First Lights is a place-responsive, choreographed drone light and sound event, presented by the Fremantle Biennale.
The Fremantle Biennale is a biennial festival of site-responsive contemporary art that takes place every two years in Fremantle (Walyalup), Western Australia.
An epic spectacle of light, movement and sound, First Lights premiered with Moombaki at the 2021 Fremantle Biennale festival in a celebration of the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River). Moombaki (the Nyoongar word for ‘where the river meets the sky’) saw a fleet of 160 drones take flight over the stage of the bilya (river) and wardan (ocean) to reveal connected and living stories of Whadjuk Nyoongar Country. With artworks created by Ilona McGuire, sound design by Envelope Audio, and narrative guided by story and knowledge from Whadjuk Nyoongar Traditional Owners, Moombaki launched the 2021 Fremantle Biennale festival, CROSSING 21.
A legacy project and unique sky show, First Lights will travel across Western Australia and Australia in 2022 – 2023. Led by Traditional Owners and artists from each region, First Lights pioneers new technologies and artistic practices to share ancient knowledge and the first stories of place.
For more information on the Fremantle Biennale visit our website.
CEO & Artistic Director
Tom is an established multi-disciplinary artist with an active international practice spanning the realms of site-responsive and temporal projects. His work has been included in major exhibitions and institutions including The National at Carriageworks, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Adelaide Biennial, Biennale de la Chaux-de-Fonds, and the upcoming Northern Alps Triennale in Japan. He has been the recipient of multiple Australia Council grants, the inaugural winner of the Qantas Contemporary Art prize, and a mid-career fellowship from the Department of Culture and the Arts. In 2009, he was awarded the Basel international residency program through the Christoph Merian Stiftung. Tom was mentored by the Russian-American conceptual artist Ilya Kabakov in New York, and studied Anthroposophy at Emerson College in London. Tom previously sat on the board of the National Association for the Visual Arts as an elected artist representative. Tom co-founded the Fremantle Biennale in 2017 and devised First Lights in 2020.
Katherine is a creative producer and curator working across socially engaged, site-responsive, live and visual contemporary art practices. Prior to her role as Program Director for the Fremantle Biennale, Katherine was the Curator at DADAA, a Creative Producer with Perth Festival (Witness Stand, 2021; Five Short Blasts, 2019) and the Special Projects and Revealed Coordinator at Fremantle Arts Centre. Her most recent projects centre place, water and care. Previously Katherine has worked on independent and collaborative projects, and held positions with institutions including; Artsource, International Art Space, the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, the Perth Public Art Foundation, the City of Melville, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the Venice Biennale. Katherine works, lives and swims on the lands and waters of the Whadjuk Nyoongar people.
Corine Van Hall
Corine is an independent public art curator and a founding director of the Fremantle Biennale. As a consultant for the WA Government Percent for Art Scheme, Corine works all over the state and directly with many of WA’s contemporary visual artists. She is passionate about fostering the development of the arts in WA and has broad experience across the arts sector, including Public Art Coordinator at the City of Fremantle, the Art Gallery of WA, Mark Howlett Foundation and the Tresillian Arts Centre.
Ilona McGuire is a proud young Noongar/Kungarakan woman whose ancestry extends from Whadjuk Country to the Fitzmaurice region of the Northern Territory. Currently studying a Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at Curtin University, Ilona’s artistic direction was inborn with creative family members inspiring her to develop her talents. As a wide reader and humanitarian, Ilona’s artistic process is informed, consultative and accessible. Recurring themes such as cultural identity, spirituality and traditional versus contemporary Indigenous values reflects her own learning journey as a grounded young Indigenous woman in an increasingly ephemeral world. Ilona was the inaugural artist for First Lights and presented Moombaki as part of the 2021 Fremantle Biennale.
