- Batmania at Federation Square Atrium celebrates Melbourne's fruit bat colony
A new artwork at Federation Square pays homage to a uniquely Melbourne phenomenon, and it's got nothing to do with coffee, street art or laneways.
Sculptor Kathy Holowko's installation Batmania celebrates the city's fruit bat colony, which she sees as an iconic part of Melbourne.
Holowko has created 200 life-size bats which have been hung at varying heights inside Federation Square's Atrium. Handmade from plaster-cut steel, garbage bags, plaster and paint,Batmania also features a soundscape between the dusk and dawn hours, replicating the sounds of the bats as they wake up for the night and head home for the day. Between 7am and 9am and 7pm and 9pm each evening on the hour, sound artist Darius Kedros' 15-minute recordings of local bat populations will accompany the work.
Holowko hopes her large-scale work will help redress the "bad press" the flying mammals often receive.
"They're much maligned, I think, very unfairly, and have been throughout history. In literary history, right from Dante's Inferno, Satan is portrayed with the wings of a bat, then Bram Stoker popularised the bat in Dracula," she says. "But of the 1200 species of bat, only three of those make a small incision in a mammal and lick its blood."
Melbourne's fruit bat population, estimated at around 30,000, are actually vegetarians who mostly live in Yarra Bend Park, after they were moved from the Royal Botanic Gardens in 2003.
Holowko, whose other work has been inspired by nature, has long been a fan of the misunderstood bats and spent the past year working on Batmania, with at least three months spent solidly making each bat.
Fruit bats are a rare example of the co-existence of human and wild animals in an urban habitat, she says.
"It's a difficult story of man and animal, but it's a fascinating one," Holowko says. "People don't like them but I think they're misunderstood."
She hopes the installation will inspire Melburnians to look up into the night sky, or even visit the colony at Yarra Bend Park.
"People go and see the penguins in St Kilda and there's maybe two penguins and 100 people watching. I can't believe the bat colony isn't a huge tourist attraction. It's amazing and beautiful."
Batmania is on at The Atrium, Federation Square, until April 28.