trying to make something mysterious. Even when it reverted to its original colour, it was still pink for Charlie.

“You see what you believe,” he says. “The reflection is in the mind.”

The lake first turned pink in 2012 and not many people saw it. By 2014 the colour had gone. Now Charlie is attempting to turn the lake into art.

“Art is about what you can’t see,” he claims.

Can his vision be defended in a country full of doubters? He guesses these doubts might have something to do with false horizons.

Charlie is a romantic. True believers are difficult to find. At first even he suspected a chemical effluent had degraded the water. The bridge and its concrete pylons were suggestive of a dystopian post-industrial landscape.

Every time he visited, however, he thought happy thoughts of home and began to believe that the lake had magical powers. Perhaps it had the ability to capture the light of the setting sun.

Architects and artists are attracted to the grandeur of Charlie’s vision even if critics try to outsmart him.

They have challenged him to prove that the lake does capture the light of the setting sun.

What if you visit on a cloudy afternoon and get lost at Fisherman’s Bend, leading you into a nostalgic look at the history of the Holden? What if the wind picks up and it’s blowing a gale by the time you arrive?

Atmospheric Effects is showing at The Vickery Room, 207, Nicholas Building until 30 April. Closing event April 29, 5-7 pm.

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