Rob is Global Umanned Systems (GUS) lead RPAS Instructor and Chief Pilot. Robert was formerly a consulting exploration geologist, working across Western Australia. In 2012 he founded GUS and has planned, managed and undertaken complex RPAS projects for large multinationals in locations such as Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and Kazakhstan. This has involved engagement with numerous stakeholders (including regulators) to facilitate the required permissions to conduct these operations in various “country-firsts”. He has led the GUS team that has worked with WA organisations such as Surf Life Saving, Department of Transport, Main Roads, Southern Ports and Department of Water to develop their organisational capacity to utilise RPAS to deliver measurable benefits. Most recently, Rob led the technical team that facilitated the Moombaki drone light show at Fremantle Biennale’s Crossing 21 Festival, and now leads Stellar Lights, GUS’s drone light show division.
Jarrad Russell is a digital artist and animator based in Perth, Western Australia. His work focuses on combining the experimental use of digital tools with technical expertise, resulting in a focus on storytelling meaning and nuanced visual style. He has contributed to digital art installations in the WA Museum Boola Bardip, Perth Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, and many other screen based projections both locally, and interstate.
First Lights is a program and series of events presented by the Fremantle Biennale. The Fremantle Biennale is committed to on-going learning and adaptability around access, cultural diversity and inclusion to ensure that everyone feels invited to and can participate in our events.
The Fremantle Biennale offers different access and assistive services across our events. See the drop-down Access menu on each project page and look out for the below icons to learn more of what is on offer.
Auslan interpreting is provided at a number of our talks, performances and events. Look for the Auslan symbol displayed on the event page.
Audio Described Tours
A number of Audio Described tours and events will be held during the Fremantle Biennale. These tours will provide live verbal descriptions of actions, performances, objects, scenery and other visual elements.
Open captioning will be available across a number of Fremantle Biennale digital events. Open captioning allows people who are hard of hearing or Deaf to read accurate text displays of a performance or event on a screen. Check the event pages for more information.
A number of Tactile tours will be held across Fremante Biennale events. These tours allow people who are blind or have low vision to experience a event through touch, sound and conversation.
No music or dialogue, or all dialogue is open captioned.
No music or sounds. Access to spoken word provided by open caption and/or script.
May have music or sounds in the background. Open caption, scripts and descriptions are provided.
This indicates that the venue/location is accessible for people with limited mobility, including wheelchairs. If this symbol is not listed on an event, access may be limited, so please contact us for more information.
This symbol indicates that assistance from a Companion is likely necessary for wheelchair users to navigate a space.
Please see the Access information on each First Lights projects page for more information.
The Fremantle Biennale’s First Lights program has sought to embed First Nation and cross-cultural collaboration as we consider what a site-responsive and place-sensitive festival should aim to contribute to its people. We ask, what meaningful legacy and impact can the Fremantle Biennale offer communities and place?
Listening to place, hearing Country and acknowledging the past to enable truthful futures, are guiding principles for all our projects, including First Lights.
The Fremantle Biennale engages with First Nation stories and ways of knowing in an effort to contribute to the cultural and environmental wellbeing of the places we work with. All our work is informed by protocols for respectful engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural knowledge and material.
As a collective organism made up of artists, writers, partners, board members, advisors and curators, the Fremantle Biennale is shaped through exchange and collaboration; driven by a desire to create a space where diverse voices are heard.
The Fremantle Biennale is a not-for-profit charity, which delivers the First Lights project and events across Western Australia and Australia through the generosity of our funders, partners and donors. We’re incredibly grateful for all contributions, which help us create extraordinary arts and cultural experiences across Western Australia and beyond.
All donations to the Fremantle Biennale Inc (FBI) Donation Fund are tax deductible.
LOVE BIEN is the Fremantle Biennale’s community giving program created especially for individuals and small businesses who are keen to contribute to our programming. Visit the LOVE BIEN website here.
For individuals able to give more, the Fremantle Biennale benefactor program offers special benefits to those donating. If you would like to become a benefactor, please email email@example.com to discuss opportunities.