Binga – a buoyant symbol of hope on the University of Melbourne's Southbank campus

Binga the Uoo Uoo by Josh Muir, University of Melbourne Southbank Campus. Photo by Mireille Stahle.
Binga the Uoo Uoo by Josh Muir, University of Melbourne Southbank Campus. Photo by Mireille Stahle.

The Faculty of Fine Arts and Music recently welcomed a new face on campus for Me and UooUoo: The RCH150 Anniversary Art Trail.

Binga the UooUoo, located on St Kilda Road on the east side of the University of Melbourne's Southbank campus, is the creation of University of Melbourne 2016 Hutchinson Fellow and friend of the Faculty, Yorta Yorta and Gunditjmara artist Josh Muir.

The art film that accompanies the sculpture features a score composed by Jaadwa musician and Victorian College of the Arts PhD candidate James Howard. Binga, meaning balloon, is a symbol of hope, strength, and recovery from addiction. It is electrifying in glorious pink and blue – bright colours that are now synonymous with Muir's hip-hop inspired style. The uplifting colour palette is reflected in the creature's name – Binga – which is a word imagined by Josh's two-year-old child to describe a balloon. The words  "Art is Free" stand out boldly on its yellow flank in loose, grafitti inspired lettering.

"I wanted to create an emotional response with colour – hot pink and sky blue," says Muir. "They marry really well, and any other colour that goes with that combination – greens, yellows – give you this feeling of electricity."

Binga's beauty, Muir says, is a symbol of hope, a child-like optimistic antidote to his struggles with mental health and addiction.

Josh Muir featured in an article on Blooloop, for his exhibition, WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND, January 2020. Source: Blooloop."I believe the challenges that mental health and addiction present within communities is best opposed with a future lens. Binga represents a balloon in a two-year-old's imagination. Imagination which can instil hope in the future.

"There was a bit of a method to the madness in a way, I'm not too sure people realise what my practice is. It looks funky and cool and stuff, but I'm trying to send a message, and it actually stems from something quite methodical.

"Originally, I was just going to go with something simplistic. I had a look at some of the other UooUoos and thought the simpler it is, the more impact it has. The process of it was really natural. I thought using a child's imagination to try and oppose a problem was its own kind of solution."

"I like to stay naive and vulnerable with my approach in my work. When it comes to my practice, relevance, time and influence are essential measures of success. I want it to be relevant to current audiences, but to maintain relevance in the future. A lot of my work is really rapid – I have a quick turnover and get the message out there as fast as I can, while making sure the message is still communicated. And then there's influence. If I can use the platform I have, or it might be social media hashtag or whatever, it's to get that out there to whoever's following."

Binga is complemented by an art film created by Muir, with a musical score composed by Jaadwa musician James Howard, a PhD candidate at the VCA.

James describes his approach to matching Binga's buoyant energy:

"Approaching the soundtrack to Josh Muir’s Binga, I wanted to compose a piece that complemented his journey. I was moved by his willingness to share his struggles and his strength to overcome adversity through art. Josh’s work draws on street-art styles, and my own medium is electronic music.

"We both use contemporary arts practices to express our cultural connections. In that sense, I feel an artistic kinship with Josh and his work. It has been a distinct pleasure to work with him on Binga, and to have the opportunity to support his story and art."

Josh Muir is a Yorta Yorta and Gunditjmara multimedia artist based in Melbourne. Muir has exhibited at the Warrnambool Art Gallery with a solo exhibition and has recently been included as part of ‘Marking Time: Indigenous Art From the NGV.’ In December 2019 he presented a large-scale multimedia project for the inaugural Going Solo: First Nations 2019 exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery and the previous year Muir held a major solo exhibition at The Koorie Heritage Trust.

In celebration of the Royal Children's Hospital's 150th birthday, the Me and Uoo Uoo art trail brings together artists, families, organisations, councils and the community for a spectacular public art event. There are 100 unique sculptures to explore around Melbourne and Geelong using the Me and UooUoo smartphone app.